Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Setting Health-Care PrioritiesWhat Ethical Theories Tell Us$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Torbjörn Tännsjö

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190946883

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190946883.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 January 2021



Pure or with a Prioritarian Amendment?

(p.82) 8 Utilitarianism
Setting Health-Care Priorities

Torbjörn Tännsjö

Oxford University Press

Utilitarianism and prioritarianism are compared. It may seem that only prioritarianism takes suffering seriously enough. Even if utilitarianism is more sensitive to suffering than is the maximin/theory or egalitarianism, it does not take suffering seriously enough. According to prioritarianism, we should help a person in deep distress rather than improving the situation of a very happy person, even if this means some waste of happiness (the person in distress gains fewer hedons that the happy person would do if instead we tended to her needs). The prioritarian needs to tell us exactly how much weight should be given to momentary suffering and happiness, however. They need to specify the relevant function. This has been shown to be a difficult task to undertake. Moreover, according to prioritarianism a life with a net surplus of happiness may be worth not living. Some may give up on prioritarianism because of this implication of the theory. Others may stick to the rationale behind it, bite the bullet, and amend utilitarianism with prioritarianism. Both moves are considered justifiable.

Keywords:   utilitarianism, prioritarianism, sensitivity to suffering, prudence and morality coming apart, notions of prudence

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .