Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter 6: Utility - The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy
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Chapter 6: Utility - William Paley, The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy 
The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, Foreword by D.L. Le Mahieu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
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So then actions are to be estimated by their tendency.* Whatever is expedient, is right. It is the utility of any moral rule alone, which constitutes the obligation of it.
But to all this there seems a plain objection, viz. that many actions are useful, which no man in his senses will allow to be right. There are occasions, in which the hand of the assassin would be very useful. The present possessor of some great estate employs his influence and fortune, to annoy, corrupt, or oppress, all about him. His estate would devolve, by his death, to a successor of an opposite character. It is useful, therefore, to despatch such a one as soon as possible out of the way; as the neighbourhood will exchange thereby a pernicious tyrant for a wise and generous benefactor. It might be useful to rob a miser, and give the money to the poor; as the money, no doubt, would produce more happiness, by being laid out in food and clothing for half a dozen distressed families, than by continuing locked up in a miser’s chest. It may be useful to get possession of a place, a piece of preferment, or of a seat in parliament, by bribery or false swearing: as by means of them we may serve the public more effectually than in our private station. What then shall we say? Must we admit these actions to be right, which would be to justify assassination, plunder, and perjury; or must we give up our principle, that the criterion of right is utility?
It is not necessary to do either.
The true answer is this; that these actions, after all, are not useful, and for that reason, and that alone, are not right.
To see this point perfectly, it must be observed that the bad consequences of actions are twofold, particular and general.
The particular bad consequence of an action, is the mischief which that single action directly and immediately occasions.
The general bad consequence is, the violation of some necessary or useful general rule.
Thus, the particular bad consequence of the assassination above described, is the fright and pain which the deceased underwent; the loss he suffered of life, which is as valuable to a bad man, as to a good one, or more so; the prejudice and affliction, of which his death was the occasion, to his family, friends, and dependants.
The general bad consequence is the violation of this necessary general rule, that no man be put to death for his crimes but by public authority.
Although, therefore, such an action have no particular bad consequences, or greater particular good consequences, yet it is not useful, by reason of the general consequence, which is of more importance, and which is evil. And the same of the other two instances, and of a million more which might be mentioned.
But as this solution supposes, that the moral government of the world must proceed by general rules, it remains that we show the necessity of this.
[* ]Actions in the abstract are right or wrong, according to their tendency; the agent is virtuous or vicious, according to his design. Thus, if the question be, Whether relieving common beggars be right or wrong? we inquire into the tendency of such a conduct to the public advantage or inconvenience. If the question be, Whether a man remarkable for this sort of bounty is to be esteemed virtuous for that reason? we inquire into his design, whether his liberality sprang from charity or from ostentation? It is evident that our concern is with actions in the abstract.