252514util2chapter82k11_001

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PHIL 2525 Contemporary Moral Issues
Lec. 14
Recapping...
3 main points of Utilitarianism:

Actions are judged right or wrong solely on
the basis of their consequences

The only thing that counts is the amount of
happiness or unhappiness produced by an
action (all else is irrelevant)

Each person’s happiness counts the same
Jane Adams

The height of
immorality is to make
an exception of
myself.
8.2 Is Pleasure All That Matters?
J. S. Mill:

“...happiness is desirable,
and the only thing
desirable, as an end: all
other things being desirable
as a means to an end.”

But what is ‘happiness’?
But...what is happiness?
The classical answer....

Happiness is pleasure
(mental states that feel good)

Hedonism: pleasure is the
one ultimate good; pain the
one ultimate evil
But...what is happiness?
The classical answer....

Happiness is pleasure
(mental states that feel good)

Hedonism: pleasure is the
one ultimate good; pain the
one ultimate evil
But...what is happiness?
Bentham’s answer:

“Prejudice apart, the game of push-pin is of
equal value with the arts and sciences of
music and poetry.”
But...what is happiness?

Bentham’s answer:

“Prejudice apart, the game of push-pin is of
equal value with the arts and sciences of
music and poetry.”
But...what is happiness?

Bentham’s answer:

“Prejudice apart, the game of push-pin is of
equal value with the arts and sciences of
music and poetry.”
But...what is happiness?

Bentham’s answer:

“Prejudice apart, the game of push-pin is of
equal value with the arts and sciences of
music and poetry.”
But...what is happiness?

Bentham’s answer:

“Prejudice apart, the game of push-pin is of
equal value with the arts and sciences of
music and poetry.”
But...what is happiness?
J. S. Mill’s correction:

He added the quality of pleasures to the
quantity

He advocated civilized pleasures (better a
Socrates unsatisfied than a pig satisfied...)
But...what is happiness?
J. S. Mill’s correction:

He added the quality of pleasures to the
quantity

He advocated civilized pleasures (better a
Socrates unsatisfied than a pig satisfied)
But...what is happiness?
J. S. Mill’s correction:

He added the quality of pleasures to the
quantity

He advocated civilized pleasures (better a
Socrates unsatisfied than a pig satisfied)
But...what is happiness?

Pleasure is a response
to outside stimuli

Happiness is an overall
judgment about your
situation
Abraham Lincoln: “Most folks are about as
happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Pleasure requires the outside world...
 Happiness is an inside job...

○ Is that true?
The Dream of Utilitarianism:
Bringing Scientific Certainty to Ethics
Part Two.
Standards of Utility:
A History of
Utilitarianism
(after Lawrence Hinman)
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
18
Intrinsic Value
Many things have instrumental value, that is, they have
value as means to an end.
 However, there must be some things which are not
merely instrumental, but have value in themselves. This
is what we call intrinsic value.
 What has intrinsic value? Four principal candidates:

 Pleasure
○ Jeremy Bentham
 Happiness
○ John Stuart Mill
 Ideals
○ G. E. Moore
 Preferences
○ Kenneth Arrow and Peter Singer
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
19
Jeremy Bentham
1748-1832

Bentham believed
that we should try to
increase the overall
amount of pleasure in
the world.
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
20
Pleasure
Definition: The enjoyable feeling we experience when a
state of deprivation is replaced by fulfillment.
 Advantages
 Easy to quantify
 Short duration
 Bodily

Criticisms
 Came to be known as “the pig’s philosophy”
 Ignores higher values
 Could justify living on a pleasure machine
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
21
John Stuart Mill
1806-1873
Bentham’s godson
 Believed that
happiness, not
pleasure, should be
the standard of utility.

4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
22
Happiness

Advantages
 A higher standard, more specific to humans
 About realization of goals

Disadvantages
 More difficult to measure
 Competing conceptions of
happiness
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
23
G. E. Moore
1873-1958
Moore suggested that we should strive to maximize ideal values
such as freedom, knowledge, justice, and beauty.

Advantages:
 The world may not be a better place with more pleasure in
it, but it certainly will be a better place with more freedom,
more knowledge, more justice, and more beauty.

Criticisms:
 Moore’s candidates for intrinsic good remain difficult to
quantify.
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
24
Kenneth Arrow
and Peter Singer

what has intrinsic value is
preference satisfaction.

Advantages:
 it lets people choose for
themselves what has intrinsic
value. It simply defines
intrinsic value as whatever
satisfies an agent’s
preferences.
 It is elegant and pluralistic.
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
25
My view is that the
preferences we should
satisfy, other things
being equal, are those
that people would hold...
if they were fully
informed, reflective, and
vividly aware of the
consequences of
satisfying their
preferences.
The Utilitarian Calculus
Math and ethics
finally merge: all
consequences must
be measured and
weighed.
 Units of
measurement:

 Hedons: positive
 Dolors: negative
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
27
What do we calculate?

Hedons/dolors may be defined in terms of





Pleasure
Happiness
Ideals
Preferences
For any given action, we must calculate:
 How many people will be affected, negatively (dolors) as well as
positively (hedons)
 How intensely they will be affected
 Similar calculations for all available alternatives
 Choose the action that produces the greatest overall amount of
utility (hedons minus dolors)
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
28
Example:
Debating the school lunch program
Utilitarians would have to calculate:
 Benefits
○ Increased nutrition for x number of children
○ Increased performance, greater long-range chances of success
○ Incidental benefits to contractors, etc.
 Costs
○ Cost to each taxpayer
○ Contrast with other programs that could have been funded and
with lower taxes (no program)
 Multiply each factor by
○ Number of individuals affected
○ Intensity of effects
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
29
How much can we quantify?


Pleasure and preference satisfaction are easier to
quantify than happiness or ideals
Two distinct issues:
 Can everything be quantified?
○ Some would maintain that some of the most important things in life
(love, family, etc.) cannot easily be quantified, while other things
(productivity, material goods) may get emphasized precisely because
they are quantifiable.
○ The danger: if it can’t be counted, it doesn’t count.
 Are quantified goods necessarily commensurable?
○ Are a fine dinner and a good night’s sleep commensurable? Can one
be traded or substituted for the other?
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
30
“…the problems of three little people
don’t amount to a hill of beans in this
crazy world.”

4/8/2015
Utilitarianism doesn’t
always have a cold
and calculating face—
we perform utilitarian
calculations in
everyday life.
©Lawrence M. Hinman
31
8.3: Are Consequences all that Matter?
8.3: Are Consequences all that Matter?
Peeping Tom...
Are Consequences all that Matter?
Rachels says NO
...there must be other considerations....
Justice
 Rights
 The Past

8.4: Should we be equally concerned
for everyone?
Utilitarianism may be...

Too demanding...
 who among us would give up all of our ‘luxuries’ to
help the far-away poor?

Too disruptive of our personal relationships...
 who among us doesn’t put family first?
8.4: Should we be equally concerned
for everyone?
Maintenance of personal relations requires
partiality.
 Utilitarianism requires impartiality.

8.5: Defending Utilitarianism
1.
Denying that the consequences would be
good...
8.5: Defending Utilitarianism
1.
Denying that the consequences would be
good...
2.
Substituting rule-utilitarianism for (old
fashioned) act-utilitarianism...
Comparing Act and Rule
Utilitarianism

Act utilitarianism
 Looks at the consequences of each individual act
and calculates utility each time the act is
performed.

Rule utilitarianism
 Looks at the consequences of having everyone
follow a particular rule and calculates the overall
utility of accepting or rejecting the rule.
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
40
Comparing Act and Rule
Utilitarianism

But…
If you can change the rules, it’s no longer ruleutilitarianism.
 If you can’t change the rules, it’s no longer
utilitarianism.


4/8/2015
A bit of a bind, no?
©Lawrence M. Hinman
41
8.5: Defending Utilitarianism
1.
Denying that the consequences would be
good...
2.
Substituting rule-utilitarianism for (old
fashioned) act-utilitarianism...
3.
So called “Common Sense” can be very
wrong...
That Third Defence....
Common sense is wrong – tough luck
1.
All values have a utilitarian basis...
2.
Our gut reactions can’t be trusted in
exceptional cases...
3.
We should focus on all the consequences...
Summing up: Utilitarian Values

The purpose of morality is to make the
world a better place.

Morality is about producing good
consequences, not having good intentions

We should do whatever will bring the most
benefit (i.e., intrinsic value) to all of
humanity.
Summing up: What's significant

Consequences matter: the happiness or
unhappiness that result from our actions is
a morally relevant consideration.

The emphasis on impartiality must be
central to any viable morality.

Moral intuitions about cases are not
infallible.
Summing up: What might be wrong

Consequences are not all that matter.

Considerations of rights and justice matter
in ways the Utilitarian can't account for.
The Dream of Utilitarianism:
Scientific Certainty in Ethics
 If we can agree that the purpose of morality is to make
the world a better place…
and…..
 If we can scientifically assess various possible courses of
action to determine which will have the greatest positive
effect on the world…
Then…
 We can provide a ‘scientific’ answer to the question of
what we ought to do.
4/8/2015
©Lawrence M. Hinman
47
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Ones
Who Walk
Away From
Omelas….

What is the nature of the
ethical problem here? How is
it linked to the theories we
have been looking at in class?

In what way do we share the
dilemma of the people of
Omelas in our current
economic and political world?

Would it be worth the life of one innocent
child to free the world from, say, AIDS?

What is a fair price to
pay for Utopia?


"What shall we do and how shall we live?
According to Plato and Tolstoy and other reliable
observers, this is our most important question!
We should not trust any philosophy that makes
this question appear foolish."
[Peter Singer, The Player and the Cards: Nihilism and Legal Theory, 94 Yale L. J. 1, 3 (1984)]
Attendance question: Omelas

What would you do?
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