Utility and Rights
edited by R.G. Frey
University of Minnesota Press, 1984
Paper: 978-0-8166-1320-5
Library of Congress Classification BJ1012.U8 1984
Dewey Decimal Classification 170


Utility and Rights was first published in 1984. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

At issue in the clash between utilitarianism and the theory of rights is a fundamental question about the theoretical underpinnings of moral and political philosophy. Is this structure to be utility-based—grounded in the general welfare—or is it to be based on individual moral and political rights, as critics of utilitarianism increasingly insist? The argument centers, in part, upon the fact that utilitarianism, with its emphasis upon outcomes and total utility in the world, seems to employ a value theory that offers no protection to persons and their vital interests.

The essays in this volume grapple with the main issues in this controversy. They share a common concern with the nature of rights and the ways in which various moral theories can accommodate them; some measure the degree to which utilitarianism can or cannot be modified to include rights. Eight of the eleven essays were written expressly for this book; all of the authors are deeply engaged in the debate over utility and rights, and their essays build upon and extend current thinking on the subject. R. G. Frey's lucid introduction will make the book appropriate for advanced students as well as for scholars in moral, political, and legal theory.

"One ubiquitous criticism of utilitarianism is that it cannot make sense of moral rights at all. This collection is the first that explicitly addresses these issues, and it marks a major step in the debate."–Dale Jamieson, University of Colorado

R. G. Frey is senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Liverpool. He is the author of Interests and Rights and Rights, Killing, and Suffering.

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