Conscientious Utilitarianism; or, the Utilitarians Who Walk Away from Omelas

Journal of Science Fiction and Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Abstract

This essay offers a revisionist defense of classical utilitarianism from an infamous objection to it, which is derived from American science fiction writer, Ursula Le Guin’s, short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” To that effect, the reply takes inspiration from Le Guin and John Stuart Mill in appealing to the natural law theoretical concept of conscience. I argue that a conscientious utilitarian ethic can escape Le Guin’s objection more satisfactorily than other popular utilitarian ethics. Along the way, this essay discusses at length conscience and its place in moral epistemology, both as it occurs in the natural law tradition and in Mill. The natural law account of conscience is defended and Mill’s account is critiqued. Consequently, this paper also provides an interesting synthesis of utilitarianism with natural law ethics.

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Andrew Dennis Bassford
University of Texas at Austin

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