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Utilitarianism: For and Against

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521098229
ISBN-10: 052109822X
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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

A serious and controversial work in which the authors contribute essays from opposite points of view on utilitarian assumptions, arguments and ideals.

From the Back Cover

In the first part of the book Professor Smart advocates a modern and sophisticated version of classical utilitarianism. Bernard Williams offers a sustained and vigorous critique of utilitarian assumptions, arguments and ideals.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (January 1, 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052109822X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521098229
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
This terrific little book was my introduction to ethical philosophy in college. This is, in fact, the best way to introduce anyone to real philosophy: Present an important philosophical problem and let two very intelligent, articulate, and well-educated people of opposing views & good faith argue the merits, demerits, and difficulties inherent in a particular theory. In fairly clear and straightforward prose, Smart and Williams plunge right into the matter and hash it out with meticulous care. Smart offers a sophisticated version of Utilitarianism for our consideration. Williams draws out the implications of it and shows how Utilitarian ethics contains contradictions and potentially repellent outcomes. (Although Williams never makes it explicit in this book, he adheres to a sophisticated modern version of classical virtue ethics, a sort of refined Nicomachean ethics.)
This may not be the last word on Utilitarianism, but it is certainly one of the most intelligent and insightful. A perfect entree to ethical philosophy, that endlessly fascinating & vitally important dialogue about how we ought to live our lives.
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By snalen on October 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
The reviewer from Berkley could not be more right in recommending this book as an introduction to modern moral philosophy. Smart and Williams are two of the most brilliant and important philosophers of the last century and both are brilliantly clear and engaging communicators. The result is not just good introduction but a book that takes you right to the cutting edge of the subject. Smart contributes a splendidly bold and clear headed statement and defence of a form of act utilitarianism (`the view that the rightness or wrongness of an action depends only on the total goodness or badness of its consequences, i.e. on the effect of the action on the welfare of all human beings (or perhaps all sentient beings)'). Williams then provides a peerlessly brilliant and devastating critique of that same theory. The reader is left with a clear understanding both of why so many people as sensible and intelligent as Smart consider utilitarianism just obviously right and why so many people as humane and thoughtful as Williams think it is just crazy. If you are interested in philosophy, then, it's a wonderfully rewarding read. Indeed it's a great thing to read if you aren't sure whether you re interested in philosophy or not. If you find Williams on consequentialism, integrity and negative responsibility a dull read you will probably find pretty well any philosophy dull and you can safely conclude that the subject is not for you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a scholarly, technical examination of Utilitarianism. While I read it and appreciated it as a graduate student, the freshmen to whom I assigned it found it impenetrable.
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This book contains two well-written articals. Smart, a utilitarian, provides answers to some of hte arguments against his position while providing a definate middle ground for those who would ascribe themselves to this theory. Williams uses his anti-theorist credentials and targets utilitarianism and some of its flaws. Over all a good read for peole interested in the subject matter.
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