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Chapter 8

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PHIL 1050
Mark Mc Cullagh

Chapter 8: The Debate over Utilitarianism Pgs. 110-124 8.1. The Classical Version of the theory: - Classical Utilitarianism can be summed up in three propositions: - 1) The morality of an action depends solely on the consequences of the action; nothing else matters - 2) An action’s consequences matter only insofar as they involve greater or lesser happiness of individuals. - 3) In the assessment of consequences, each individual’s happiness gets “equal consideration”. - This means nobody’s well-being matters more because of their social status or looks etc. - Classical Utilitarianism: an action is right if it produces the greatest overall balance of happiness over unhappiness. - Classical utilitarianism was developed and defended by 3 of the greatest philosophers in the 19 century England: - 1) Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) - 2) John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) - 3) Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) - Most moral philosophers reject this theory 8.2. Is Pleasure All That Matters? - Right actions are the ones that produce the most good, but what is good? - The utilitarian reply is: Happiness - As Mill puts it: “The Utilitarian doctrine is that happiness is desirable, and the only thing desirable, as an end; all other things being only desirable as means to that end” - What is happiness? Utilitarian’s = happiness is pleasure - They believe that pleasure includes all mental states that feel good - Ex. sense of accomplishment, delicious taste, etc. - Hedonism: pleasure is the one ultimate good  and pain the one ultimate evil - Most present day utilitarian’s now say that right actions are the ones that have the best results, however that is measured - English philosopher G.E. Moore: compiled short lists of things to be regarded as valuable in themselves - Moore suggested 3 obvious intrinsic goods: pleasure, friendship and aesthetic enjoyment - Therefore right actions are those that increase the world’s supply of these things. 8.3. Are Consequences All That Matter? - To determine whether an action is right Utilitarian’s believe we should look at what will happen as a result of doing it. - 3 arguments to this theory: - Justice: - Ex. A utilitarian is in an area of racial strife; a black man is accused of raping a white woman and this causes rioting and lynching. The utilitarian is in the area of the crime when it is committed such that his testimony would bring about a conviction. If he confesses the rioting and lynchings will stop but a innocent man will be sentenced. - The utilitarian would bear false witness because the end result is better than not doing it. - Justice requires that we treat people fairly, according
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