PHILOLecture8 PHI 001
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Elizabeth Kaur on Sunday January 31, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PHI 001 at University of California - Davis taught by George Mattey in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 32 views. For similar materials see Intro to Philosophy in PHIL-Philosophy at University of California - Davis.
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Date Created: 01/31/16
Mill’s Utilitarianism G. J. Mattey Winter, 2016 / Philosophy 1 Kant on Happiness • Unlike the ancients, such asAristotle, Kant had given happiness a secondary role in his ethics. • He understood happiness in these terms: What is happiness? – “General well-being and contentment with one’s condition,” – “The entire satisfaction” of “one’s wants and inclinations” (Metaphysic of Morals, First Section). • Happiness, for Kant, does not coincide with moral worth, as a morally bad person could be quite happy. Kant thought that morality and happiness do not coincide. Ex.Acriminal who gets everything he wants and is content but is morally bad. •Agood will may not be conducive to happiness and is at most a condition for being worthy of happiness. Ex.Aperson who is reaching saint hood but is not content with his or her life. Kant thought the only way to match up happiness and morality is if there is an after life where the lack of happiness is made up. Utilitarianism • In opposition to Kant, nineteenth-century “utilitarian” moral theorists claimed that happiness is the sole criterion of moral worth. Goes back to an ancient notion of happiness being the basis of morality According to this theory, happiness is the only criteria for something being moral or having moral value. •Among the early advocates of this view were Jeremy Bentham and James Mill. James Mill, John Stuart Mill’s father • Their general view was that right action is action that is conducive to the production of happiness, both of individuals and of the community. The right action is the action that promotes individual or communal happiness • Utility is the property of tending to promote happiness, so utility is the criterion of a right action. Based on utility - means tendency to promote happiness • Bentham and James Mill identified happiness with pleasure and unhappiness with pain. Bentham tried to create a calculus for happiness, tried to assign numbers to various pleasures and pains - “What quantity of pain/pleasure will this promote? What is the balance?” • In Utilitarianism (1861), James Mill’s son, John Stuart Mill, presented his own version of the theory that utility determines right action. Utilitarianism • Mill begins Utilitarianism by claiming that no progress has yet resulted from all the work in philosophy directed toward finding the nature of the good. Starts the book with “How is it that we should do ethics?” • It seems desirable for the study of morals to follow the inductive method of science, which begins with particular truths. The problem with this is a problem Kant recognized. When we apply it to morality, it is hard to tell which cases are relevant; which ones fall under right and which under wrong. • On the other hand, it appears that we need some general test of right and wrong in order to determine what is right and wrong. – This is because action is directed toward an end, and we should first know what the end is before pursuing it. We can’t tell if it’s right or wrong unless we know why what was done was done. Ex. Someone was killed. This person was killed out of self defense. ➔ Right Someone was killed. This person was killed so he could be watched dying. ➔ Not so right • If the method for studying morals is not scientific, it might be intuitive. • The intuitive method searches for principles a priori. Sounds a little bit like Kant AgainstAPriori Ethics Mill directly criticizes Kant’s method. Thinks there are two defects. • Ethical theories generated by the a priori method suffer from one of two deficiencies: – They give a priori authority to what are really only ordinary ethical precepts, – They supply a general principle that is less obvious than the precepts it is supposed to support. Ex. Don’t make a promise that you don’t intend to keep.Act according to principles of Universalizability. Which one’s more easy to follow? • In either case, they have not been able to enunciate a suitable general principle of ethics. • In fact, all ethical theory rests on the idea that what motivates people is the effects of actions on their happiness. All moral principles are based on what effects they would have on our happiness. That’s what we always have in mind when we are making moral judgements; it always comes down to happiness. • Even Kant’s deductions of duties from the categorical imperative are based on the fact that no one would accept the consequences of the universal adoption of “the most outrageously immoral rules of conduct.” On “Proof” in Ethical Theorizing • Mill will attempt to elucidate the “greatest happiness principle” put forward by Bentham. • The theory does not admit of “proof” in the standard sense. • Happiness is the ultimate end of human action, and what is good is understood to be so because of its relation to happiness. • But it cannot be proved that happiness itself is good. • The best we can do is to give rational grounds to accept a comprehensive formula which includes: –All things which are good in themselves, –An account of how all other goods are good as a means to what is good in itself. • Before Mill gives these grounds, he tries to clear up some misconceptions about the “general happiness principle” that is adopted by “utilitarianism.” The General Happiness Principle • Mill’s utilitarian principle of morality applies only to actions, not to persons. The right action promotes general happiness; vice versa. •Actions are right in proportion to their tendency to produce happiness (the good) and wrong in proportion to their tendency to produce unhappiness (the bad). • Happiness itself is equated with pleasure and the absence of pain. Happiness is pleasure and absence of pain. That’s the view of Epicurious. • Unhappiness is pain and the absence of pleasure. • The “utility” of an action is thus its tendency to produce pleasure, and is not at all opposed to pleasure. I hate to cook. It’s useful. But it makes me unhappy because I hate cooking. When Mill is talking about utility, he is talking about usefulness in terms of promoting pleasure. • The “pleasure” relevant to the rightness of human action is the kind of pleasure that is distinctively human. People will say well, that principle doesn’t really capture what is human about us, there is more to life than pleasure.Aristotle would say we are motivated by the pursuit of happiness but happiness has to do with excellence and virtue, it has to do with being the best that you can be. • There are higher pleasures than those of mere sensation (which we share with non-human animals): – Of the intellect – Of the feelings and imagination You may read an imaginative work of literature and you feel pleasure doing this. It’s not sensual. It doesn’t taste good or feel warm. – Of the moral sentiments Doing a good thing. Or observing someone do a good thing. We have a lot of pleasure that are not strictly sensual. Ranking Pleasures • The greatest happiness principle operates along two dimensions of pleasure: – Quantity of pleasure, (which was attempted to be measured by Bentham) – Quality of pleasure. • Quality of pleasure can be ranked just as can quantity of pleasure. – PleasureAis preferred by all or almost all who have experienced it to pleasure B (discounting any feeling of moral obligation). Ex. I get more pleasure out of drinking better wine that I do out of drinking inferior wine. • Pleasures of the “higher faculties” are preferred over the pleasures of the lower faculties, even if they are accompanied by a good deal of discomfort. – “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied” (Chapter 2). • People often do not pursue pleasures that are more desirable, because they are difficult to attain, and one is easily distracted from the goal of attaining them.
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