Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 12, 1986/1987

James W. McGray
Pages 79-86

From Universal Prescriptivism to Utilitarianism
A Logical Gap

This paper is a critique of R.M. Hare’s argument that rational universal prescriptions are equivalent to utilitarian judgments. The problem with Hare’s argument is his restrictive model of rationality. He succeeds in proving that awareness of certain facts is essential to making a fully rational universal prescription. But he fails to prove that other facts, such as the ultimate separateness of persons, are irrelevant. Once such facts are taken seriously, the utilitarian implication is invalidated.