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Lecture 12

Lecture 12 - Utilitarianism

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Daniel Kofman

Feb. 27, 2014 Utilitarianism • Termed coined by Jeremy Bentham – moral happiness based on greatest happiness for the greatest number • Happiness – defined in terms of pleasure – man • Ethical theory by which we judge moral & immoral actions (blame-worthiness vs. praise- worthiness) • Theory based on actions with the best possible outcomes • Preference satisfaction • Pleasure and pain are opposites • Strongly egalitarian – “everybody counts for 1 and no more than 1” • Axiomatic stance – considered self-evident (“all men are created equal…”) • Goodness measures in ‘utiles’(figurative term of measurement) • Kant & Rawls would have objected that an action can be morally outrageous, but it can benefit some good (Ex: hostage situation where you must decide to kill 5 people or 1 person) • Deontology – non-reducible rights and duties (irreducible to pleasure or pain) • An ethnic majority may not oppress a minority  not a utilitarian good Standard Objections to Bentham’s Utilitarianism 1- Incommensurability of values • The good we are trying to derive from our actions are not all on 1 scale. Intuitive – can we really compare pleasures? • Not able to gain 1 pleasure against another 2- Adaptive preferences • Utilitarianism is a preference based theory. What if our preferences change? • Causes problems 3- Multiple values • Even if we could measure happiness by pleasure, happiness cannot be traded to other values that are not reducible to pleasure • The genuineness of an experience might be valuable in itself • Nozick – pleasurable memory machine – no one would choose it 4- Justice • Utilitarianism is blind to distribution • If a community sacrifices 1 person to benefit the others • Fairness seems to imply that everyone is equal, but utilitarianism doesn’t care about equal individuals, just the happiness of the majority. • 10-10-10 vs. 7-13-10 5- Over-demandingness • When is it ok to stop giving to the greatest good? • Always have to be helping others? • Give up all personal things in order to serve the greater good Consequentialism 1- Argument against multiple values • Mill • All individuals’pleasure is equal • Evaluative/Qualitative distinctions between pleasures (higher vs. lower) • It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied, than to be a pig satisfied. • The life of Hayden vs. an oyster (lower pleasure but longer life span) • multiple lower pleasure by a number of years and reach a high pleasure • Mill says you can’t do this. Lower pleasures cannot reach the same status as higher pleasures. • Kant andAristotle don’t have a problem with ranking pleasures (philosophy vs. bodily pleasures) • Mill – there is a relation based on the principle of utilitarianism 2- Justice and Equality (chap. 5 of Mills’Utilitarianism) • Defends view that espouses justice • Aggregate happiness will be increased by following justice and equality 3- Preference Satisfaction • Problem of external preferences – what if your preferences are based on denying the preferences of another? (ex: racism or homosexuality) 4- Shift from utilitarianism to consequentialism • Even consequentialism is subject to the problem of over-demandingness • Undermines personal goals, attachments, and personal values. Self-defeating – brings about worse consequences. Shift from ACT utilitarianism/consequentialism to RULE utilitarianism/consequentialism Act Consequentialism • Act is right if it’s the best option (outcome) compared to all other options (for the entire
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