Utilitarianism

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Transcript Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism
Bentham and Mill
The Principle of UtilityConsequentialist Ethics- Future looking- ends
justify means
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Desire for happiness is universal
Social Hedonism
Most agree that people are also naturally
sympathetic to the happiness of others as well
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Chinese Utilitarian Mo Tzu said that “universal love” is
deeply rooted in our character
happiness for sentient beings is what counts
What makes us happy?
The principle of utility is the “greatest happiness principle”
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If an action conforms to the principle then it is morally right.
intentions are not important
Rule-Utilitarianism vs. ActUtilitarianism
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Rule- looks for the morality of particular
classes of actions- rules of thumb do not
always cause the greatest happiness.
Act- concerned with the morality of
particular actions- no actions are inherently
immoral.
Both reflect the late 18th century moral ideal
of equality
Universal Love
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Mo Tzu advocated Utilitarianism as a response
to the moral passivity of Confucianism and
Taoism
Peace does not come from the natural
unfolding of things not from tradition
Hate is the source of pain in the world
Love is the source of happiness
Promoting happiness is a universal standard
Jeremy Bentham
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Uses utilitarianism as a tool for social reform
results from the industrial revolution
Response to flagrant injustices and the
desperation of the working class of his day
Utility is the only source of political duty for the
sovereign
He was more concerned with social reform
than moral education
Utilitarian Calculus
Putting a value to determine the right moral
action
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Intensity involves the strength of the pain or
pleasure
Duration of the pleasure or pain
Level of certainty that the pain or pleasure will
happen
Propinquity- nearness of time
Fecundity- pleasure is productive of more pleasure
Purity- pleasure that does not cause pain at the
same time
Extent- number of sentient beings affected
John Stuart Mill
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Born in London in 1806
Educated by his father, a Scottish
philosopher and economist
Went to live with the Benthams to study
Roman law
Adopted Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarianism
For Bentham happiness is the greatest
pleasure with the least pain
Mill’s Utilitarianism
Interested in social matters
Advocated freedom of thought and expression
Agreed with Bentham that superstition and tradition were serious
impediments to the rational operation of society
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Role of education is to help people become more rational
Opposed public education because it provided the state with an
opportunity for molding
Mill disagreed that all pleasures are equal
Believed in the quality of the pleasure not the quantity
Claimed that some pleasures are more desirable than others
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Intellectual pleasures are preferable to sensual
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reading poetry vs. drinking beer
Pursuing pleasure is self-defeating
Freedom to make decisions is basic to human happiness
Advocated of liberty rights
Nonmaleficence principle- prohibits individuals or governments to
inhibit another’s actions unless it prevents a harmful action
Ethical Hedonism
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Different than straight-forward psychological hedonism
which says that human action is motivated by the desire
for pleasure
Mill finds that people disagree with this because it is
degrading to humans
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Epicureanism- No better than animals
Mill’s distinction of quality is an important revision
The act that produces more pleasure will not always
bring the most happiness
Some have criticized utilitarianism as being selfish
Mill argues for social justice- concern for the happiness
of those around us
He says that utilitarianism is the command of Jesus:
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So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to
you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matt. 7:12
Critique of Utilitarianism
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Non-Humans
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Peter Singer and Speciesism- bias toward a
particular species
Pleasure and pain of other animals
Equal but different
The environment
Future generations
Other Critiques
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Offered by Judy Boss
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Different people have different needs and different
ideas of happiness
Utilitarians sometimes don’t pay enough attention to
the integrity of the individual
Moral sentiments don’t get sufficient weight
Maximizing happiness for everyone is a tremendous
burden
If individuals have no intrinsic value then they are
used as a means only
Stating that only consequences makes it simple but
incomplete
It does however offer guidelines and it serves as a
reminder that we should be prepared to provide good
reasons for moral decisions