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Week 3 Ethics essay: How telling is the integrity objection to Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism, broadly defined, is the belief that the most moral action or rule to follow is that which will cause the outcome with the greatest good (though 'good' may be understood in different ways). For its proponents, utilitarianism is a solid ethical system because it most accurately correlates with our intuition that what is moral is that which increases the total good in the world. For its critics, utilitarianism is fundamentally flawed because it conflicts with our moral motivations. This essay considers one of the strongest objections to utilitarianism, called the 'integrity objection,' and will conclude that the objection ultimately fails, but is telling in its illustration of how philosophers have sought to rationalise their unwillingness to come to terms with the demands of utilitarianism.
The integrity objection can be expressed as follows:
1. All people have 'ground projects'; things that shape and give meaning to their lives.
(Williams, 1, p5) 2. Knowingly undermining or ignoring these 'ground projects' requires people to violate their
own integrity, and compromise the essence of their humanity. 3. Utilitarianism (at least in its most common forms) is so demanding that it would force
people to ignore their 'ground projects', and violate their integrity. (Williams, 1, p14) 4. A moral system that forces people to violate their integrity should not be accepted.
Therefore Utilitarianism (at least in its most common forms) should not be accepted.
By examining each of the premises upon which this argument is built, I will explore its strengths and weaknesses. The first premise requires explanation - what even is a ground project?
Williams, the chief proponent of the integrity objection, defines it very loosely, and it is worth quoting at length:
''the obvious kinds of desires for things for oneself, one's family, one's friends, including
the basic necesstieis of life, and in more relaxed circumstances, objects of taste. Or there
may be pursuits and interests of an intellectual, cultural or creative character... Beyond
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