Notes for monday! Utilitarianism continued
Notes for monday! Utilitarianism continued PHIL 230E
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This 2 page Class Notes was uploaded by Delaney Wilson on Wednesday October 5, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PHIL 230E at Old Dominion University taught by ALEXANDER J KOUTSARES in Summer 2016. Since its upload, it has received 10 views. For similar materials see INTRODUCTION TO ETHICS in Humanities and Social Sciences at Old Dominion University.
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Date Created: 10/05/16
Concerns regarding utilitarian ethics From a human perspective, the future is to some degree unpredictable. A major concern for utilitarians is that the theory of utilitarianism tells us to get a specific outcome, but we can’t control or predict outcomes all that we can control are our decisions. So, at least sometimes we’re going to get different outcomes than we intend or we expect. The theory is consequentialist: results count, not intentions. Related is the problem of posterity: which is a problem for most ethical theories, but is particularly pernicious in regards to consequentialism. The problem is this: do we have ethical obligations to people who don’t exist. . Here’s the problem, future generations don’t exist. They might one day, but we have no way of telling IF they will or how our actions will actually affect them. There are actually two primary approaches to interpreting utilitarianism. “Act” utilitarianism: in this approach we evaluate each individual action in terms of its specific realworld consequences. “Rule utilitarianism” it’s not our individual actions we should care about, it’s the tendency of a type of action to lead to good or bad consequences that we should focus on. If luck makes a good decision turn out poorly or a bad decision turn out well… that’s irrelevant. This is still scientific: to call a decision good or bad is to say that *statistically* or *typically* that decision leads to bad results/good results. Blackburn’s example: A basketball game. Many philosophers ethicists are concerned that utilitarianism can justify ‘unjust means.’ in short, this is the concern that for utilitarians the ends always justify the means. Imagine a court case, in which the defendant is pretty clearly innocent. BUT, the general public doesn’t agree, in fact they’re angry, upset, and will probably riot is the defendant is not guilty. In utilitarian terms it might be completely ethical to to put “knowingly” an innocent person in jail given these consequences. Mill and other utilitarians can push back a little here: think for example of the harm policy. It argues that in general giving people liberty will over time give us the best results, so as a matter of policy we should support freedom even for those people who misuse it. Rights. We can break “rights” into a few different categories: natural/human rights: these are fundamental, everyone /everything that meets certain criteria possesses these rights and in principle can involuntarily lose these rights. Social rights: these are produced by free agreement among individuals. We can also think about rights in terms of what they produce “Positive rights”: provide us with access to a “good” often one that is an expense for the society to provide. The right to an attorney: the right to vote: health care (preventable treatments) Negative rights: they provide us with freedom from negative things. The classic examples all involve freedom from government interference: Freedom of speech/press/assembly/religion freedom from *unreasonable* search and seizure, the right to bear arms.