(Cross-posted to Southern California Philosophy.)
I just came across the following passage by J.J.C. Smart in Smart and Williams' Utilitarianism: For and Against:
What Bentham, Mill and Moore are all agreed on is that the rightness of an action is to be judged solely by consequences, states of affairs brought about by the action. Of course we shall have to be careful here not to construe 'state of affairs' so widely that any ethical doctrine becomes utilitarian. For if we did so we would not be saying anything at all in advocating utilitarianism. If, for example, we allowed 'the state of having kept a promise', then a deontologist who said we should keep promises simply because they are promises would be a utilitarian. And we do not wish to allow this (p. 13).
Joe intends to give a speech (on his own property and at his own expense) to which the general public will be invited. In his speech, Joe will rail against Islam, using emotional appeals to persuade his audience that wherever Islam is publicly promoted terror and violence follow. Joe will not promote violence against Muslims in his speech. Sarah knows of Joe's intentions. She further knows that if Joe gives his speech, it will (very likely) start a political movement which will (very likely) result in a ban on the publication and distribution of (peaceful) Muslim literature. However, she also knows that Joe's speech is very unlikely to lead to violence in any form. Sarah is able, by coercive force, to prevent Joe from giving his speech. By violating Joe's free speech rights just once, she can protect the free speech rights of all the Muslims in her country (there are a lot of them) for the foreseeable future. She knows of no other way she can accomplish this. What should she do?
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