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By Michael D. Bayles
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Extra info for Contemporary Utilitarianism
In such cases, supposing imitation by a minority of people only is not sufficient to produce any good (or bad) effects, my duty to apply the rule ceases. [ 9] This, however, is not an exception to the principles 52 CONTEMPORARY UTILITARIANISM already expounded, but a consequence of them. What I am saying, in other words, is that my knowledge of the behaviour of other people is a characteristic which relevantly specifies the class of actions the consequences of the general practice of which it is my duty to consider.
Being generally practised (or seldom, or always, or never practised, as the case may be) is a property of the sort of action this action is, or of the class of actions of which it is a member. But of what is producing good consequences a property? When actions of this sort are not generally practised, producing good consequences will, of course, be a property of nothing. But when actions of this sort are generally practised, of what will producing good consequences be a property? Not of the sort, because sorts or classes cannot produce good consequences, or fail to produce them, though instances of the sort or members of the class can.
To the man who objects that one may be unjust to relieve a hard case, even if such an action would have 50 CONTEMPORARY UTILITARIANISM bad consequences if everybody else were to do the same, provided that I have reason to believe that nobody else will do the same, one is inclined to make the following answer. I am not in a better position to estimate what other people will do than they are to estimate what I will do and, if everybody were to relieve hard cases because they thought that it was unlikely that other people would do the same, bad consequences would result.