Sunday, October 2, 2011

Remember the Titans

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Chapter 8 � Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is

1). Consequentialist actions are not intrinsically r/w; the morality of an act depends on its consequences.

). Teleological Its aim/goal is the great net happiness for all.

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We all desire happiness; - only it is intrinsically good.

But it is not a selfish (egoistic) hedonism We are naturally sympathetic and concerned with promoting the happiness of others too.

Whose happiness counts? That of all sentient beings � equally.

What is happiness? Pleasure and the absence of pain.

Beware not all preferences / choices are well-informed ;

Mere sentiment is subjective, without rational grounds.

Mill wants a rational principle The principle of Utility or Greatest Happiness Principle.

GHP = Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote H ; wrong as they tend to produce unhappiness.

Are intentions morally relevant? � No

Not to the right / wrongness of an act ;

But they indicate the moral character of the agent

People with good intentions are more likely to do good acts.

Act Utilitarianism any act that maximizes happiness is right.

Rule Utilitariansism only acts licensed by rules with maximize Happiness are right.

Follow the rule, even if doing so doesn’t maximize Happiness in a given case.

Mo Tzu (5th Century) adopted the basic Confucian principle of Jen (love) but (unlike Confucius) insisted it be applied equally and universally � Confuscian did not believe in equality - ???

The good society is achieved by actively seeking / promoting the good of the many.

We are obligated to do no harm (ahimsa) & Promote the happiness of others.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-18)

Inspired by Epicurus & Hume, he held that certain character traits are virtues because of their utility. Utility alone is the criterion of good law and political obligation.

The utilitarian (hedonic) Calculus A unit of happiness = a hedon (utile)

7 facts to be considered and given equal weight intensity; duration; certainty; propinquity; fecundity; purity; extent = pg. 86

If a policy produces more pleasure than pain, then it is good, justified.

John Stuart Mill (1806-7)

Stress education to overcome ignorance & superstition.

For Bentham, one pleasure is as good as any other; only quality counts.

For Mill, there are higher and lower pleasure, quality is more important.

For Bentham his concerns were poetry vs. pushpin, for Mill human vs. animal.

Besides pleasure, Mill also valued human dignity & integrity.

Since the freedom to make ones own decisions is basic to happiness, dignity, and autonomy must be respected.

Mill rejected B’s justice as impartiality in favor of a conception focused on autonomy or self � determination. The “no harm principle” is more important than the duty to maximize Happiness, liberty right protect self = regarding acts

Society can regulate other-regarding acts

“Harm” = physical injury, violating rights, deception, exploitation, exc.

1). Challenges the narrow western view of the moral community to bring in all sentient beings; to exclude / discount non-humans is to be speciesist.

Equal consideration does not mean equal treatment (e.g. voting)

Some criticism

By emphasizing equality ; impartiality it fails to take seriously distinctions between persons.

A duty to maximize Happiness can undermine personal integrity & responsibility. Utilitarianism tends to alienate us from conscience & moral sentiments.

Since people do not have intrinsic value, they can be used as mere means

What is useful is not always fair (in terms of what people deserve)

The attractive simplicity of Utilitarianism. Morality is determined only by an acts consequences � is also its main weakness; it is incomplete. Utility is important, but other considerations must be brought in.

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