Wotton’s Society Dr Dave Leal, Brasenose College, Oxford, ‘In Defence of Rule Utilitarianism’

Wotton’s society was pleased to welcome Dr Dave Leal, Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, to speak ‘in defence of Rule Utilitarianism’. Dr Leal covered an outline of Utilitarianism, including the nature of happiness, before speaking about the introduction of rules to Utilitarianism to help cope with ignorance of consequences, together with the problems that this move can entail. His main point was that rules help us to guess how others will act, and a better knowledge of consequences will make us better Utilitarians. He also described an area where Utilitarianism might further be developed: how a certain amount of pleasure is distributed over time. In discussion, boys drew attention to points of comparison between Utilitarianism and the ideas of Kant and Machiavelli, and questioned the origin of the rules we use, and whether Utilitarianism might condone racism. The talk was very well received. It was felt that Dr Leal spoke with particular clarity and presented a very persuasive and coherent defence of Rule Utilitarianism.

James Clark-Maxwell OS MS (GRP)