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exam notes for phil 2020

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York University
HUMA 1690
Rebecca Jubis

1 Modes of Reasoning – Lecture 13 I – Introduction • Ethical theory is a very important branch of philosophy. • It is concerned with the matter of morality. -What is the nature of morality? -What are the important moral concepts and how should we define them? -What moral principles should guide our actions? -Which actions are morally right and which are morally wrong? 2 • There are two main branches of ethics: meta-ethics and normative ethics. (1)Meta-ethics: a higher-level examination of ethical questions. -Addresses questions about important theoretical concepts in ethics; i.e., about the nature of morality and right and wrong. (2)Normative ethics: a lower-level examination of ethical questions. -It addresses questions about the moral propriety of actions. -What norms govern the moral propriety of actions? -Which actions are morally right and which are morally wrong? 3 • This week, we’re going to begin discussing normative ethics. • This deals with the norms that govern morally correct actions, and whether particular actions, themselves, are morally correct or incorrect. • In particular, we’re going to discuss one normative ethical theory today: utilitarianism. 4 • Utilitarianism was a moral theory proposed by John Stuart Mill and th Jeremy Bentham, two important British philosophers of the 19 century. • Along with Kant’s deontology, it has been one of the two most highly regarded moral theories of the last two centuries. • We’re going to discuss Mill’s version of utilitarianism, along with one other version of utilitarianism. 5 II – Utilitarianism • Utilitarianism, a normative moral theory, specifies what makes an action morally correct. • It’s a species of consequentialism. Consequentialism: an action is morally correct insofar as it produces the best consequences. • Utilitarianism supplies us with a normative principle to distinguish morally good actions from morally bad actions in terms of their consequences. • This principle is the principle of utility. The principle of utility: the morally best action in any given circumstance is the one which maximizes utility. -Morally correct actions maximize utility and minimize disutility. 6 • The question is, what is utility? -Utility: a unit of value. -There are different interpretations of what type of value a unit of utility is. -The different versions of utilitarianism divide up according to how they interpret the meaning of ‘a unit of value’. • We’ll discuss two of these theories. 7 III – Mill’s Utilitarianism • The first version of utilitarianism we’ll discuss is that of John Stuart Mill. • Mill thought that the principle of utility should be thought of as a principle of maximizing happiness; thus for him ‘unit of value’ means ‘unit of happiness’. -The morally best action is the one that maximizes happiness and minimizes unhappiness. • This is known as hedonistic utilitarianism. -We try to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. • More specifically, on Mill’s hedonistic utilitarian theory, happiness or pleasure is a subjective phenomenon. -It is measured in terms of the brute feelings of what we experience as pleasure. -Happiness or pleasure, in other words, is a subjective, internal, first- person phenomenon. 8 • There is one famous objection to Mill’s hedonistic utilitarianism. • It is based on a science fiction scenario: Robert Nozick’s experience machine. -Im
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