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					Utilitarianism
Philosophy 4 (Summer 2012)
The Trolley Case - Revised




   What should you do?
The Trolley Case - Revised
The Intuition




   In other words, we care about the
    consequences of our actions.
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
 Influential in economics,
  moral and political theory,
  logic, and philosophy of
  language
 Building on the thoughts of
  John Locke, George Berkeley,
  David Hume, and Jeremy
  Bentham (in utilitarianism)
 Major works:
    ◦ System of Logic, Raciocinative
      and Inductive (1843)
    ◦ On Liberty (1859)
    ◦ Utilitarianism (1861)
    ◦ The Subjection of Women
      (1869)
Mill on Kant
   “It is not my present purpose to criticize these thinkers; but I
    cannot help referring, for illustration, to a systematic treatise
    by one of the most illustrious of them, the Metaphysics of
    Ethics, by Kant. This remarkable man, whose system of
    thought will long remain one of the landmarks in the history
    of philosophical speculation, does, in the treatise in question,
    lay down an universal first principle as the origin and ground
    of moral obligation; it is this: -’So act, that the rule on which
    thou actest would admit of being adopted as a law by all
    rational beings.’ But when he begins to deduce from this
    precept any of the actual duties of morality, he fails, almost
    grotesquely, to show that there would be any contradiction,
    any logical (not to say physical) impossibility, in the adoption
    by all rational beings of the most outrageously immoral rules
    of conduct. All he shows is that the consequences of their
    universal adoption would be such as no one would choose
    to incur.”
What is Utilitarianism?
   “The creed which accepts as the
    foundation of morals, Utility, or the
    Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that
    actions are right in proportion as they
    tend to promote happiness, wrong as they
    tend to produce the reverse of happiness.
    By happiness is intended pleasure, and the
    absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and
    the privation of pleasure.”
What is Utilitarianism?
   Utilitarianism is a combination of
    consequentialism and hedonism.
Consequentialism


 Even if you increase the amount of
  goodness in the world, you did the morally
  wrong action if you do not maximize the
  amount of goodness.
 In other words, the goal is not to simply
  increase good and decrease bad, but
  rather to optimize actions.
Consequentialism
   Under consequentialism, only the
    outcome of an action determines
    whether or not the action was right or
    wrong.




   Hence, the ends justify the means (as long
    as the ends are optimific).
Act- vs. Rule-Consequentialism
   Act-Consequentialism:
    ◦ Acts are morally right just because they
      maximize the amount of goodness in the
      world.
   Rule-Consequentialism:
    ◦ Acts are morally right just because they
      conform to a rule that maximizes the
      goodness in the world.
   We will return to rule-consequentialism
    later.
Value Theory
 Consequentialism says to maximize the
  goodness in the world.
 But we need to know what counts as
  good to figure out how to maximize it.
Intrinsic Value
   Something is intrinsically valuable if it is
    valuable for its own sake.


   Something is instrumentally valuable if it is
    valuable because of the goods it brings
    about.


   Happiness has intrinsic value.
Hedonism



   “[P]leasure, and freedom from pain, are the
    only things desirable as ends; and that all
    desirable things (which are as numerous in
    the utilitarian as in any other scheme) are
    desirable either for the pleasure inherent in
    themselves, or as means to the promotion of
    pleasure and the prevention of pain”
    (emphases added).
Hedonism
   In the words of David Hume (from Enquiry concerning
    the Principles of Morals):
         “Ask a man, why he uses exercise; he will answer,
         because he desires to keep his health. If you then
         enquire, why he desires health, he will readily reply,
         because sickness is painful. If you push your
         enquiries farther, and desire a reason, why he
         hates pain, it is impossible he can ever give any.
         This is an ultimate end, and is never referred to
         any other object…. Perhaps, to your second
         question, why he desires health, he may also reply,
         that it is necessary for the health of his calling. If you
         ask, why he is anxious on that head, he will answer,
         because he desires to get money. If you demand
         Why? It is the instrument of pleasure, says he.”
Numerous Desirable Things
 Interestingly, Mill notes that the desirable
  things “are as numerous in the utilitarian
  as in any other scheme”.
 What he is pointing to is that the activity
  or object itself can be pleasurable or
  painful.
Hedonism: Bentham vs. Mill




   Mill, on the other hand, wanted to
    distinguish between the amount of
    pleasure and the type of pleasure.
Mill: Quality of Pleasure
   According to Mill, there are different qualities of
    pleasure, distinct from the quantity of pleasure:
        “Of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or
        almost all who have experience of both give a
        decided preference… that is the more desirable
        pleasure. If one of the two is, by those who are
        competently acquainted with both, placed so far
        above the other that they prefer it, even though
        knowing it to be attended with a greater amount
        of discontent, and would not resign it for any
        quantity of the other pleasure which their nature
        is capable of, we are justified in ascribing to the
        preferred enjoyment a superiority in quality so
        far outweighing quantity as to render it, in
        comparison of small account.”
Mill: Quality of Pleasure
   Poll Question: Would you rather:
Mill: Quality of Pleasure
 Mill thinks that the higher quality pleasures are the
  ones that involve our higher (e.g. rational) faculties:
       “Few human creatures would consent to being
       changed into any of the lower animals for a
       promise of the full allowance of a beast’s
       pleasures; no intelligent human being would
       consent to be a fool, no instructed person would
       be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and
       conscience would be selfish and base….”
 Hence, he writes:
       “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than
       a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied
       than a fool satisfied.”
Problem for Quality of Pleasure
 We often exchange higher pleasures for
  greater amount of lower pleasures.
 Poll Question: Would you rather:
Problem for Quality of Pleasure
   Mill’s response:
         “Men often, from infirmity of character, make
         their election for the nearer good, though thy
         know it to be less valuable…. [T]hey addict
         themselves to inferior pleasures, not because
         they deliberately prefer them, but because they
         are either the only ones to which they have
         access or the only ones which they are any
         longer capable of enjoying” (emphasis added).



.
Moral Community
   Kant stressed rationality and autonomy;
    hence, for Kant, the moral community
    includes all rational and autonomous
    beings.
Moral Community
 So we should value animals as much as
  humans?
 Though all sentient beings are part of the
  moral community, rational beings like
  humans will be given additional
  consideration because they are capable of
  higher level pleasures, unlike animals.
Act-Utilitarianism
   Act-utilitarianism is a combination of act-
    consequentialism and hedonism:
    ◦ Act-consequentialism: an action is morally right
      just because it maximizes the amount of
      goodness in the world.
    ◦ Hedonism: the only thing that has intrinsic value
      (i.e. intrinsic goodness) is pleasure; the only thing
      that has intrinsic badness is pain.
   Hence, act-utilitarianism states:
      An action is morally right just because it
      maximizes the amount of pleasure (over
      pain) in the world.
Act-Utilitarianism
   Decision Procedure:
    1) Identify all options (all available actions).
    2) For each option, calculate the overall value
       of the consequences.
        Short- vs. long-term consequences
        Higher vs. lower level pleasures
    3) Perform the action that yields the highest
       ratio of good to bad results.
Example #1: Buying a Television
Example #1: Buying a Television
   Calculate the overall happiness produced
    if you buy the TV:
Example #1: Buying a Television
   Calculate the overall happiness produced
    if you give to Oxfam:
Example #2: Robbing Bill Gates
Example #2: Robbing Bill Gates
   Calculate the overall happiness if you steal
    the money:
Example #2: Robbing Bill Gates
   Calculate the overall happiness if you do
    not steal the money:
Benefits of Utilitarianism
1)       Impartiality
     ◦    Everyone’s interests count equally.
2)       Justifies Conventional Moral Wisdom
     ◦    Slavery, rape, and killing are usually wrong.
     ◦    Helping the poor and keeping promises are
          usually right.
3)       Moral Flexibility
     ◦    It explains why moral rules may sometimes be
          broken.
4)       Conflict Resolution
     ◦    It gives us a way to navigate through difficult
          decisions.
Objection #1: The No-Rest (Too-
Demanding) Objection
   Part 1: Calculating the right action is too
    demanding.
Objection #1: The No-Rest (Too-
Demanding) Objection
 Response: We can rely on general rules to
  determine the right action because often,
  certain actions produce optimal results
  (or certain actions do not produce
  optimal results).
 For instance, generally, killing others does
  not maximize aggregate happiness.
Objection #1: The No-Rest (Too-
Demanding) Objection
 One way to view these general rules is to
  view them as simply “rules of thumb”, as
  general guides that are not binding.
 But if that is all that these rules are, then
  we should not follow them whenever
  they do not optimize results.
 And to figure out whether they do or not,
  we need to do the utilitarian calculations!
Rule-Utilitarianism
 The alternative is to see the rules
  themselves as binding, such that we
  should follow the rules even if they may
  not always produce the best outcomes.
 This approach is taken by rule-
  utilitarianism, which is a combination of
  rule-consequentialism and hedonism.
Rule-Utilitarianism
   Rule-utilitarianism states:




   In other words, we are not calculating the
    consequences of one particular action, on
    a case-by-case basis; rather, we are
    calculating the consequences of a rule.
Rule-Utilitarianism
Rule-Utilitarianism
   How does this help us?



   Once we calculate which rules optimize
    aggregate happiness, we do not need to
    do any calculations; we just need to follow
    the rules.
Problems with Rule-Utilitarianism
   1) Why rule over act?
Problems with Rule-Utilitarianism
   2) Rule-utilitarianism collapses into act-
    utilitarianism.




    ◦ But then, aren’t we just back to act-utiltiarianism?
Problems with Rule-Utilitarianism
   3) Calculating the optimal rules is just as
    difficult, if not more, than calculating the
    optimal action?
    ◦ Rules are easier once you figure out the right
      rules, but figuring out the right rule is not easy.
Objection #1: The No-Rest (Too-
Demanding) Objection
   Part II: Even if we were to figure out the
    right action, doing the right action is often
    far too demanding.




   But then it seems we are asking for too
    much from everyone.
Objection #1: The No-Rest (Too-
Demanding) Objection
   Part II: Even if we were to figure out the
    right action, doing the right action is often
    far too demanding.
Objection #2: The Absurd-
Implication Objection
 Act-utilitarianism produces some highly
  unintuitive results.
 I will present two here (but you can think
  of many more):
    ◦ The Two Worlds Objection
    ◦ The Utility Monster Objection
Objection #2: The Absurd-
Implication Objection
   The Two Worlds Objection:




    ◦ According to utilitarianism, these two worlds
      are equally good.
Objection #2: The Absurd-
Implication Objection
   The Utility Monster Objection:
    ◦ Suppose you are in charge of distributing
      some necessary good, e.g. food. There are two
      possible distributions with the same aggregate
      pleasure over pain:
Objection #2: The Absurd-
Implication Objection
   Response: We are relying too much on
    our intuitions in these cases. Our
    intuitions are shaped by our culture and
    personal biases, and can often be wrong.
Objection #3: The Integrity
Objection
 Utilitarianism at times forces us to act
  against our most deeply held principles; it
  forces us to violate our personal integrity.
 For instance, if killing an innocent person
  will maximize aggregate happiness, then
  that is what you should do, even if you
  feel that killing an innocent person is
  wrong.
Objection #3: The Integrity
Objection
   Response: We want people to have some
    moral squeamishness about, e.g., killing,
    lying, raping, and so on. Generally, the best
    outcomes involve avoiding these actions.
    So we want people to have integrity.
Objection #4: The Justice Objection
 Act-utilitarianism cannot account for our
  sense of justice.
 I will present three cases (but you can
  think of many more):
    ◦ The Organ Harvesting Case
    ◦ The Scapegoat Case
    ◦ An Alternative Trolley Case
Objection #4: The Justice Objection
   The Organ Harvesting Case:
Objection #4: The Justice Objection
   The Organ Harvesting Case:
    ◦ Assuming that the doctor will not get caught
      for murder, utilitarianism would say that the
      doctor should harvest the organs.
Objection #4: The Justice Objection
   The Scapegoat Case:
Objection #4: The Justice Objection
   The Scapegoat Case:


    ◦ But doing so seems unjust!
Objection #4: The Justice Objection
   An Alternative Trolley Case:
Objection #4: The Justice Objection
   An Alternative Trolley Case:



    ◦ But once again, pushing this person over the
      bridge seems unjust!
Objection #4: The Justice Objection
   Response: For one, when considering
    long-term consequences, it is unclear
    whether a utilitarian should claim that you
    should sacrifice one for the sake of many.
    For instance, what would happen if
    doctors routinely harvested organs
    without the patient’s permission to save
    many? No one would go to the hospital!
Objection #4: The Justice Objection
Objection #5: The False Happiness
Objection
Objection #5: The False Happiness
Objection




   But it seems like we want to say that the
    former is worse than the latter.
Objection #5: The False Happiness
Objection
   Nozick makes this exact point with his
    example of the experience machine.
Objection #5: The False Happiness
Objection
   Response:




   Further Objection:
Reflection
 What these objections show is that we
  are concerned with more than mere
  pleasure. We are also concerned with, e.g.,
  integrity, justice, fairness, sincerity, and
  truth, all of which deontology handles a
  bit better.
 But that does not mean we do not care at
  all about pleasure and pain, as seen with
  the problem of moral luck.

				
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