thinks poses potential challenges H u m a n i t i e s

thinks poses potential challenges H u m a n i t i e s

Read Steven Kelman’s “Cost-Benefit Analysis: An Ethical Critique,” which, alongside its critique of cost-benefits analysis, provides a detailed explanation of the ethical theory called utilitarianism. On pages 126-127 of the essay, Kelman explains four scenarios that he thinks poses potential challenges to the strength of utilitarianism as an ethical theory.

The first example tells of “an old man in Nazi Germany who is hostile to the regime.”

The second example tells of “two very close friends who are on an Arctic expedition together.”

The third tells of “a wave of thefts that hit a city and the police are having trouble finding any of the thieves.”

The fourth example starts, “Imagine two worlds, each containing the same sum total of happiness.”

For your assignment, choose ONE case that you’d like to ethically evaluate in some detail.


First, reread each of the four cases and choose the one you think is the most ethically complicated.

Next, explain the case you’ve chosen and make an argument for what a Utilitarian would do to resolve this case. Support your answer by referring to the texts (Kelman’s and John Stuart Mill’s) you’ve now read that explain Utilitarianism.

Third, make an argument for whether or not the Utilitarian solution is the right solution. Your response should be between 250-500 words in length. You will write your response in a word document.

Kelman seems to use these examples to try to convince his readers of the problems with Utilitarianism, but don’t be swayed unnecessarily. There are times when we might argue—along with Utilitarians—that the right choice is not always the most noble choice. Sometimes doing the right thing in the long term, might mean making a difficult or ethically complicated choice in the short term. So, think through these four scenarios independently and write a thorough and thoughtful defense of what you think is the correct ethical action