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Could Kant Have been A Utilitarian?*

  • R. M. Hare (a1)


… the supreme end, the happiness of all mankind (Kr V A851/NKS 665).

The law concerning punishment is a Categorical Imperative; and woe to him who rummages around in the winding paths of a theory of happiness, looking for some advantage to be gained by releasing the criminal from punishment or by reducing the amount of it (Rl. A196/B226, 6:331; Ladd, 100).



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1 Mill, J. S., ‘Utilitarianism’, Fraser's Magazine, 1012 1861, ch. 5.

2 Prichard, H. A., ‘Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake’, Mind, xxi (1912), 2137 (reprinted in his Moral Obligation, Oxford, 1949).

4 Hare, R. M., Critical notice of Rawls, A Theory of Justice, in Philosophical Quarterly, xxiii (1973), 144–55, 241–52 (reprinted in his Essays in Ethical Theory, Oxford, 1989).

5 Harsanyi, J. C., ‘Problems with Act-Utilitarianism and with Malevolent Preferences’, in Seanor, D. and Fotion, N., eds., Hare and Critics, Oxford, 1988, p. 96.

6 Rawls, J., A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, Mass., 1971, p. 27; see Mackie, J. L., ‘Rights, Utility and Universalization’ with a reply by Hare, R. M., in Frey, R., ed., Utility and Rights, Minneapolis, 1984, pp. 86, 106; Richards, D. A. J., ‘Prescriptivism, Constructivism and Rights’, and Hare, , ‘Comments’, in Seanor and Fotion, pp. 118, 256.

7 Hare, R. M., Freedom and Reason, Oxford, 1963, ch. 8.

8 David Lyons's work on the difficulty of drawing a line between act- and rule-utilitarianism is relevant here: cf. Hare, , Freedom and Reason, pp. 130 ff. and Lyons, , Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism, Oxford, 1965, ch. 3.

9 Hare, R. M., ‘The Promising Game’, Revue Internationale de Philosophie, xviii (1964), 398412 (reprinted in his Essays in Ethical Theory).

10 Hare, R. M., ‘Principles’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, lxxiii (1972), 118 (reprinted in his Essays in Ethical Theory).

11 For example by Williams, Bernard in ‘The Structure of Hare's Theory’, in Seanor, and Fotion, , pp. 189 ff.

* This article will also appear in Kant and Critique (The Proceedings of a Conference at Tallahassee, FL, 1991) ed. R. M. Dancy, Dordrecht, 1993.


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