Taking Utilitarianism Seriously

Taking Utilitarianism Seriously cover

This book defends utilitarianism from six common objections—that it employs an impoverished account of the good, that it permits abhorrent actions, that it is too demanding, that it neglects the separateness of persons, that it is inadequate as an approach to political philosophy, and that it fails to give a plausible account of good decision making and of virtue.

I argue that utilitarian approaches to ethics and political philosophy contain the resources to respond to these objections, and more generally to account for the complexity of our ethical judgements. The book revises my previous account of pattern-based reasons, and presents novel accounts of moral rights, rightness, justice, and virtue.

This book was published by Oxford University Press in September 2019. You can see the Contents here and the abstract for each chapter here.

Reasons, Patterns, and Cooperation

My first book, Reasons, Patterns, and Cooperation, was published by Routledge in 2008. In it I developed an account of pattern-based reasons. I am fortunate that the book received some generous reviews.

Brad Hooker reviewed the book for the publishers:

‘The philosophical content in this manuscript is highly sophisticated, packed with conceptual subtlety and innovation, with new arguments on nearly every page . . .  Woodard is advancing a moral theory that is both novel and plausible, which is a striking achievement, given how many people are trying and failing to do this.’

Tim Mulgan reviewed it in Mind:

‘This is an excellent, sophisticated, thought-provoking book. It makes a real contribution to a central issue in teleological ethics. Anyone interested in teleological ethics will learn a great deal from this book.’

Rob Lawlor reviewed it in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews:

‘[The] focus on pattern-based reasons (and also on the pluralist approach) seems to me to be an important contribution to moral theory . . .  Reasons, Patterns, and Cooperation offers a new theory that could be a candidate for the title of most plausible version of consequentialism.’

Mitch Parsell reviewed it in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy:

‘This beautifully concise monograph is an invaluable resource for those interested in pattern-based reasons, cooperation and pluralistic approaches in ethics. The book contains a range of resources for categorizing and evaluating ethical positions, and some tremendously interesting extensions of traditional thought experiments to illustrate the centrality of structural claims to ethics. I highly recommend it.’