Punishment and Discretion in Mill's Utilitarianism

Utilitas 27 (2):165-178 (2015)
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I argue that a notorious passage from Utilitarianism concerning the relationship between morality and blameworthiness need not be an obstacle to a consistent act-utilitarian interpretation of Mill's moral theory. First, the Art of Life provides a framework for reconciling Mill's evaluation of conduct in terms of both expediency and blameworthiness. Like contemporary sophisticated act-utilitarians, Mill treats expediency as the more fundamental category of evaluation. Second, textual evidence suggests that, on Mill's view, evaluations of blameworthiness are not strictly bound by rules, despite rule-ish considerations about punishment and discretion. Third, Mill's own jurisdictional account in terms of competent decision-making remains consistent with the act-utilitarian interpretation



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Piers Norris Turner
Ohio State University

Citations of this work

Moral Universality in J.S. Mill’s Utilitarianism.Roman S. Platonov - 2019 - Russian Journal of Philosophical Sciences 62 (11):84-95.

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References found in this work

Alienation, consequentialism, and the demands of morality.Peter Railton - 1984 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 13 (2):134-171.
Two concepts of rules.John Rawls - 1955 - Philosophical Review 64 (1):3-32.
The absolutism problem in On Liberty.Piers Norris Turner - 2013 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43 (3):322-340.
Rights, Welfare, and Mill’s Moral Theory.David O. Brink - 1997 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57 (3):713-717.

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