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PHLA11H3 Lecture Notes - John Stuart Mill, Henry Sidgwick, Jeremy Bentham

Course Code
Kelin Emmett

of 3
Ethics - Session 3
explains most fundamental/general differences between right or wrong actions
the greatest happiness principle
an act is right if and only if it brings the greatest amount of happiness/utility, pleasure in
the absence of pain
3 categories of moral evaluation of actions
(can replace "actions" with "people" or "intentions", but will focus on "actions)
1. obligatory: morally required
a kind of right action when more than just right because it's required
2. permissible/right: morally accepted
3. impermissible/wrong: obligated to not do
every action
either right or wrong
Q. when is an act obligatory?
A. when it's the only right action
ex. There's a drowning kid in a shallow pond.
it would be wrong to not save the kid
classic formation of utilitarianism
1. Jeremy Bentham
2. John Stuart Mill
3. Henry Sidgwick
two main parts of utilitarianism
1. consequentialism
whether an act is right or wrong is determined entirely by its consequences
an act is right if and only if it produces the best consequences for everyone out of all
the acts available to the agent
2. hedonism
Q. what if the consequences are good for you, but bad for me?
A. weight which action produces worse consequences
need a theory of the good
an account of what it is for the consequences to be better or worse
two important features of utilitarianism
1. universality
2. impartiality
force is an action in itself, so it's not good to force somebody
if the results are good, then it's fine
total hedons produced - total dolors produced
Q. is it always wrong to do actions with more pain than pleasure?
A. not if there are no acts availiable to the agent that produces more pleasure than pain
Mill's reply to the response that utilitarianism is a “Doctrine Worthy of Swine
it's not me who's representing human nature in a bad light
bodily pleasures are natural and good
distinguishes between higher (intellectual) and lower pleasures (bodily)
how to measure pain/pleasure
1. duration
2. intensity
# of hedons produced= duration*intensity
measurement of pain and pleasure
Mill says that is not complete right because we need to measure quality too, not only
Q. which of the two pleasures is of higher quality?
A. higher pleasures are of greater value than lower pleasures