Class Notes (834,407)
Canada (508,508)
Philosophy (388)
PP110 (97)
Lecture 5

lecture 5.docx

6 Pages
Unlock Document

Hugh R Alcock

 Utilitarianism  John Stuart Mill (1806 - 73)  Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory of ethics; based on judging our actions as right or wrong according to whether their consequences are good or bad respectively  Utilitarianism is a normative ethical theory  Suggests norm/standard by which to measure whether our actions are right or wrong  Norm by which judgements are made is their utility (i.e. their good consequences)  For many utilitarians, this utility is understood to be happiness, which John Stuart Mill defines as "pleasure and the absence of pain"  Happiness is the state we ultimately want to be in  Equating happiness with pleasure or with absence of suffering more generally known as "hedonism"  According to hedonistic utilitarianism, then, we ultimately aim to produce a state of pleasure by our actions - this is…  Whose happiness do we aim for by our right actions?  One might assume that it's simply our own happiness that we aim our actions towards  However, this conception of utilitarianism cannot be right - it would imply that I am morally justified in killing my neighbour, for example, if doing so bring me pleasure!  It's counter intuitive  What makes utilitarianism a plausible ethical theory is our thinking of everyone's happiness as being equally important  By this measure, a consequence is good in proportion to the number of people it brings pleasure to as well as the amount of pleasure it might bring to someone  An action, therefore, is right if and only if it leads to the greatest general good possible  This is known as the principle of maximum utility  In other words, if I'm faced with two or more options with respect to my actions, then I am morally obliged to do the one that leads to the greatest amount of pleasure for the most people, i.e., the greatest amount of overall happiness  Thus with respect to sacrifice Mill writes:  A sacrifice which does not increase, or tend to increase, the sum of total happiness, it [utilitarianism] considers as wanted. The only self-renunciation which it applauds, is devotion to the happiness, or to some of the means to happiness, of others; either of mankind collectively, or of individuals within the limits imposed by the collective interest of mankind. (p. 104)  Now acting according to the maximum utility principle may appear to be too demanding  It seems to entail that everything we do must measure up to this noble end, namely, maximising utility  That is absurd; one cannot decide our every mundane actions in this way  Mill agrees; he explains:  "it is the business of ethics… if the rule of duty doses not condemn them." (ibid)  But when do our moral duties end exactly?  Going to buy cinema ticket and pass a charity  Giving money to charity would be an act of supererogation - doing something beyond your moral duty. But how so?  That said, we often think of our consequences being good in ways other than their bringing pleasure  Ex. Paul Gauguin famously abandoned his family to go to Tahiti to paint; arguably did the right thing because consequences of his actions were beautiful paintings  Accordingly some argue that happiness is not only achieved through sensual pleasure, rather it is also achieved through pleasures derived from appreciation of beauty, love, virtue, or knowledge  These pleasures can be considered good in their own right, i.e., intrinsically valuable  Here Mill recognises the distinction between sensual and intellectual pleasures. He writes:  "Now it is an unquestionable fact… allowance of a beast's pleasures…"(p. 99)  Thinking of our actions as being morally justif
More Less

Related notes for PP110

Log In


Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.