Der 16. Weltkongress für Philosophie

Volume 2, 1983

Sektions-Vorträge I - Résumés des sections I - Section Papers I

Dieter Birnbacher
Pages 202-209

The Scientific Basis of Utilitarian Ethics

Among systems of normative ethics, Utilitarianism has been the one most persistently claimed to stand on a scientific basis. The paper restates this claim by showing that although Mill’s so-called "proof"of Utilitarianism is indefensible even in terms of non-demonstrative plausibility, an alternative argument can be constructed yielding the same conclusion by making use of a "minimum agreement principle". It is argued, further, that the concept of happiness central to Utilitarianism is empirically determinate and is capable of scientific investigation by various psychological and sociological approaches.