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PHL275H1 Lecture Notes - Moral Agency, Consequentialism, Eudaimonia

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Joseph Boyle

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Deontological Ethical Theory
ethics in which duty is a basic category
don’t depend on the good at all
or only depend partially
cancel Korsgaard
Kant: intention of the agent
some others evaluate the act of moral worth
Williams: 353-363 A Critique of Utilitarianism
it distorts moral thought
it focuses exclusively on the outcome of actions
we are just as responsible for allowing others to cause harm than causing it
b/c we have to sacrifice, it alienates a person from the projects and attitudes with
which he is most closely identified
undermines an agent’s integrity
a project involves acting and not allowing others to act
consequentialism is indifferent to whether a state of affairs consists in what we do
cause and effect focus, if I want that, I have to do this
makes no difference whether the causation of a state of affairs lies through
another agent or not
consequentialism attaches value to states of affairs and the concern with what
states of affairs in the world contains
negative responsibility: If I am ever responsible for anything, then I must be just
as responsible for things that I allow or fail to prevent, as I am for things that I
myself, in the more everyday restricted sense, bring about
as a moral agent, I must consider this on the same footing
essence of morality: principle of impartiality
there can be no relevant difference from a moral point of view which consists just
in the fact not further explicable in general terms, that benefits or harms accrue to
one person rather than to another
it is never a morally comprehensible reason that “I” am the one who has
committeed the morally good act
from the moral point of view, there is no comprehensible difference which
consists just in my bringing about a certain outcome rather than someone else’s
producing it
I can’t ultimately control the actions of others
moral philosophy begs two questions: 1) cut off the range of alternative courses of
action 2) present one with the situation as a going concern and restrict questions
about how the agent got into it
Two Kinds of Remoter Effects
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the examples (2 of them)
what about the sentiments that arise from the decisions (regret, remorse, etc.)
these are irrational
precedent effect (psychological effect on the agent)
Sir Thomas More
one morally can do what someone has actually done
take into account the benefit of all others following the moral act of utility that the
agent performs
Jim’s case is private and George’s public
Jim would consider the integrity of himself and how his wife would feel about his
integrity while George would consider a whole town
what one does is not included in the outcome of what one does, while what
another does can be included in the outcome of what one does
the utilitarian decision, a function of all the satisfactions which he can affect from
where he is
the projects of others determine his decision, b/c they are involved in how the
satisfactions of others are played out
may be positive or negative, positive if agents have aims that are harmless,
negative opposite
it is absurd to demand of such a man when the sums come in from the utility
network which the projects of others have in part determined that he should just
step aside from his own project and decision and acknowledge the decision which
the utilitarian calculus requires
What Makes Right Acts Right? – Ross: 374-384
rejects that happiness is the only good and our moral duty is to maximize
agrees that duties include the promotion of happiness and other goods as well as
keeping promises, promoting justice, and developing our talents
calls these duties prima facie
we know they are our duties by apprehension
what makes actions right is that they are productive of more good than could have
been produced by any other action produced to the agent
substitution for hedonism: of productive of the greatest good for productive of the
greater pleasure
the view that what produces the maximum pleasure is right (utilitarianism), has its
bases the views 1) that what produces maximum good is right 2) that pleasure is
the only good thing in itself
aka what produces the most pleasure is right
if it can be shown that productivity of the maximum good is not what makes all
actions right, he will refute hedonistic utilitarianism
theory of ideal utilitarianism: the only morally significant relation in which my
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