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George and the Problem with Utilitarianism

The thought experiment put forward by Bernard Williams in his articulation ‘Against utilitarianism’ revolves around a significant problem within the tapestry of utilitarianism, which can be referred to as a consequentialist ethical theory that scrupulously analyzes actions based on overall outcome in relation to maximizing utility or happiness. The given scenario involving George, a chemist who stumbled upon a job opportunity in a laboratory engaged in chemical warfare research, raises a significant challenge from the perception of utilitarianism, regarding maximizing overall happiness and minimizing overall suffering.

If George refused the offer on ethical grounds, since he is opposed to the idea of chemical warfare, it can be translated as a morally noble and commendable stance. However, the counterargument question regarding the efficacy of George's refusal in terms of impeding the activities of laboratory as well as the ramification with George’s families’ well-being can be pointed out (White, 2022). For instance, if George declines this position someone else equally qualified and less concerned regarding ethical implication of the research would inherently apply for the job and fill the vacancy, which would potentially lead to chemical warfare.

One of the interesting aspects in this particular context is that throughout the thought experiment, it does not necessarily undermine the core principles attributed with utilitarianism. Contrarily, it emphasizes the complex interplay between moral integrity of an individual with respect to broader societal consequences regarding adhering or deviating from fundamental principles. Hence, it is fair to state that the challenge mentioned in the given vignette does not necessarily translate into negating validity of utilitarianism from an ethical standpoint. However, it does necessarily remind everyone that incorporating fundamental principles of utilitarianism without regarding other consequences can often lead to counterintuitive outcome, which may not be beneficial in all circumstances. In essence, Bernard Williams’ thought experiment revolves around the conflict between moral principles of an individual with respect to utilitarian pursuit of happiness of broader mass. Besides, rising challenge that is thought provoking in terms of utilitarianism implication, it does not discredit the theory. It simply encourages individuals to intricately analyze circumstances associated with ethical decisions and resolve a solution that can maintain the equilibrium between personal integrity and societal consequences at a broader scale (Hume, 2022).

Basu, Ubi and Luck

The argument put forward by Chris Hughes against the notion of economic inequality is compelling as well as thought provoking in nature. Hughes arguably stated that although luck plays an instrumental part in shaping outcomes, circumstances related to one's birth determine the trajectory and influences, one would experience later on. The instances demonstrated by Hughes simply depict that small incident like choosing roommate at college can open up new horizons that can be life changing in nature. In an ambiance where luck is predominantly pivotal, the argument that hard work can solitarily justify inequality becomes diluted. Owing to the fact that work ethic in itself is influenced by luck, which revolves around genetic predisposition as well as upbringing (Fleischer & Hemel, 2020).

Hughes proposed a solution of taxing the elite class so that a guaranteed minimum income can be substantiated to middle and lower class necessarily reflects unfairness that is systematically perpetuated and propelled by unequal wealth distribution in modern society. This acknowledgement from Hughes himself, who has benefited from the system, augments the credibility associated with the argument against economic inequalities’ moral justification. However, simply concentrating upon Hughes’ argument regarding the gravity of luck in perpetuating inequality is not sufficient enough and cannot be regarded as a solitary factor. In view of other ethical theories like libertarianism or interpretation of meritocracy. Individuals are generally entitled to the fruit of their ingenuity and arduous labor put forward in their respective discipline. From an apparent vision it would seem that luck is solitarily considering economic inequality. However, there are several factors that can arguably be pinpointed which propel economic disparity. Several scholars have often disputed that economic disparity sometime can be translated as incentive for hard work, which in the long run benefits the society integrally (Clements, 2019).

Thomson's Violinist and Abortion

Thomson's analogy juxtaposes a scenario where an individual becomes involuntarily connected to a renowned violinist, who relies on their body for survival over a nine-month span. The intention behind the analogy is to demonstrate that even if one concedes the right to life, it does not inherently entail an obligation to sustain another life against one's volition, particularly using one's own body. Thomson employs this perspective to advocate that a pregnant woman should similarly possess the right to determine whether to proceed with a pregnancy.

Despite its emphasis on bodily autonomy and the prerogative to make choices pertaining to one's corporeal existence, the analogy grapples with the intricate moral quandaries encircling the moral standing and entitlements of the fetus. The analogy presumes that the fetus's moral worth equates to that of the violinist, a point fiercely contested within the abortion discourse. Numerous ethical frameworks attribute intrinsic moral value to the fetus from its inception, thereby rendering the comparison less universally applicable (Blackshaw & Rodger, 2021).

Apart from that the analogy does not draw a comprehensive account for the vivid connection there already exists between an expectant woman and the developing fetus. Diverging from the violinist scenario where the association is involuntary, pregnancy frequently results from deliberate actions carrying an element of accountability. This introduces an additional layer of ethical intricacy, as proponents argue that the responsibility to sustain the fetus emanates from the initial choice to engage in activities culminating in conception. Therefore, achieving a comprehensive understanding of abortion's ethical dimensions necessitates an exploration of divergent perspectives and robust deliberation (Wolff, 2020).

Scott on Geoengineering and Environmental Ethics

The question pointed out by Scott in relation to initiating intricate analysis of Solar Radiation Management research program opens up immense ethical consideration at the intersection of technological intervention as well as environmental ethics in relation to ramification of the planet’s ecosystem. One of the intriguing aspects in this instance is that the ethical issue regarding manipulating solar radiation revolves around its unintended consequence. For instance, if solar radiation is manipulated to eradicate certain climatic change, then the feasibility of change in weather pattern, biodiversity as well as agricultural system would also experience similar influence. Consequentialism is an ethical theory which intricately scrutinized the long term and short-term advantages and disadvantages associated with such drastic measures. The decision to embark on extensive solar radiation management endeavor necessitates a meticulous approach that cautiously concentrates upon the requirement of minimizing risk and ensuring that a comprehensive cognizance regarding potential ecological ramification has already been analyzed beforehand (Preston, 2020).

Environmental ethics delineates the obligation of modern society to be the custodian of planet’s well-being, where the responsibility of modern generation is to preserve the planet's natural system and ensure its intergenerational equity. Undertaking endeavors such as SRM research program could potentially raise concerns regarding accountability, lest mishaps take place. Aside from that, whenever the question of power arises, it generally creates a sort of tension, since the ability to manipulate climatic system at a global scale would bring new dimensions of authority among few nations, where there is a feasibility of conflict later on. This not only raises ethical questions regarding equitable distribution of environmental injustice, but at the same time, if appropriate participatory decision-making process are not charted out beforehand, the feasibility of injustice and inequity in terms of inclusiveness would potentially create conflict among nations. Hence, it is imperative to chalk out a balanced approach and redefine other measures, where benefits can be derived rather than undertaking such drastic measure.


Blackshaw, B., & Rodger, D. (2021). If fetuses are persons, abortion is a public health crisis. Bioethics35(5), 465-472.

Clements, E. (2019). How to Remediate; or, Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts. Modern Drama62(1), 45-72.

Fleischer, M. P., & Hemel, D. (2020). The architecture of a basic income. U. Chi. L. Rev.87, 625.

Hughes, C., Kohe, G. Z., & Purdy, L. (2019). Playing nostalgic language games in sport research: Conceptual considerations and methodological musings. Quest71(4), 517-532.

Hume, D. (2022). Passions, Sentiments, and Morality. A Reader in Moral Philosophy, 273.

Preston, C. J. (2020). Ethics and geoengineering: reviewing the moral issues raised by solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal. In The Ethics of Nanotechnology, Geoengineering, and Clean Energy (pp. 269-283). Routledge.

White, M. D. (2022). A Philosopher Reads... Marvel Comics' Civil War (Vol. 1). Ockham Publishing Group.

Wolff, J. (2020). Fighting risk with risk: Solar radiation management, regulatory drift, and minimal justice. In The Ethics of “Geoengineering” the Global Climate (pp. 153-172). Routledge.

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