Popular in Philosophy 160 Intro to Ethics
Popular in PHIL-Philosophy
This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Grant Peterson on Monday December 21, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to PHIL 160 at Kansas taught by Dale Dorsey in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 169 views. For similar materials see Philosophy 160 Intro to Ethics in PHIL-Philosophy at Kansas.
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Date Created: 12/21/15
1 – John Stewart Mill created a list of his critiques to Utilitarianism, and one of these objections was about the “philosophy of swine.” This principle comes from the utilitarian theory that life has no higher meaning than pleasure, and all desirable things are desirable for pleasure in themselves or means to gain pleasure. This doctrine is worthy only of swine if the only things we desire in life are the same pleasures that swine are capable of desiring. Swine are only looking for pleasure in their life and how to fulfill that pleasure, so if humans have the same ideals of purely looking for pleasure than we essentially at the same level as animals. Mill responds to this objection with the Higher Pleasures Doctrine, which says that there is a difference between higher and lower pleasures in life. These higher pleasures are intellectual, more complex, and favorable over lower pleasures. The lower pleasures are described as sensual. Therefore the life of a swine would be morally wrong for a human to pursue because these higher pleasures create more pleasure in life. Mill responded to doubt about his doctrine by examining the lives of humans throughout time. Throughout history, people have continuously chosen higher pleasures over lower ones. Mill believed in the three values Jeremy Bentham brought about that said when a person makes a moral decision they measure the value of an action according to intensity, quantity, and duration. Along with these values, Mill brought about the value of quality as well. The value of these qualities makes the distinction between the pleasures that humans desire and those of swine different. Mill has a theory about pushpin versus poetry. When given a decision to play the game pushpin or to read poetry, he says that humans should desire to read poetry, the higher quality of pleasure. To make decisions like this Mill says you need to seek out a competent judge that will help you determine which pleasure is the higher one. This is unrealistic that every time you are seeking pleasures you have consult a judge first, and this is a failure of Mill’s argument because it is just not plausible for people to seek this judgment every time. Mill’s response is not convincing because people do not always want to seek the pleasure that is higher, some of the lower pleasures also bring about as much happiness. When deciding whether to study for a test or go to a movie, most students would choose to go to the movie because that would maximize their pleasure. Even though this is not the higher pleasure choice, it does not mean that the students choose the morally incorrect one because they wanted to have the most pleasure. This means that sometimes lower pleasures are more worthwhile than higher ones, and throughout history it is hard to say that the higher pleasures are always better than the lower ones. Therefore, utilitarianism is a philosophy of swine because Mill’s response was not valid enough and humans typically desire what they find to be more pleasurable whether or not it is the higher pleasure choice. 2 – Utilitarianism a theory that depends on the maximum happiness or well being a situation can produce. This theory asks what action will produce the most amount of happiness for the most amounts of people and says you should act upon that. Even if something is good for you but it does not produce the most net well being overall, you should do what is best for the most amounts of people. There are three fundamental parts of utilitarianism: consequentialism, welfarism, and aggregation and sum- ranking. Consequentialism states that you are morally required to perform the action that produces the best consequences of any action you could perform. This part of utilitarianism only cares about the consequences of an action and nothing else. Welfarism is a theory that says the only thing that contributes to better or worseness of consequences are the facts about well being. Aggregation and sum-ranking don’t just consider the well being of one person, it adds up everyone’s well being and the one’s with the better consequences are the ones with the higher score. According to this third principle you are morally required to do what has the greatest aggregation of well being. A utilitarianist would say that the moral quality of breaking a promise depends upon the consequences of that promise. Mill says if breaking this promise it would not produce a higher amount of well being than not breaking the promise than you are morally required to stay true to your promise. If there are good consequences that result from breaking a promise than it is morally correct to do so. For example you promised your friend you would go see a movie with her, but another group of your friends are going bowling at the same time. If you go to the movie and would have less pleasure than going bowling, than you are morally obligated to break the promise to obtain the higher amount of happiness. The rules about no lying and staying true to promises are not set in stone laws to follow, rather they are guidelines to live by. I think this is a plausible approach to the morality of promising because there are circumstances when not staying true to a promise would be best. Although, I believe the idea that staying true to a promise should be a rule of thumb to live by but not a strict law is true. Trust is important in relationships, and if you continuously break promises than you will lose the trust someone has in you. If there became a point where promises were non-existent than these relationships would fall apart and there would be no need to have promises at all. It is a plausible approach that promises should generally be kept, so long as they bring about best consequence of a situation. 3 – One of the three crucial features of utilitarianism is consequentailism. This then divides down into act-utilitarianism and rule- utilitarianism. Rule-utilitarianism is a moral theory that says that the moral quality of an act is determined by its conformity to the rules. The idea of this theory is that the rule is specified by a set of rules such that if everybody followed those rules the best consequences would result. In rule-utilitarianism it is almost never tolerable to break promises. The opposite of this view is act- utilitarianism where it is believed the moral action of an act is determined solely by that act’s consequences whether they are good or bad. J.J.C. Smart objects to rule-utilitarianism and says we should follow act-utilitarianism. His objection is that rule can cause three bad problems. The first is rule worship where you feel it is always necessary to abide by the rules even though it may end with bad consequences. An example of this is driving on the correct side of the road; if you are from the US where driving on the right side of the road is the rule, then you go to England where they drive on the right side of the road what do you do? A rule consequentialist would be a rule worshiper and not adapt to the rules of England, producing extremely bad and potentially harmful results. If you followed act-consequentialism you would adapt to the rules of England and drive on the left side, producing the best and safest consequences. Rather than purely following the rules, it seems like it would be more beneficial to Smart to act upon the action that would maximize well-being. The second problem is the “Problem of Too Many Exceptions,” this states that once you start to make exceptions to the rule to avoid problems, then these exceptions would be the same thing that an act consequentialist would do in the first place. Act consequentialist’s only rule is that makes exceptions based upon what would produce the best results, therefore if rule consequentialists adapted their ideas than they are essentially equal to an act consequentialist. The final problem Smart found was the “only one rule problem.” This rule says that there is only one rule of happiness and that is to act to maximize overall happiness. However, this is the rule of act consequentialism itself, so rule utilitarianism should just become the ‘one-rule’ rule utilitarianism, which is the same as act utilitarianism. Smart’s objections are compelling because it every argument he has leads back to rule utilitarianism being like act utilitarianism. There are far too many exceptions and problems with following the rules exactly as they are; therefore act utilitarianism is a more compelling side to consequentialism. Every situation is different, so it seems more practical to use act that would allow you to choose what would benefit you the most rather than abide by the rules. People want the best consequences to come out of situations, so it is more plausible to follow act consequentialism. 4 – According to Smart’s utilitarian view, there are three different ways to evaluate an action. The first is right v. wrong; this states that the right action is the one that produces the most amount of happiness, and the wrong action produces the least amount of happiness. The second part is rational v. irrational actions; the rational action produces the most likely amount of happiness. The last part is praiseworthy v. blameworthy, and this asks if something is worthy of praise or blame. Typically the action that is the most rational and is more likely to have the best consequences the most often is the praiseworthy action, but this principle goes off of the intentions behind what was done, whether those were worthy of praise or blame. These distinctions are motivated by Smart because Utiltarianism in itself is not always the best way to guide our actions. Utilitarianism is very black and white on what is the right and wrong choice, so these three distinctions can help distinguish the difference in how actions can be evaluated. In the Doctor case these distinctions apply very well. The doctor case is says there is a doctor who has a patient that needs a cure. One option for treatment is drug A where 99% of people who have taken this have been completely cured and 1% has died from it. The other option is drug B where 99% have died when taking it and 1% has been completely cured. The doctor chooses to give drug A, but the patient was in the 1% statistic of people who died when taking it. Utilitarianism overall would say this was the wrong choice to give Drug A because the consequence was bad. According to right v. wrong theory it was wrong to give the patient drug A because it killed the patient and did not produce the most amount of happiness. The rational v. irrational claim said that giving drug A was the rational decision because even though it was the wrong choice, this option saved 99% of people so it was logical to give the drug that would most likely produce the best outcome of the patient. The praiseworthy v. blameworthy side says that this action was praiseworthy because when giving the treatment, drug A saves the most amount of people, and it is right to praise the rational action because it will produce the most amount of happiness more often. Smart’s distinctions of the utilitarian view help decide whether or not an action is morally correct. They are useful because utilitarianism looks solely at the consequences of an action, which can result very poorly in future situations. These distinctions look at more than just the consequences to guide an action which helps us make a more rational decision. 6 – As a theory, utilitarianism says that you are morally required to give up something if it does not produce the most good. Bernard Williams found this absurd and believes utilitarianism is incompatible with integrity. He says that utilitarianism is too demanding and it asks too much of people. Williams believes that the meaning of life is given in commitments, and these deep passions you have define who you are as a person. According to utilitarianism we are morally required to give up anything that does not produce the most good, so if what gives your life meaning does not produce the most good you are required to give it up. If you are able to give these commitments that give your life meaning at anytime, Williams says your life is meaningless. In one example there is a man named George that got offered a job at a place that does chemical testing for weapons, but he is morally against testing weapons. There is another man named Reggie that is up for the job as well, and he loves chemical and biological weapons. If Reggie got the job there would be far more weapons produced. Utilitarianism says that George is morally responsible to take the job even though it goes against what he believes in, so that Reggie will not produce more weapons. This means that George is morally responsible for the actions of Reggie and if he fails to do this than he will have negative responsibility. Negative responsibility is part a part of utilitarianism where you are just as responsible for what you fail to prevent than actually doing the action. Williams says that it is wrong for George to have to give up his commitment to stopping chemical weapons in order to be responsible for Reggie and stop him from getting the job and this threatens George’s integrity. Since Williams thinks it is wrong for George to take the job, negative responsibility fails and consequentialism, one of the fundamental parts of utilitarianism, does as well. Utilitarianism then fails altogether in this case. Williams argues that utilitarianism does not understand integrity; it does not understand the difference between commitments and actions, so utilitarianism does not respect the value of commitments. To respond to this problem Williams addresses, a utilitarianist would beg the question and say it is contradictory to think that it is wrong for someone to give up commitments unless it’s Lex Luther who’s commitment in life is to gain money. He decides to blow up half of California in order to get rich. Clearly most people would not want Lex Luther to blow up California, so they would ask him to give up his commitment to getting money in order to stop him from doing this. The utilitarianist would ask why it is all right to ask Lex to give up his life commitments, but others should not have to, and then ask if other people are morally better than Luther. This shows that it is contradictory to say that giving up a commitment is wrong when you believe it is right to tell Luther to give up a life commitment. The utilitarian response rejects the idea that William’s response will work every time because you cannot believe that a life commitment should always be first priority if you think that there are exceptions to keeping these commitments. This proves a point against William’s response, but is not significant enough to prove his response as a failure. William’s response is very true, that utilitarianism asks a lot of people to give up their commitments and these commitments are what makes a life. Williams proves his point that it is wrong to give up a life commitment, so it is a valid argument against utilitarianism. 7 – Smart created a master argument for utilitarianism. This theory said utilitarianism only cares about what creates more happiness than less. It states that the goal in life is to cerate this happiness and that is all that is important to create a good moral life. There were three problems we discussed with this argument, problems from equality, fairness, and justice. The problem from equality was used with the different world examples. If you had to create a world with 100 people total you have two options. World A had 50% of its people with a +100 level of happiness 50% with a +1 level, and World B had 100% of its people with a +50 level of happiness. The master argument would say that you would say it is morally correct to create World A because the total amount of happiness would be a higher number than the total amount of happiness in World B. The problem is that some people may want a more equal distribution like that of World B rather than overall happiness in World A. It does not mean that they are psychopaths because they want more equality, they just would rather have more people being content than some extremely happy and some with hardly any happiness. The problem from fairness is shown with an example of two men and the dentist. Smith has a toothache, but he dreads going to the dentist, and Jones on the other hand does not mind going to the dentist. If Smith went to the dentist he would have a value of -10 because he does not like going, and if Jones went to the dentist he would have a value of -1 because that would slightly inconvenience his plans for the day. If Smith did not go to the dentist he would have a value of -50 because his toothache would cause him so much pain, and if Jones did not go to the dentist he would have a value of 0, it would neither help nor hurt him. However if Jones did go to the dentist and Smith did not, Jones could have the value of 0 and also reduce Smith’s value to 0 because it would magically get rid of the toothache. The result that would have the least amount of unhappiness would be sending Jones to the dentist, but it would be unfair to do so because the toothache has nothing to do with Jones. It is not Jones’ responsibility to help out Smith, a person he doesn’t even know, with the toothache, so it would be unfair to send him to the dentist. I think the Master Argument fails because there are so many exceptions that can be found to this theory. The three problems brought about of equality, fairness, and justice are all considerably important and contradict the rule, making the Master Argument fail in this sense. It is important to have the most happiness, but sacrificing it for anything and everything does not always seem like the morally correct thing to do. The issues that arise from the Master Argument with equality, fairness, and justice, bring about too many problems and unforeseen circumstances that cause the failure of the argument. 8 – Utilitarianism is focused purely on the consequences of an action, and if those consequences produce the most amount of happiness. The motive behind the action is not important to utilitarianists because they do not care why you decided to do something but what resulted from the action. Even if the motive behind an action was wrong, but it still produced the best outcome, a utilitarianist would say that was the right option. If you have a life goal that would not result in the most amount of happiness overall, than a utilitarianist would say that morally you are obligated to give up your goal so the most amount of happiness would result. In the trolley case where there are five people on one side of the track that the trolley is going towards and one person on the other side of the track, a utilitarianist would be morally obligated to flip the switch on the track to save the five people because that would result in the most happiness. Even if you may know the one person on the other side of the track, morally a utilitarianist would have to save the most amounts of people. The reason you may have flipped the switch could have been the worst possible moral reason, but if doing so saved more people and produced the best results, utilitarianists would say it was right because it produced the best outcome. The utilitarianist answer to this is not plausible because although you want the result to be the one with the best possible outcomes, sometimes your motive behind something matters as well. Kant came up with moral theories that are the opposite of utilitarianism because he believes the moral quality of an action is based off of the motives behind that action. I think that sometimes these are just as important because why you chose to do something is important. Doing what will result in the best consequences does not always come with the best actions to get to that outcome, so it is important as to why you did something. He believes that moral principles are a priori. Kant defends his argument by suggesting that there are three possible types of actions. The first is when you do something that is contrary to what is right; immoral. The second is when you act in conformity with what is right, but you did not do it for the right reason. In this case, what you have done is not wrong, but your action lacks moral worth. The actions that fall into this category are those that result from your own inclinations to act. The third type is when you act in conformity for what is right, and you do it for the right reason; act with duty and from duty. In this case, your action possesses moral worth. Kant emphasizes that you don’t do these actions because it’s what you feel like doing, you commit these actions because you know it’s the right thing to do.
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