What is the Most Important Reason McCloskey Gives for Rejecting Utilitarianism?

Subject: Philosophy
Type: Reflective Essay
Pages: 1
Word count: 333
Topics: Utilitarianism, Crime

What argument does he use in regards to what he thinks are the inevitable consequences of the utilitarian perspective, and what are the examples he gives to demonstrate this? Lastly, what positive considerations does he offer in support of the retributivist theory?

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McCloskey rejection utilitarianism is based on the moral problems raised by curative theories of punishment (or treatment) required by utilitarianism on the account of its beneficial effects on the criminal where its standards are often underserved and therefore unjust.  McClosky used the redistributive argument to underscore the shortcomings, flaws and inevitable consequences of the utilitarian perspective among these is the utilitarianism’s inability to render proportionate justice.  In its calculation of cost and benefit through its greatest happiness theory, utilitarianism inadvertently would suffer injustice to the innocents in its pursuit to provide greatest happiness.  As an example, the utilitarian perspective would allow the sacrifice of an innocent man or few men to save more numbers of men.  The injustice committed to the innocent man or fewer men in the calculus of utilitarianism and letting go of the guilty to save the many is morally acceptable to utilitarianism (Driver).  Concretely, utilitarianism would frame a man and let the guilty go free if it means that a crime will be solved sparing many other suspects from the inconvenience of investigation and persecution.  And in McClosky’s support of the retributivist theory, he prescribed the proportionate punishment to the crime done to achieve justice which could be measured according to the extent of the guilt and damage done by the criminal or wrongdoer (Murtagh).  He rejected the utilitarian notion of dispensing punishment as a means to achieve greatest good or happiness but instead argued for proportionate and just punishment commensurate to the act.  For him, redistributivism corrects the error of utilitarianism as he does not agree punishing an innocent man to save the many for it is unjust to mete a disproportionate punishment to anyone.

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  1. Driver, Julia. “The History of Utilitarianism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 27 Mar. 2009
  2. Murtagh, Kevin . “Punishment.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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