Bioethics Blogs

How Could Julian Savulescu Still Be a Utilitarian

Guest post: Professor Valentin Muresan, University of Bucharest

Professor Julian Savulescu writes: “People think I am a utilitarian, but I am not. I, like nearly everybody else, find Utilitarianism to be too demanding” .

Why does he need to confess? He tells us: ethical utilitarianism is in crisis because of several misunderstandings. One is that recent research in moral psychology shows that utilitarian judgments do not reflect so much the old noble “impartial concern for the greater good of all” but are rather correlated with psychopatic and egoistic tendencies . Consequently, he feels that the Utilitarianism used to set up empirical research on moral psychology is not fit for the job, and should be abandoned or improved. Philosophy is important for moral psychology, but this does not mean that we don’t need a better philosophy. Julian Savulescu’s solution was to try to abandon the camp of utilitarianism, looking instead for an external refuge in a weak form of “easy rescue consequentialism”.

What I want to show is that although he currently speaks about Utilitarianism in general, he has in view only a version of Utilitarianism, the most vulnerable one. This type of utilitarianism was already criticised from various perspectives, the main line of attack being that “it is too demanding”. This shortcomming has also a variety of aspects. The solutions resulted from the criticisms addressed by Julian Savulescu to the weak points of the official utilitarian doctrine configure tacitely the draft of an improved utilitarianism which satisfy all the requirements raised by critics and is very similar to Mill’s utilitarianism.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.