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Philosophy 2801F/G Chapter Notes -Consequentialism, Political Philosophy, Experience Machine

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PHIL 2801F/G

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Rawls to begin a survey of contemporary theories of justice
Rawls requires understanding the theory to which he was responding namely utilitarianism
Society utilitarianism operates as a kind of tacit background against which other theories have
assert and defend themselves
Claims that the morally right act or policy is that which produces the greatest happiness for the
members of society
The basic structure of society not to the personal conduct of individuals
Two features of utilitarianism that make it an attractive theory of political morality
Utilitarians just demand that the pursuit of human welfare or utility be done impartiality for
everyone in society
Consequentialism its importance is that it requires that we check to see whether the act or
policy in question actually does some identifiable good or not
It demands of anyone who condemns something as morally wrong that they show who is
Consequentialism says that something is morally good only if it makes someone’s like better off
Utilitarianism provides a test to ensure that such rules serve some useful function
Consequentialism is also attractive because it conforms to our intuitions about the difference
between morality and other spheres
Consequentialism also seems to provide a straightforward method for resolving moral questions
becomes a matter of measuring changes in human welfare
At its best utilitarianism is a strong weapon against prejudice and superstition
Welfare is the good which morality is concerned with, then surely the morally best act is the one
which maximizes human welfare giving equal weight to each person’s welfare
Utilitarianism can be broken into two parts
1. An account of human welfare or utility and
2. An instruction to maximize utility, so defined, giving equal weight to each person’s utility
This is a dubious account for why we prefer some activities over others, poets often find writing
to be a painful and frustrating yet they think it is valuable
Wrong for the things worth doing and having in life are not all reducible to ones mental state
like happiness
Many different kinds of experiences re valuable rewarding without being pleasurable
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Nozick’s invention is in fact called an experience machine
Human well being is something more than or other than getting the right sequence of mental
Increasing peoples utility means satisfying their preferences
Equate welfare with the satisfaction of preferences
Satisfying our preferences does not always contribute to our well being
When we lack adequate information, or have made mistakes in calculating the costs and
benefits of a particular action, then what is good for us can be different from the preferences
we currently have
Preferences therefore do not define our good
People want to have or do the things which are worth having or doing and this may be different
from what they currently prefer to have or do
Variety says that something is made valuable by the fact that lots of people desire it. But that is
wrong and indeed backwards. Having the preference does not make it valuable its being
valuable is a good reason for preferring it
One way to deal with this disappointment is to persuade oneself that the unattainable goal was
not in fact worth seeking
The general phenomenon of adaptive preferences is well established
It is quite possible that there are more unsatisfied preferences in a free society than in a
repressive society that teaches people from birth not to desire certain things
Defining welfare as the satisfaction of rational or informed preferences
Aims at satisfying those preferences which are based on full information and correct judgements
while filtering our those which are mistaken and irrational
The chief human good is the satisfaction of rational preferences
Once we view utility in terms of satisfying informed preferences, we have little guidance
Even if we know which preferences are rational, there are many different kinds of informed
preferences with no obvious way to aggregate them
Informed preferences can be satisfied and hence our utility increased on this fourth account
without it ever affecting our conscious experiences
Inexperienced preferences should count in determining well being. It really does make my life
worse when my preferences are violated without my knowing it
We must accept the possibility that our lives can go worse even when our conscious experiences
are unaffected
The informed preference account is plausible in principle but very difficult to apply in practice
We may find ourselves in a situation where it is impossible to know which act maximizes utility,
either for a give individual or for society at large
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