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Utilitarianism A Guide for the Perplexed by Krister Bykvist

Utilitarianism A Guide for the Perplexed

Part of the Guides for the Perplexed Series


Utilitarianism A Guide for the Perplexed by Krister Bykvist

Utilitarianism is the ethical theory advanced by Jeremy Bentham, J.S. Mill and Henry Sidgwick and has contributed significantly to contemporary moral and political philosophy. Yet it is not without controversy and is a subject that students can often find particularly perplexing. Utilitarianism: A Guide for the Perplexed offers a concise, yet fully comprehensive introduction to utilitarianism, its historical roots, key themes, and current debates. Krister Bykvist provides a survey of the modern debate about utilitarianism and goes on to evaluate utilitarianism in comparison with other theories, in particular virtue ethics and Kantianism. Bykvist offers a critical examination of utilitarianism, distinguishing problems that are unique to utilitarianism from those that are shared by other moral theories. Focusing on the problems unique to utilitarianism, the book provides a well-balanced assessment of where the theory goes astray and is in need of revision. Geared towards the specific requirements of students who need to reach a sound understanding of utilitarianism, the book serves as an ideal companion to study of this most influential and challenging of philosophical concepts.


This volume, written in a clear and accessible style, is an excellent introduction to the main contemporary debates about utilitarianism. A special virtue of the book is that utilitarianism is not evaluated in isolation but by comparing it with other theories, in particular, virtue ethics, deontology, and Kantianism. In doing so, Bykvist convincingly shows that many of the problems afflicting utilitarianism are actually problems for all plausible moral theories. Hence, this book will be very useful reading for friends and foes of utilitarianism alike. - Gustaf Arrhenius, Stockholm University, Sweden

About the Author

Krister Bykvist is a Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Jesus College, University of Oxford, UK.

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Book Info

Publication date

17th December 2009


Krister Bykvist

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Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


192 pages


Ethics & moral philosophy
Social & political philosophy



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