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PHILO 1B03 L1.docx

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Stefan Rodde

Introduction: Utilitarianism  Utilitarianism; an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility o It is thus a form of ; meaning that the moral worth of an action= determined only by its resulting outcomes and that one can only weigh the morality on an action by knowing its consequences  Deontic  Act vs Rule o Act states that when found without choice we ought to consider the likely consequences of possible actions and choose the one that will _about most utility (qualified)  Classical utilitarianism o Rule being by looking at potential rules of action therefore rule=  Utilitarianism is a; monistic, teleological theory of obligation which, owing to its teleological nature, rests on a theory of value  Utilitarian theory of value can of course be itself either monistic or pluralistic  Two different kinds of utilitarianism, act and rule utilitarianism  Act Utilitarianism o Act utilitarianism, defines the rightness or wrongness of individual actions in terms of the good or bad consequences realized by those actions themselves o Defines the rightness or wrongness of an action in terms of its “utility” and “disutility”  Utility stands for what it is that is intrinsically valuable under the utilitarian‟s theory of value  Disutility for whatever is thought to be intrinsically bad o John Stuart Mill  According to John Stuart mill, “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.  For him utility meant happiness and disutility unhappiness  Mill may be characterized as a hedonistic utilitarian, one whose theory of value pleasure is the only thing of instinct worth o Some utilitarian‟s think it best to define utility in terms of satisfaction of our actual preferences, while others would have us look to satisfy preferences we would have were we fully informed and rational o AU: An act is right only if there is no other action I could have done instead which either  A) would have produces a greater balance of utility over disutility  B) would have produced a smaller balance of disutility over utility o AU was made famous in modern times by Mill and Bentham  At the time when it was quite natural for many people to think that some individuals simply count more than others o Bentham said; “each is to count for one , none to count for more than one.”  In other words, according to utilitarian‟s, all hose affected by my actions should equally in my deliberations concerning my moral obligations o AU is a commitment to equality and impartiality  We are all equally and impartially with the happiness or welfare, i.e. utility of all those including ourselves, who might be affected by our actions  Rule Utilitarianism o Some utilitarian‟s have developed a very different variety of their theory called rule utilitarianism o The rightness or wrongness of an action is not to be judged by its consequences. Rather it is to be judged by the consequences of everyone‟s adopting a general rule under which action falls  RU is outlined by John Rawls in his famous paper “Two concepts of Rule”  Rawls has us imagine that we are a sheriff in the deep American south. The rape od a white women has taken place and although the identity of the rapist is unknown, it is clear that the offender was black. The predominantly white and racially bigoted community is extremely agitated over the incident and great social unrest is threatening…  Rawls used this example to illustrate an apparent weakness in AU and how RU allows one to overcome it  The consequences of framing the )possibly) innocent black are far better (or less bad), in terms of utility than allowing the riot to occur  AU seems to require the frame, a course of action which is clearly unjust o RU: an act is morally right if and only if it conforms with the set of rules whose general observance would maximize utility o Some utilitarian‟s claim, for example that RU really does violate the spirit of utilitarianism and the amounts to “rule worship” o We are not morally required, on RU to preform actions which individually would maximize utility.  Rather we preform actions which accord with set of rules whose general observance would maximize utility o Actions are judged according to whether they conform with acceptable rules themselves are judged in terms of utility Environmental Harms, Causation, and Act Utilitarianism  Introduction o Many environmental harms have been addressed in courts and by the public using an act utilitarian approach o Act Utilitarianism claims that utility should in any particular situation, be maximized  Such an approach is often used for environmental concerns  Also such an approach is often taken in assigning liability after environmental harm has occurred  In the case of Boomer v. Atlantic Cement Co  Atlantic cement company was polluting a neighborhood outside of Albany, new york.  Resident of the area claimed that the pollution was causing damage to their health and wanted the pollution stopped  While deciding this case the court balanced the costs involved in closing the plant against the harms incurred by residents of the area  After considering costs on both sides the court decides that keeping the plant open would maximize utility  Many cases are decided by a similar process; nevertheless, an act utilitarian approach runs into serious difficulties when used to assign responsibility for environmental harms caused difficulties when used to assign responsibility for environmental harms caused by two or more persons of entities  Assessing accountability for group environmental harms is a notoriously difficult problem for act utilitarianism  Many philosophers ;  The causation monster: the problem and possible solutions o Illustrate a problem in assessing blame using causation for act utilitarianism consider the following case of “the degraded prairie”  Why worry about causation? o Most philosophers believe that causation is important in assessing responsibility for any harm o The claim that someone could be culpable for something they did not cause or did not contribute to simply seems unreasonable and unjust o Many philosophers have offended reasons why causation is important to assessments of accountability o For an act utilitarian if the reasons for wanting to access responsibility can be satisfied without an appeal to causation, as long as utility is increased causation is irrelevant  Why not to worry about causation o When considering group environmental harms most often the utility is assigning accountability is to demand that the harm be compensated for o Under an act utilitarian perspective the trouble of accessing accountability is endured because of the utility that will be gained by compensation for the harm  The Best Fit Model o Assesses the accountability to the contributor or contributors in a manner by which the least amount of disutility is produced regardless of causation o X should be held accountable for some harms Y if and only if there does not exist a set Z which, if held accountable, produces more utility than assessing accountability to X  In other words accountability should be assessed in a way that maximizes utility  However in many cases doing so will entail assigning responsibility independent of a causal connection o Often on the best fit model accountability should be assessed to the contributors most likely to have the resources to compensate for the harm  Alaska Exxon oil spill  Employees caused harm; so employees should pay  Objections: the loss of justice? Introduction: Deontological Ethics  Deontological Ethics- Immanuel Kant o Kant like mill proposed a monistic theory of obligation o The theory is thoroughly non-consequentialist o It denies that the possible consequences of out actions are what determine their rightness or wrongness  According to Kant o An action done from duty has its moral worth, not in the purpose(the consequences) to be attained by it, but in the maim in accordance with which it is decided upon o It depends; therefore, not on the realization of the object of the action but solely on the principle of volition(the maxim) in accordance with which irrespective of all objects of the faculty of desire (i.e. pleasure, happiness, preferences) the action o Kant espouses a deontological theory of obligation o Morality of the action is determines not by consequences but the maxim, the general principle, to which it conforms o Its moral worth lies not in the happiness or pleasure it produces, but in kind of action it is o Key notion in Kant‟s theory is the notio
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