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Utility contra utilitarianism: Holbach’s international ethics

Devellennes, Charles (2014) Utility contra utilitarianism: Holbach’s international ethics. Journal of International Political Theory, 10 (2). pp. 188-205. ISSN 1755-1722. (doi:10.1177/0278364914526019) (KAR id:43612)

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Holbach is a largely forgotten figure of the history of ideas. Yet his work was influential on a number of historical thinkers, notably Marx. Famous for his materialistic atheism, Holbach has much to contribute to other fields, and this article details his contribution to international ethics, as well as its applicability in contemporary debates. By reviving his utilitarian theory, this article seeks to rehabilitate a subtle understanding of this ethical theory and contribute to a growing literature on eighteenth-century utilitarian thought and its applicability to contemporary international relations. This article introduces the utilitarian theory of Holbach, detailing the role that virtue ethics plays within it and showing the relative contribution of Holbach to utilitarian debates, notably against the thought of Bentham. Lastly, it applies Holbach’s complex conception of self-interest to the field of international ethics, showing the challenges he raises to realist and liberal theories of international relations, as well as the normative theories of Walzer and Rawls.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/0278364914526019
Uncontrolled keywords: Enlightenment; ethics; Holbach; self-interest; utilitarian; virtue
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Charles Devellennes
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2014 10:20 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 10:57 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Devellennes, Charles.

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