Class Note for PHIL 160 at UMass(9)
Class Note for PHIL 160 at UMass(9)
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Date Created: 02/06/15
Philosophy 1600 Fall 2008 jayme johnson Handout 4 Rachels s The Elements of Moral Philosophy Chapters 5 amp 6 The principle of utility as John Stewart Mill sees it is the foundation ofutilitarianism POU Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness One can see that the POU is an egalitarian principle if one considers the formulation of the principle which Bentham and Mill called the greatest happiness principle GHP Those actions are right that produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number ofpeople Lefs assume like both Mill and Bentham did that happiness is measured in terms of pleasure and unhappiness in terms ofpain This kind ofview is called hedonism Five Assumptions about Pleasure and Pain i Pleasure and pain are feelings or sensations ii Pleasure and pain come in quotepisodesquot which are events that consist in someone39s feeling pleasure or pain at some time iii Every episode e ofpleasure or pain has a duration W a measure of how long it lasts iv Every episode e ofpleasure or pain has an intensity W a measure of how quotstrongquot the feeling is v The amount ofpleasure or pain in an episode is determined by multiplying intensity by duration to yield quothedonsquot in the case ofpleasure or quotdolorsquot in the case ofpain 1 hedon is equal to negative 1 dolors The total hedonic utility of an act token a1 df the total number of hedons produced by a1 minus the total number of dolors AU An act token A is morally right if and only ifA maximizes universal hedonic utility MAU An act token A is morally right if and only ifA maximizes universal quali ed hedonic utility Consider the following example Suppose a child is born with severe impairments to John and Judy John is laid off from his job at a local factory and Judy is school teacher The child has an open spine severe brain damage and dysfunctional kidneys John makes very little in unemployment and Judy s health insurance does not have a clause in its policy for extended care ofa child in this condition What should be done For now we leave aside the question ofwho should decide a1 Give the child the kind of ordinary medical treatment a normal child would receive a2 Give the child special treatment for its problems a3 Don t treat the child allow it to die a4 Put the child to death in a painless way total hedons total dolors HU a1 0 3500 73500 a2 150 2150 72000 a3 0 3000 73000 a4 100 2000 71900 In this example we have supposed we know values that each of the alternatives will bring about But in real life we seldom know all the factors or can successfully predict An objection to AU unforeseen consequences 1 lfwe cannot accurately predict what the consequences ofa given alternative will be then AU is not a practical theory for making practical decisions 2 We cannot accurately predict what the consequences ofa given alternative will be 3 Therefore AU is not a practical theory for making practical decisions An AU response the argument is unsound Premise 1 is false We need not be omniscient We need to make a reasonable effort to get relevant information and we can predict the probable consequences of our actions Acting morally does not require anything more than this Another stronger objection to AU Consider the following HU al 500 a2 500 Without knowing anything about the case you know that on AU both are morally right both a1 and a2 are equally permissible Now suppose that this decision is being made by surgeon a1 is breaking a promise to perform a surgery for a particular patient and missing a golf outing and a2 is handing the case over to one of his residents and catching and hitting the course The patient will never find out 1 lfAU is true then a1 is morally permissible 2 It s not the case that al is morally permissible 3Therefore AU is not true The saIne argument slightly refrained HU al 500 a2 501 1 lfAU is true then a1 is morally obligatory 2 a1 is not morally obligatory 3 Therefore AU is not true Consider the Medicaid program Medicaid pays physicians for services provided to those poor enough to qualify for the prograIn Now consider the following point about Medicaid MP The program would collapse if nearly all physicians were not honest in billing Medicaid for their services the result would be that many poor people would suffer needlessly and physicians themselves would lose a source ofincome Dr Cheater believes that the Medicaid is too restrictive and that by being dishonest with her billing can treat many patients that would have gone untreated because they couldn t afford the treatment but didn t meet the Medicaid requirements Now consider the following story Patty the Patient was denied Medicaid She has an uncomformble medical condition that is very treamble nonilife threatening but painful and uncomfortable She will not die if she doesn t receive treatment but she will get a lot of dolors if it is not treated Dr Cheater knows that Patty the Patient cannot afford the treatment but knows also that she could get away with lying to Medicaid and help Patty get her treatment Patty need not find out about Cheater s dishonesty she only knows that her treatment is affordable from Cheater but not from other doctors Dr Cheater has two choices a1 rip off Medicaid and treat Patty s condition HU 1500 a2 be honest and not treat Patty s condition HU 71000 lfAU is true then Dr Cheater should perform a1 But consider again point MP The program would collapse if nearly all physicians were not honest in billing Medicaid for their services the result would be that many poor people would suffer needlessly and physicians themselves would lose a source ofincome Thus it seems also that if every doctor acted like Dr Cheater then it would cause more harm than good 1 lfAU is true then ifs not the case that every doctor should rip off Medicaid 2 lfAU is true then some doctors like Cheater should rip off Medicaid but not all doctors should act the same way 3 If some doctors like Cheater should rip off Medicaid but not all doctors should act the same way then its okay for some people but not others to break rules 4 Its not okay for some people but not others to break rules 5 Therefore AU is not true Some think that this does not mean that utilitarianism is sunk it just means that it needs to be revised so that it includes some kind consideration to abiding by rules So consider a rule based kind ofutilitarianism which is called Rule Utilitarianism RU An act token A is morally right if and only ifA conforms to some rule R such that following R will produce at least as much HU as any other applicable rule As you can see the rule utilitarian does not assess the utility of act tokens to determine their moral status but instead assesses the utility of the rule that the act conforms to 2 problems for RU as it is smted the way RU is stated it is possible for the rule utilitarian to formulate a large number of rules and esmblish them all separately This leads to two problems 1 Rules are likely to conflict when they are applicable to the saIne case back to Patty s plight R1 Always be honest R2 Provide care to any patient who needs it 1 If RU is a good theory for making practical decisions then Dr Cheater can adopt both R1 and R2 2 Dr Cheater cannot adopt both R1 and R1 indeed no doctor could 3 Therefore RU is not a good theory for making practical decisions 2 Establishing rules to cover so many different circumstances and circumstances results in such an abundance of rules that it becomes nearly impossible to remember them all and to implement the theory A way to avoid these problems is to switch to a evaluating the HU of closed sets of rules RU An act token A is morally right if and only ifA conforms to a set of rules that maximizes HU among the available alternative sets ofrules RUquot will most likely get the fraud case right A problem for RU it is either inconsistent or collapses back into rule utilitarianism It is clear that on RU a set of rule must be adopted Lefs call this set of rules S 1 Either all of the rules in S will maximize HU or S will not maximize HU 2 lfS does maximize HU then RUquot is the same as AU because otherwise the maximum amount ofutility could not result So RUquot is false 3 If not all the rules of S are utility maximizing then RUquot contradicts itself because it says that it is utility maximizing So RUquot is false 4 Therefore RUquot is false The biggest problem for Utilimrianism in any form We formulated the principle ofutility POU in a variety ofways one was as GHP and the other was in terms ofmaximizing hedonic utility Perhaps the problem is not with how to formulate the principle but with the principle itself The Organ Harvest a1 Kill Digi g transplant organs 5000 a2 Treat Digi g let five die 75000 1 lfAU is true then a1 is morally obligatory 2 It39s not the case that a1 is morally obligatory 3 Therefore it39s not the case that AU is true 1 2 MT Normative Irrelevance of Justice Objection D1 Factor F is normatively irrelevant df Factor F has no direct bearing on the moral rightness or wrongness of any action 1 lfAU is true then justice is normatively irrelevant 2 It39s not the case that justice is normatively irrelevant 3 Therefore it39s not the case that AU is true 1 2 MT
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