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Lecture 4

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Julia Nefsky

Lecture 4 – Jan. 21 Continuing the objections to Utilitarianism – with Mill’s replies Objection 2: Too High for Humanity “It is exacting too much to require that people shall always act from the inducement of promoting the general interests of society.” (p.175) • This is way too hard for humans to do. Maybe a god could but you can’t expect humans to care about everyone. Mill’s reply: “But this is to… confound the rule of action with the motive of it. It is the business of ethics to tell us what are our duties, or by what test we may know them; but no system of ethics requires that the sole motive of all we do shall be on a feeling of duty; on the contrary, ninety-nine hundredths of all our actions are done with other motives… He who saves a fellow creature from drowning does what is morally write, whether his motive be duty, or the hope of being paid for his trouble.” (p.175) • Utilitarianism doesn’t care about what your motive is for doing things – as long as you end up creating the most happiness possible o Don’t need motive of maximizing overall happiness. We just need to in fact maximize overall happiness. A follow-up objection: But Utilitarianism says that you have acted wrongly unless you maximize overall happiness. • This seems far too demanding Mill’s response: “The occasions on which any person (except one in a thousand) has it in his power to [affect happiness] on an extended scale… are but exceptional ; and on these occasions alone is he called on to consider public utility; in every other case, private utility, the interest or happiness of some few persons , is all he has to attend to. Those alone the influence of whose actions extend to society in general, need concern themselves habitually about so large an action.” (p. 175) • You c
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