Introduction To Mill's Utilitarianism

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12 Jan 2012
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2012-01-11
Intro to Philosophy II
Starting of Utilitarianism
One more important distinction between Mill and Kant must be discussed:
Both use rules for moral assessment which are independent of any subjects reaction
For both of them, one should be a separate moral assessor when dealing with moral situations
But the fundamental difference is the basis in which the assessment is made
For Mill, the basis is the consequences of an action which is called Util-consequentialism and is a
contextual theory
For Kant, his moral theory is non-consequential and it's non contextual; we are not assessing the action
but rather the agent.
For Mill, the actions are evaluated and the agent becomes moral by extension.
For Kant, the agent is evaluated and the consequences are irrelevant
Chapter II
p7
Utilitarian principle: actions are right/wrong as they tend to promote happiness/harm/reduce harm
actions
the basis of utilitarianism is the action. The intention of the agent is incidental and the his/her moral
virtue is determined on the basis of the actions that the agent enact. Based on the actions that we
initiate, if they follow the principle, then will we say that they're a moral agent. The actions are
evaluated but the evaluation of the agent is secondary it follows from the evaluations of the action.
(Kant is the opposite) When we go through our process of evaluation we're only going to look at the
action the agent performs and the consequences that follow from it. If good consequences result from
the action we call it right; we call an action wrong if bad consequences follow from it.
Tend to promote
knowledge from reason is not the focus of our discussion. But this principle is rooted deeply in
experience; we can only assess consequences based on our observations of the world. We may end up
talking of the principle as an experience based theory. As an experience, our actions will have a general
or probable outcomes be it good or bad. In general, we want to produce more the good. The rproblem
we'll see is that both types of consequences have to be taken into account whenever an action is
assessed.
Right/wrong
in order to determine whether to lie or tell the truth we use a sort of “utilitarian calculus” to determine
(a) what the consequences are (b) how much happiness comes from the action. (c) which consequences
do you take into account? The immediate consequences? What about the long-term consequences?
How far in the causal chain do you go? (d) what results in the most happiness for the most people?
Happiness
This is a very vague term. Mill devotes an entire section on happiness and determining what happiness
is. Happiness perhaps isn't the best term used in the context; it doesn't refer to the feeling necessarily
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