Mike Retriever wrote: there's a greater leap of faith in saying we ought to strive for fairness, justice, and satisfaction, than in saying we ought to strive for satisfaction.
I agree. Rejecting traditional views of fairness is difficult for many people, but I think that our attachment to fairness is more complicated and problematic than striving for a utilitarian goal. People are tempted to think of ideas like "fairness" as if there is an "extrasomatic moral truth" (per Wilson and Ruse) that exists out there in the universe and that we can detect somehow. A more realistic understanding is that we observe things that we like and then try to infer what fairness means (which might work in general but is subject to the difficulties of induction). Scientifically, I think it would be unjustified for people to observe some events in a narrow domain; then infer that "fairness is always good" then apply that to situations outside the original domain (this is derived from a principle of statistics of time series data about sampling from one time domain and projecting into another). The problem is that in some extreme cases, imposing
fairness is not good and the general rule fails (see my concocted example below--note that many hypothetical talk about fairness in the abstract without considering the cost of imposing it on an supermajority that opposes it).
If fairness is the goal and fairness contradicts a utilitarian conclusion, it is to say that there is some type of fairness that should be enforced even though there is another course of action that could lead to greater total utility. I think I would generally prefer the course of action that creates greater total utility with the understanding that we consider secondary effects of actions and the principle of impartial consideration. I also suspect that attempts to resolve problems of this type will lead to rationalization.
Let's say we are in the early part of the prior century in an imaginary version
of the southern U.S. that is isolated from the rest of the country. Assume a town with only one Black person and a bunch of White people who dislike Blacks. The Whites don't want the Black person in the local restaurant. Some have claimed that fairness dictates that the Black person should be allowed to eat at the restaurant and some claim that utilitarianism says otherwise.
My gut feeling is that the Black person should be able to eat in the restaurant, but I am a product of the post-civil rights era. I also suspect that measuring the utility on each side is strongly subjective, but there might be some pragmatic basis for defending the counter-intuitional conclusion that the Black person should not be allowed to eat in the restaurant. If the White people dislike the Black person so much that there is a high expectation of physical harm to the Black person upon entering the restaurant, then in that imaginary town, it might be best to exclude that person in the interest of total utility. As the years pass and the percentage of Blacks increases and education helps to facilitate the cost of internalizing the ideas of integration, then we would reach the point where it would be a net gain to integrate the restaurant.
When thinking of these imaginary vignettes, it is easy to forget about the moral implications of an outside force that is enforcing fairness on the community. In my imaginary example, there simply would not exist any person or force in a position to impose fairness on the town. If you want to add an imaginary "fairness army" to the vignette, then proponents of fairness can find them selves in an even more ridiculous situation of passing a law enforcing fairness that results in the massacre of all the White people at the hands of the imaginary fairness army (assuming that the White people are so intrenched in their beliefs that they would rather go to war than let the Black person eat in the restaurant). That situation makes the utilitarian chose less objectionable.