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Lecture 3

Lecture 3.docx

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Julia Nefsky

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Lecture 3 – Jan 16 Unit 1 – Moral Theories Def.: Attempt to explain, at the most general and fundamental level, what differentiates right acts from wrong acts Three categories of moral evaluation: 1. Obligatory 2. Permissible, or right 3. Impermissible, or wrong a. Every act is either permissible (right) or impermissible (wrong) Utilitarianism Def.: Classic formulations: Jeremy Bentham; John Stuart Mill; Henry Sidgwick • “In Defense of Utilitarianism” an excerpt from Mill’s book Utilitarianism (1861) The Greatest Happiness Principle An act is right if and only if it brings about the greatest total amount of happiness or utility out of all actions available for the person, where “by happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain.” (Mill, p. 172) Utilitarianism – two main parts 1. Consequentialism: an act is only right (if and only if) it produces the best consequences out of all the acts available to the person a. Alzheimer’s case: should the daughter tell her diagnosis that she fears or should she let her mother go on believing that she doesn’t have the diease? b. Consequentialism would say to do that which would make the mother happiest? So if it would let the mother have a better hold on life not to know, you don’t tell her. 2. Hedonism: the goodness of consequence is determined by how much happiness is produced, where “by happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain”. (Mill, p. 172) a. “Pleasure, and the freedom from pain, are the only thing desirable as ends; and… all desirable things… are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as a means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain.” (Mill, p. 172) Two features of Utilitarianism “The happiness which forms the utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct, is not the agent’s own happiness, but that of all concerned. As between his own happiness and that of all concerned. As between his own happiness and that of others, utilitarianism requires him to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator.” (Mill) 1. Universality 2. Impartiality An act’s utility = the sum of all the pleasure it produces minus the sum of all the pain it produces • Hedon: a unit of pleasure • Dolor: a unit of pain Example: your friend has made you icecream but doesn’t know that you’re lactose intolerant Utility of eating icecream? • Pleasure to your friend: 5 hedons • Pleasure to you: 8 hedons • Pain to you: 15 dolors • Utility (you eat it): (5+8) – 15 = -2 o Not a good utility If you have three options, you compare the utility of each of the three options. • Do the act with the greatest utility • If there’s a tie between two of the options, you can choose either morally Question: According to utilitarianism, is it always wrong to perform an act with negative
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