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Brandt and williams--utilitarianism

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Virginia Commonwealth University
PHIL 201
James Scow

10/29/13 Brandt-utilitarianism Meta ethical vs. normative theories  Defense of a form of utilitarianism, called rule utilitarianism. Many philosophers we’ve studied have gone over utilitarianism. He begins discussing whether utilitarianism is a normative thesis-gives you whats right and wrong, and how to determine this. Or if it is an metaethical theory-p.640 mostly concerned with meaning and justification. Actually logical terms. For example, moores paper is purely metaethics, not discussing whats right or wrong but defining the term good. Meta ethics takes a step up and looks down on normative ethics and question them, what makes them work, bla bla bla. Mill and benthem both ask how to justify the principle of utility which would be a meta-ethical thesis.  Brandt is concerned with giving a form of utilitarianism—rule utilitarianism. You can divide utilitarianism into act and rule depending on what it is your evaluating. Utilitarianism evaluates consequences.  Actions-you can lie or tell the truth. You are debating these two actions. What would happen to person a, b, c, if I lie? Or if I don’t? what would happen to their happiness. ACT UTILITARIANISM--choosing the action that maximizes the happiness. take each action and analyze it individually. You can take information you’ve learned based on a similar action instead of having to reevaluate completely.  But a rule utilitarianism would be lies in general make you do one thing or another. The rule is associated with lying, rather than an action being your evaluation. You default on your rule. Should you save someone? Yes, because that’s your rule. But if they are evil, than maybe you wont want to save them and they might contradict. There are cases when rules contradict.  Brandt is advocating a form of rule utilitarianism. He claims on p. 642 that there are consequences of act utilitarianism (p.652). people generally ignoring a rule, should you adhere to the rule or go along with what everyone else is doing. An act utilitarianism would say you shouldn’t go along with it. A rule utilitarianism would say go along with the rule because it is the utilitarian rule.  Brandt wants to defend an ideal form of rule utilitiarianism. What is the best possible rules to guide us in our society? He presents this theory in section 7.  He calls his theory the ideal code theory. P. 644 bottom of second column.  An action is right if and only if it would not be prohibited by the moral code ideal for the society.—a code would be a set of rules, a code would be ideal if it were current in our society
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