Should we sacrifice the utilitarians first?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is commonly thought that morality applies universally to all human beings as moral targets, and our general moral obligations to people will not, as a rule, be affected by their views. I propose and explore a radical, alternative normative moral theory, 'Designer Ethics', according to which our views are pro tanto crucial determinants of how, morally, we ought to be treated. For example, since utilitarians are more sympathetic to the idea that human beings may be sacrificed for the greater good, perhaps it is permissible (or, even under certain conditions, obligatory) to give them 'priority' as potential victims. This odd idea has manifold drawbacks but I claim that it also has substantial advantages, that it has some affinities to more commonly accepted moral positions, and that it should be given a significant role in our ethical thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)850-867
Number of pages18
JournalPhilosophical Quarterly
Issue number281
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Scots Philosophical Association and the University of St Andrews. All rights reserved.


  • Designer ethics
  • Ethical theory
  • Integrity
  • Moral complaint
  • Universality
  • Utilitarianism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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