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PHLA11 - Midterm Lectures 1-7 Notes.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Julia Nefsky

PHLA11 – Lecture 1 – Introduction to Ethics - Ethics: the philosophical study of morality. - Examples of Moral Questions • The Alzheimer’s Case: “My mother has been having memory issues for a number of years. Her neurologist has been telling her it is ‘mild dementia.’ Her cognitive impairment and memory loss have worsened, and I recently met the neurologist without her. He told me that she has Alzheimer’s. He felt we should not yet tell my mother, as that diagnosis has been her greatest fear and it would be too devastating […] I am uncomfortable keeping this terrible secret. Is it better to tell a loved one of the prognosis they fear, or is it more ethical to let them live in hopes that they have escaped it?” -‐ Name Withheld (New York Times, June 22, 2012) • Is it okay to spend my money on whatever I want? What if money that I would like to spend on a new computer or new clothes could be used to aid to people living in poverty? • Is Euthanasia morally permissible? • Is stealing always morally wrong, or is it sometimes permissible to steal? • Is it ever permissible to torture someone? What if the only way to save a hundred people from death is to torture one innocent person? - Unit 1: Moral Theories • Two influential attempts to give a systematic answer to moral questions: 1) Utilitarianism 2) Kantianism • Moral Theories: attempt to explain, at the most general and fundamental level, what differentiates right actions from wrong actions. • The moral theories from Unit 1 attempt to tell us what is right and what is wrong, and why. • But you might wonder: Are there any such truths? Are there objective answers to moral questions? - According to Utilitarianism: • Whether an act is right or wrong depends on it consequences. • Specifically, on how much pleasure and pain it produces. - According to Kantianism: • Whether an act is right or wrong depends on the kind of act that it is. - The Alzheimer’s Case • The Utilitarian: o Which course of action would result in less pain and suffering? o Will the mother, and others involved, be happier overall if she doesn’t know the truth? • The Kantian: o The question isn’t what will make her and others happier. o Not telling the truth could be wrong because it does not treat her with the respect she deserves. - Unit 2: Skeptical Challenges to Morality • Isn’t what is right and wrong relative to one’s culture? • Isn’t morality just a matter of personal opinion? • Given a scientific picture of the world, how could there be such a thing as right and wrong? • Can there be morality without God? - Unit 3: Moral Issues • Three contemporary moral issues: 1) Abortion 2) Global Poverty 3) The Treatment of Animals (eating meat, biomedical research) PHLA11 – Lecture 2 – Introduction to Ethics cont’d - Normative versus Descriptive • A descriptive claim = a claim about what IS the case. o Examples of Descriptive Claims 1. Obama is the President of the USA. 2. John Stuart Mill is the President of the USA. 3. 50% of marriages end in divorce. 4. Whales are fish. 5. Leafy green vegetables contain tons of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. 6. Salsa is the #1 condiment in North America. o What in fact is true in the world. • A normative claim = a claim about how things OUGHT to be. o Examples of Normative Claims a) It is wrong to break a promise. b) Eating meat is morally permissible. c) You should eat a lot of leady greens. d) You should eat a lot of salsa. e) One ought not hold inconsistent beliefs. f) If all the evidence supports that it was Professor Plum in the library with the candlesticks, you should believe that it was. o Tries how things in the world should be. • Both descriptive and normative claims can be true or false. • The difference is in subject matter: it’s a difference in what the claims are about. o Subject matter  content of the claims - Descriptive Claims • “John Stuart Mill is the President of the USA.”  FALSE • “Whales are fish”  FALSE • “Salsa is the #1 condiment in North America.”  DEBATABLE (Is it salsa or ketchup?) • Many descriptive claims require investigation. - Normative Claims - Morality is a Normative Domain • Moral claims are claims about how people OUGHT, rather than about how people DO in fact act.  How we ought to live our lives; whether we live up to those standards.  “It is wrong to break a promise.”  “Eating meat is morally permissible.” • Other Kinds of Normative Claims o Prudential claims: claims about what would be prudent, or in your self-interest.  “You should eat a lot of leafy greens.”  “You should eat a lot of salsa.” o Normative epistemic claims: claims about what one should believe; how one ought to reason.  “One ought not hold inconsistent beliefs.”  “If all the evidence supports that it was Professor Plum in the library with the candlestick, you should believe that it was.” - Summary • Moral claims are: a) Normative rather than descriptive. b) They are a particular kind of normative claim. Not all normative claims concern morality. - How can we investigate moral questions? • The chief tool cannot be experiment or observation. • One cannot infer a normative claim from a purely descriptive claim. • “IS” does not imply “OUGHT”. • The fact that this is the way things ARE doesn’t mean it’s the way things OUGHT to be. - Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology • Can tell us about how people in fact behave. • Can tell us about what people believe about how they ought to behave. • Example: while 90% of Canadians eat meat, only 70% believe that eating meat is morally okay.* • But this cannot tell us whether eating meat IS morally okay. • * Warning: made up statistic. • You can’t settle a question by looking at an empirical fact. - How can we investigate moral questions? • What we can do is give arguments. • We can start from claims that are highly plausible, and try to argue from those claims to conclusions that are less obvious, or more controversial. - An argument • A series of propositions aimed at establishing or justifying some point. • Contains: a) A conclusion (C) = the proposition the argument is trying to establish. b) Premises (P) = the starting points of the argument. • Example: o “One should not cause tremendous pain just for one’s own amusement. Putting kittens in boiling water causes them tremendous pain. So, one should not put kittens in boiling water just for one’s own amusement.” o What is the conclusion? What are the premises? o Answer:  P1: One should not cause tremendous pain just for one’s own amusement.  P2: Putting kittens in boiling water causes them tremendous pain.  C: One should not put kittens in boiling water just for one’s own amusement. - Two Ways an Argument Can Go Wrong 1) It could start from false premises. 2) It could have faulty inferences: the moves it makes from the premises to the conclusion could be bad moves. - An Airtight Argument (The best kind) 1) The premises are true. 2) The inferences are valid: the conclusion follows from the premises. • An argument that guarantees the truth of the conclusion. • 1) + 2)  the conclusion is guaranteed to be true. • 1 and 2: completely independent (can have either without the other). - A Valid Argument • If the premises are true, then the conclusion MUST be true. • The conclusion follows from the premises. • It can’t be that both the premises are true, and the conclusion is false. - Argument Example: • P1: If the moon is made of tofu, then there is bean curd in the sky. P2: The moon is made of tofu. C: Therefore, there is bean curd in the sky. o What’s Wrong with this Argument?  P2 is FALSE o Is the Inference Valid?  Ask yourself: If P1 and P2 were both true, could C be false? (If the answer is ‘No’, then the inference is valid.  Yes, the inference from this example is valid. - An Argument of the Form: 1. If A then B. 2. A. 3. Therefore, B. • Is VALID. o Called “Modus Ponens”. - Argument Example: • P1: If I play tennis today, I will get some exercise. P2: I will not play tennis today. C: Therefore, I’m not going to get any exercise. o Is this Argument a Good One?  The premises are true. o Is the Inference Valid?  No.  Counterexample to its validity: I go jogging. Could get exercise through a different kind of exercise.  The conclusion doesn’t follow logically from the premises. - Any Argument of the Form: 1. If A then B. 2. A. 3. Therefore, Not B. • Is INVALID. • Example: o P1: If I live in Toronto, I live in Canada. P2: I don’t live in Toronto. C: I don’t live in Canada.  FALSE. You could live in a different Canadian city. - Evaluating the Arguments We Read  Determine what the conclusion is, what the premises are, and then ask:  Are the premises plausible? o How might one object to them?  Are the inferences valid? o If not, what would it take to make the argument valid? - Implicit Premises • Suppose I say: “All animals are mortal. So, we need to face it: Fido is going to die one day. He’s not going to live forever.” o What I said explicitly:  P1: All animals are mortal. C: Therefore, Fido is mortal. o Is the Argument a Good One?  P1 is true.  But the inference is not valid.  Proof: Imagine that “Fido” is the name of a rock. This would make P1 true and C false. o But it would be a mistake to conclude that my argument was a bad one. o If we were interpreting what I was saying charitably, it would be clear that I was making use of an implicit premise:  Fido is an animal. • People don’t always explicitly say what they mean. - The Argument Really • P1: All animals are mortal. P2: Fido is an animal. C: Therefore, Fido is mortal. o This is a VALID argument. o And it has true premises, assuming Fido is indeed an animal. - Example: • P1: Driving above the speed limit is illegal. C: Therefore, it is wrong to drive above the speed limit. o This premise is TRUE. o But is the inference valid?  If something is illegal, that doesn’t make it immoral. • Implicit Premise, or Underlying Assumption o If some activity is illegal, it is wrong to do it.  Add this missing premise to argument. • Now the Argument Is… o P1: Driving above the speed limit is illegal. P2: If some activity is illegal, it is wrong to do it. C: Therefore, it is wrong to drive above the speed limit.  Is the argument a good one?  The premises imply the conclusion, but they don’t assume it?  P2 is highly questionable  There could be laws that are unjust. - ***You can’t derive a normative conclusion from an exclusively descriptive premise.*** PHLA11 – Lecture 3 – Unit 1: Moral Theories - Moral Theories: Attempt to explain, at the most general and fundamental level, what differentiates right acts from wrong acts. • Mill defends Utilitarianism; use Mill’s not Bentham’s definition of Utlilitarianim. - Three Categories of Moral Evaluation: 1) Obligatory o A morally required action; wrong not to do it. o Subset of permissible acts o e.g., saving a drowning child. 2) Permissible, or Right o Something that morality permits you to do. o More than one permissible action = not obligatory because you have choice. 3) Impermissible, or Wrong o Something obliged NOT to do. • Every act is either permissible (right) or impermissible (wrong). o Permissible and impermissible divides the landscape of action. • These categories are all inter-definable (can define one in terms of another) - Utilitarianism • Classic formulations: Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Henry Sidgwick • “In Defense of Utilitarianism” – an excerpt from Mill’s book Utilitarianism (1861). • A highly influential view. - The Greatest Happiness Principle (the Utilitarian Principle) • An act is right IF AND ONLY IF it brings about the greatest total amount of happiness—or, utility—out of all the actions available to the agents, • Where “by happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain.” (Mill, p. 172) • Utility = another word for happiness • Happiness (freedom from unhappiness). - Utilitarianism: Two Main Parts 1) Consequentialism o An act is right IF AND ONLY IF it produces the best consequences out of all the acts available to the agent. o The rightness of an act is determined by its consequences. o Morally right to maximize everyone’s happiness/overall good. o Recall: The Alzheimer’s Case  Should she tell her mother the dreaded diagnosis, or is the right thing to do to let her “live in hopes that she has escaped it”?  What does consequentialism say?  What are the consequences of telling her vs. not telling her? o Doesn’t care about the internal character of an act. o How do you know what consequences are better or worse?  Another theory is needed to determine this. 2) Hedonism (“Theory of the Good”) o The goodness of consequences is determined by how much happiness is produced, where (by happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain.” (Mill, p. 172) o “Pleasure, and the freedom from pain, are the only thing desirable as ends; and… all desirable things… are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain.” (Mill, p. 172)  “as ends” = valuable in itself o How much happiness, pain, and pleasure come from the consequences? - Two Features of Utilitarianism • “The happiness which forms the utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct, is not just the agent’s own happiness, but that of all concerned. As between his own happiness and that of others, utilitarianism requires him to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator.” (Mill) 1) Universality o Everybody matters and their pleasure gets factored in. 2) Impartiality o Everyone’s happiness matters to the same extent. - An Act’s Utility • The sum of all the pleasure it produces minus the sum of all the pain it produces. • Hedon: a unit of pleasure • Dolor: a unit of pain • Hedon/Dolor  Commensurable units (can be weighed against each other) • Should be consistent with one’s own calculation • e.g., Just because they’re a loved one/friend, it doesn’t mean that their pleasure matters more. • Example: You are lactose intolerant, but—unaware of this—Max has made homemade ice cream for you. o Utility of EATING the ice cream? (Arbitrary numbers)  Pleasure to Max = 5 hedons  Pleasure to you = 8 hedons  Pain to you = 15 dolors  Utility (you eat the ice cream) = (5 + 8) - 15 = -2 - Utilitarianism cont’d • Suppose your options are A, B, and C.  Compare: Utility (A), Utility (B), Utility (C)  DO the act with the greatest utility  If there is a tie for best, either is permissible. - Question: • According to Utilitarianism, is it always wrong to perform an act with negative utility—an act that produces more pain than pleasure? o Negative utility = more pain/dolors, but it is the BEST option. o Answer: No  What if you’re only other option is to produce more pain?  e.g., dentist filling in a cavity o All of you pleasure/pain factored into the equation. o Why?  Example: You are lactose intolerant, but—unaware of this— Max has made homemade ice cream for you. (Utility [you eat the ice cream] = (5 + 8) - 15 = -2)  Utility of REFUSING the ice cream? ► Pain to you of refusing = 5 dolors  Feel uncomfortable refusing ► Pain to Max of your refusal = 4 dolors  Make Max sad for refusing ► Utility (You Refuse) = 0 – (5 + 4) = -9  What add Max’s and your pleasure?  Utilitarianism wants you to consider EVERYONE! - MILL CONSIDERS AND REPLIES TO 3 OBJECTIONS TO UTILITARIANISM… (Strategy for defending Utilitarianism) - Objection 1: A Doctrine Worthy of Swine • An objection to hedonism. • “Such a theory of life excites in many minds […] inveterate dislike. To suppose that life has […] no higher end than pleasure – no better and nobler object of desire and pursuit – they designate as utterly mean and groveling; as a doctrine worthy only of swine.” (Mill, pp. 172-173) o Saying that all we care about is pleasure and freedom from pain describes us as if we were pigs  we have other things we care about (richness of human life). • Mill’s Reply to Objection 1: o It is the accusers, not utilitarians, “who represent human nature in a degrading light; since the accusation supposes human beings to be capable of no pleasure except those of which swine are capable.” (Mill, p. 173)  Paraphrased: “I’m not the one portraying humans as pigs—you are because you are saying that the pleasures we have are the ones pigs have.” - Two Kinds of Pleasure (by Mill) 1) Higher pleasures: intellectual pleasures of the imagination and creativity, aesthetic pleasures … relationships, etc. 2) Lower pleasures: bodily pleasures (food, relaxation, sex…) - How Many Hedons for a Given Pleasurable Experience? • Bentham: Number of hedons = duration X intensity. o Only the quality of pleasure matters. • Mill: It should be duration X intensity X quality. o Some pleasures get weighed more heavily than others. - Argument: Higher Pleasures are More Valuable • P1: If those who are “competently acquainted with both”, prefer one kind over the other, then that kind of pleasure is of higher quality—more valuable. P2: People who are “competently acquainted” with both “higher” and “lower” pleasures, clearly prefer the “higher pleasures”. C: Therefore, the “higher pleasures” are more valuable. o This is a VALID argument. (“If A then B; B; Therefore, B” Argument Form) • Mill, in support of P2: o “Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals, for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast’s pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool.” (Mill, p. 174) o “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.” (Mill, p. 175) - Summary of Mill’s Reply to Objection 1 • Distinguishes higher pleasures and lower pleasures • Claims that the “higher pleasures” are more valuable: they are of better quality, and so weigh more heavily in the calculation. - What Do You Think? • Are you convinced by Mill’s reply to the first objection? • Any objections. PHLA11 – Lecture 4 – Unit 1: Moral Theories – Utilitarianism  cont’d - Utilitarianism • An act is right IF AND ONLY IF it brings about the greatest total amount of happiness—or, utility—out of all the actions available to the agents, • Where “by happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain.” (Mill, p. 172) • Two Main Parts: 1) Consequentialism:  An act is right IF AND ONLY IF it produces the best consequences out of all the acts available to the agent. 2) Hedonism:  How good the consequences are depends entirely on how much pleasure and pain they involve. • An Act’s Utility = The total amount of pleasure produced (sum of hedons) – The total amount of pain produced (sum of dolors) • Utilitarianism (another way of putting it)  An act is IF AND ONLY IF it maximizes utility. o That is, IF AND ONLY IF there is no alternative act available to the agent that has greater utility. • Example: You come across a child drowning in a shallow pond. If you save him you will ruin your new pants and be late to pick up your own kids from school. o What is the right thing to do according to Utilitarianism and why? - Objection 2: Too High For Humanity • “It is exacting too much to require that people shall always act from the inducement of promoting the general interests of society.” (Mill, p. 175) • Mill’s Reply to Objection 2: o “But this is to… confound the rule of action with the motive to of it. It is the business of ethics to tell us what are our duties, or by what test we may know them; but no system of ethics requires that the sole motive of all we do shall be a feeling of duty; on the contrary, ninety- nine hundredth of all our actions are done from other motives… He who saves a fellow creature from drowning does what is morally right, whether his motive be duty, or the hope of being paid for his trouble.” (Mill, p. 175) o Utilitarianism doesn’t require us to act with the motive of maximizing overall happiness. o It requires that we in fact maximize overall happiness. • A Follow-Up Objection: o But Utilitarianism says that you have acted wrongly unless you maximize overall happiness.  This itself seems far too demanding. o e.g., going to the movies tonight vs. going to give charity o Mill’s Reply to Objection 2 continued:  “The occasions on which any person (except one in a 1000) has it in his power to [affect happiness] on an extended scale … are but exceptional; and on these occasions alone is he called on to consider public utility; In every other case, private utility, the interest or happiness of some few persons, is all he has to attend to. Those alone the influence of whose actions extends to society in general, need concern themselves habitually about so large an object.” (Mill, p. 175) o Mill’s Reply to the Follow-Up Objection:  For most of us, most of the time, we are not in a position to
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