Infinite Utility and Temporal Neutrality
Suppose that time is infinitely long towards the future, and that each feasible action produces a finite amount of utility at each time. Then, under appropriate conditions, each action produces an infinite amount of utility. Does this mean that utilitarianism lacks the resources to discriminate among such actions? Since each action produces the same infinite amount of utility, it seems that utilitarianism must judge all actions permissible, judge all actions impermissible, or remain completely silent. If the future is infinite, that is, the prospects for utilitarianism look bleak. This very interesting criticism was made by Mark Nelson in his 1991 "Utilitarian Eschatology". In response to this criticism of utilitarianism, I argued in my 1993 "Utilitarianism and Infinite Utility" that utilitarianism had the resources for dealing with at least some cases of infinite utility. More specifically, I defended the following two principles as being part of the "spirit" of utilitarianism: U: An action is permissible just in case no alternative action produces more utility. PMU*: An action a1 produces more utility than an action a2 if and only if there is a time t such that for any later time t' the cumulative amount of utility produced by a1 up to t' is greater than that produced by action a2 up to t'.
Utilitas 6 (1994): 193-99.