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Lecture 5

PHLA11H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Experience Machine, Consequentialism

Course Code
Julia Nefsky

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PHLA11 – Lecture 5 – Continuation of Utilitarianism and Intro to Experience
Objection 3: No Time to Calculate:
“There is no time prior to acting, for calculating and weighing the effects of
any line of conduct on the general happiness.” (Mill, p. 176)
Ex: child drowning
oIf a child is drowning, you have no time to decide what is right or
Mill’s Reply:
o“There is no difficulty in proving any ethical standard whatever to work
ill, if we suppose universal idiocy to be conjoined with it, but on any
hypothesis short of that, mankind must by this time have acquired
positive beliefs as to the effects of some actions on their happiness;
and the beliefs which have thus come down are the rules of morality
for the multitude…” (p. 176)
oThese kinds of rules are something that you can consider, but don’t
just use them
oCriterion of right isn’t always irrelevant
oThink about which one maximizes utility
oCriterion of right vs. decision procedure
Mill’s Utilitarianism:
oThe Criterion of Right: an act is right if and only if it maximizes
overall utility.
oThe Decision Procedure: commonsense usage, “Rule of Thumb”
oEx: don’t steal, kill, lie, take care of your family, help those in need,
Nozick’s Thought-Experiment:
“Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any
experience you desired. Superduper neuropsychologists could stimulate your
brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or
making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time, you would be
floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain.” (p. 644)
oWould you plug into the experience machine for life?
oYou wouldn’t know that you were plugged in. Everything would seem
completely real to you
oThere would be a way of ensuring that you would be having the
experiences you wanted to have
oYou don’t need to worry about the welfare of others
Utilitarianism: Two Main parts:
oConsequentialism: an act is right if and only if it produces the best
overall consequences out of all the acts available to the agent
oHedonism: The only things good in themselves are pleasure and
freedom from pain
“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,
pg. 172).
oRecall: Doctrine Worthy of Swine objection:
The human good life isn’t just a matter of getting as much
pleasure as possible and avoiding pain.
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