Wednesday October 14, 2009
Many different normative/moral judgments we can make. Ex. The Iraq War was wrong, The
death penalty is morally right. We could stick with these particular moral judgments, but we have
a natural impulse is to ask if some act is right and if there is an explanation of why it is right.
What makes the action right?
Euthyphro-Socrates is not satisfied with the list of pious acts, but wants a general theory of what
makes pious acts pious. Main debates in normative ethics are between rival moral theories.
Simplest theory of what is right and wrong:Utilitarianism. It has just one principle, Mill calls it the
principle of greatest happiness. Actions are right as long as they produce pleasure. Aiming to
get the greatest happiness of the greatest number, greatest overall surplus of happiness for
everyone effected over unhappiness in the world. Utilitarianism takes a common moral idea,
states it more clearly and makes it into the one supreme moral principle. All moral views hold
that morality is about caring/doing what is good and not inflicting pain on other people.
Mill-pg 302-compares utilitarianism to the golden rule, to do as you would be done by. To love
your neighbor as much as you love yourself, want his happiness as much as you want your
Hare-introduction-352-Acts that are right work on increasing happiness and well being and
Utilitarianism-Can be seen as combining 3 separate Elements (Hare)
1)Consequentialism-we should always do what will produce the most good, have the best
consequences, result in the best overall outcome possible. There are different things you could
do in any situation, each of those actions will result in a different course of the world. All that
matters is the outcome, not how we produced that result.
353-what makes an action right or wrong is its consequences. Whatever will follow from what
you do in the widest sense. Even if you do nothing, it might have an effect, otherwise known as
an act of omission. Allowing to die is just as bad as killing. Most people think it is worse to do
evil than just not act and have evil produced. In utilitarianism there is no difference.
2)Welfarism/Hedonism- to know what makes the outcome of an act good and what makes it
bad. Utilitarians say that the only thing that matters in outcomes is what Hare calls welfare. The
only good is welfare, understood as pleasure or happiness, with the only bad outcome being
pain. Nothing else matters.
Hedonism-what is intrinsically good in itself is only pleasure. Welfare can also be equated with
getting what you want, or the satisfaction of your desires. The best consequences are the ones
that bring about the most pleasure. You must care about pleasure not only in human beings, but
in anything that is able to feel pleasure. Bentham-the question about animals is not whether
they are rational, but whether or not they can suffer. Utilitarian vegetarians, only care about
pleasure/pain, so they could probably eat oysters. 3)Aggregationism/impartiality
Utilitarianism rejects egoism (that everyone should aim at his own pleasure), that we ought to
care about the greatest total happiness of everyone, counting everyone’s happiness equally. It
is not only against egoism but also against self-referential altruism (which says you should care
more about your family/friends etc, and save one of your children rather than 3 strangers).
Utilitarianism says this is wrong because it is not impartial. You shouldn’t don’t care a