Research Article

The Self-other Asymmetry and Act-utilitarianism

Clay Splawna1

a1 University of Massachusetts, Amherst, csplawn@philos.umass. edu


The self-other asymmetry is a prominent and important feature of common-sense morality. It is also a feature that does not find a home in standard versions of act-utilitarianism. Theodore Sider has attempted to make a place for it by constructing a novel version of utilitarianism that incorporates the asymmetry into its framework. So far as I know, it is the best attempt to bring the two together. I argue, however, that Sider's ingenious attempt fails. I also offer a diagnosis that explains why no theory that remains recognizably act-utilitarian can successfully incorporate the asymmetry.