VIEWS: 1 PAGES: 56 POSTED ON: 10/14/2011
Utilitarian Ethics Principle of the greatest good We have learned that… Batman chooses not to kill Joker because the act of killing is wrong, regardless of the consequences. Spiderman chooses to lie to those around him about his secret identity because the consequences outweigh the act of lying. Introduction Utilitarianism is a viewpoint independent of religious belief (though religious people can use it). It is focussed on the consequences of the action. (Teleological / relative) There are different types of Utilitarianism: Act, Rule and Preference. Utilitarianism is based on the Principle of Utility or the greatest good. Utilitarianism A Utilitarian makes a moral decision based on what will produce the most happiness for the most amount of people. Do you think this is a good moral stance? What would a Utilitarian do? You’re on a farm and the farmer asks you to help slaughter a pig. What would a Utilitarian do? Someone offers to shoot your neighbour’s barking dog. What would a Utilitarian do? You’re hungry and have no food to eat so you think about stealing some. Is it right or wrong to kill this child? Is it right or wrong to kill this child? Adolf Hitler The Baboonian dilemma The government of Baboonia has decided that people are living too long. It can no longer afford to look after its ageing population so the Government come up with a solution... The Baboonian dilemma Everyone will have their every need provided for by the government up until the age of 30. Life will be sweet in every respect. No one will be cold, hungry or have to do without anything. The Baboonian dilemma The price which will have to be paid for this is that when you get to 30 you have to be killed. Have the Baboonians got the right idea? The Principle of the greatest good, or utility. An action may be said to be conformable to the principle of utility… when the tendency it has to augment the happiness of the community is greater than any it has to diminish it. J Bentham Utilitarian Consequences Utilitarians say that our moral choices should be based on getting the greatest good (or pleasure/happiness) for the greatest number of people. This is called The Principle of Utility (or the greatest good). Write it to prove you know it! How does a Utilitarian make a moral decision? 3KU Write it to prove you know it! How does a Utilitarian make a moral decision? 3KU A Utilitarian is concerned about the consequences of an action, not the act itself. To make a moral decision they will appeal to the principle of utility: to the greatest good. In a moral dilemma a Utilitarian will make a decision which will bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Add e.g. Utilitarian Ethics Act and Rule Utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) Part of the broader ethical system of consequentialism. Founded the Principle of the utility, or the greatest good and Act Utilitarianism. A person should apply the greatest happiness principle to each individual moral dilemma they are faced with. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) Act Utilitarianism Each action should be judged solely on its ability to produce the greatest happiness. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) Aim in moral decision making should be to maximise pleasure and minimise pain. Everyone’s happiness is to count equally. One of the earliest thinkers to suggest that animals have rights too. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) The Hedonic Calculus in detail: How intensely the pleasure/pain is felt How long that pleasure/pain lasts How certainly the pleasure pain will follow How quickly the pleasure/pain will follow How likely the pleasure/pain is to be followed by experiences of the same kind How likely the pleasure/pain is to be followed by experiences of the opposite kind How many people experience it Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) Eccentric: Bentham Auto-icon requested his body to be preserved and displayed in a glass-fronted cabinet at University College London. On occasion his body is taken to meetings of the College Council, where he is recorded as ‘attending but not voting’. Write it to prove you know it! Describe how an Act Utilitarian makes a moral decision. 4KU Write it to prove you know it! Describe how an Act Utilitarian makes a moral decision. 4KU Act Utilitarianism was founded by Jeremy Bentham who subscribed to consequentialism: the ethical system that suggests the consequences of an action, not the act itself are important. Bentham argued that to make a moral decision people should use the principle of utility, or greatest happiness principle. An Act Utilitarian will decide on an action based on what will bring the most happiness to the most amount of people. E.g. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) Embraced the principle of utility but rejected Bentham’s Act Utilitarianism in favour of Rule Utilitarianism. Rule Utilitarianism: we should follow those rules that will produce the greatest happiness. J S Mill’s criticisms of Act Utilitarianism Mill criticised Bentham’s Act Utilitarianism in two main ways: 1. Higher and Lower pleasures. Socrates and the fool 2. Rules over Acts. Stealing/Starving exception 1. Higher and Lower pleasures Firstly, Mill argued that there is a distinction between what he called higher or lower pleasures. Bentham distinguishes between pleasures in terms of their quantity – duration and strength – but Mill argues that a distinction must be made about their quality. Mill argued that pleasures of thought, feeling and imagination should be granted greater weight than those of the body and senses. 1. Higher and Lower pleasures ‘It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question.’ J S Mill 2. Rules over Acts Bentham argued that the rightness or wrongness of an action should be calculated individually whereas Mill supposes that we should follow utilitarian rules. The exception to this was if these rules conflicted at which point Mill said we should then appeal to Act Utilitarianism. 2. Rules over Acts For example: Mill might say that ‘Do not steal’ and ‘Do not allow people to starve’ are rules that will generally produce the greatest happiness. 2. Rules over Acts But what if I can feed a starving person only by stealing food for them? Write it to prove you know it! Describe how a Rule Utilitarian makes a moral decision. 4KU Write it to prove you know it! Describe how a Rule Utilitarian makes a moral decision. 4KU Like Act Utilitarianism , a Rule Utilitarian subscribes to consequentialism and the principle of utility, or the greatest good for the greatest number. However Rule Utilitarianism, founded by J S Mill, argues that there were higher or lower pleasures and that quality of the happiness should be taken into account, not just the quantity as Bentham assumed. Also, while an Act Utilitarian will judge each action individually, Mill looked for rules that would produce the greatest happiness. Only if these rules contradict each other will a Rule Utilitarian appeal to the action itself. E.g. Objections to Utilitarianism Transplant Case Frame the Innocent Case Transplant Case Suppose you’re the doctor in charge of 6 patients. The first has a medical condition that is easily cured. The others have failing organs and will soon die without transplant… You discover that the first patient could provide perfect organs for the others. So you can kill the first patient and save the rest. Frame the Innocent Case Suppose a black person kills a white person in an area torn by racial strife. As a result there are daily riots and escalating levels of violence leading to increasing levels of unhappiness. Frame the Innocent Case As a visitor to the area, you know you could secure the arrest of an innocent black person for the original crime simply by testifying against them. The riots would cease and further bloodshed would be avoided – a much happier outcome. Other problems with Utilitarianism Who decides what pleasure or happiness is? Can you ever fully predict all the possible outcomes of a moral decision? Who decides what to take into account when trying to work out if a decision produces happiness? What about the minority? Is this fair? Would it lead to a ‘sacrifice’ society? What kind of society would it lead to? Peter Singer - Utilitarianism For Singer, what matters is that our decisions in the first place are based on what’s best for those immediately affected by the outcome of a decision. The way of thinking I have outlined is a form of utilitarianism. It differs from classical utilitarianism in that ‘the best consequences’ is understood as meaning what, on balance, furthers the interests of those affected, rather than merely what increases pleasure and reduces pain … The utilitarian position is a minimal one, a first base that we should reach by universalising self-interested decision-making. Singer So, what about Utilitarianism and Punishment? Bearing in mind •Greatest good for the greatest number. •Least amount of pain. •Good is whatever brings greatest happiness. •Teleological/relative (based on consequences) What do you think Utilitarians would say about; Punishment? Capital Punishment? The purposes of punishment? Who should be punished? Utilitarian view - Crime and Punishment In An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) Bentham argued that: Appropriate punishments for crime must be considered in relation to the consequences of the wrong doing on others. Punishment is an effective way of deterring others from similar action and the criminal from re-offending. Punishment is necessary to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive (1843) Mill argued that: Punishment is the consequence of crime. Punishment must be about reformation. For some serious crimes life imprisonment is most appropriate as the criminal is removed completely from society and deprived of freedom because this provides the most amount of happiness. Utilitarianism How should a Utilitarian decide whether Capital punishment is right? • Consider all the present and future consequences of the death penalty, for the executed offenders, the victims of crime, family and friends of both and the rest of society. • Consider alternative punishments and the consequences of these. • If C.P. give the greatest overall benefits, decide in favour of it. J.S. Mill on Capital punishment He was in favour of the death penalty. His reason being “humanity to the criminal.” In cases where somebody is A)Certainly guilty of murder B)Lacking in remorse; and C)Incapable of being rehabilitated … the death penalty is the best thing we can do for them. His argument is that in cases where we can only choose between executing or permenatly imprisoning the villian (death or life meaning life)… …execution is the least bad option because… …it causes the least suffering to the villian… …and there is no gain for anyone in life imprisonment. Criticisms of Mill • A Utilitarian should surely want to improve prisons, so that perhaps there would be something to gain from it. • Miscarriage of Justice • Ignores the dignity of all human beings • Citizens of the country might think that if the state kills then it is acceptable and the murder rate could go up Questions 1. What are the key Principles of Utilitarian ethics? 4KU 2. In what ways might these principles be applied to issues arising from punishment? 6AE Write it to prove you know it! Describe the Euthyhro Dilemma. 3KU Write it to prove you know it! Describe the Euthyhro Dilemma. 3KU Socrates and Euthyphro are at court and get into a discussion about what is ‘good’. Euthyphro suggests that ‘good’ is what the gods are pleased with. Socrates counters: are actions ‘good’ because the gods command them or do the gods command certain actions because they are ‘good’. The dilemma for Euthyphro was the role of the gods as experts who instruct us on morality or as engineers who construct morality for us, each of which has problems. The Relationship between Religion and Moral Values The Euthyphro Dilemma ‘Are actions ‘good’ simply because the gods command them or do the gods command certain actions because they are ‘good’?’ Religious Morality Moral values are grounded in religious belief The interpretation of sacred writings guided by faith, tradition and/or reason Utilitarian Ethics Act Utilitarianism Rule Utilitarianism Principle of the greatest good Kantian Ethics Categorical imperative Universal maxim Respect of persons Write it to prove you know it! Describe the role of sacred texts in religious morality. 4KU Write it to prove you know it! Describe the role of sacred texts in religious morality. 4KU The role of sacred texts much depends on the religion a person is following and the status of the text in that religion. All religious texts, however, offer guidance on moral dilemmas from its founder/God. Moral advice can be explicit: ‘Thou shalt not kill’ or implicit in the form of a story in which a religious person must use their reason to realise the moral teaching of the story. E.g.
Pages to are hidden for
"Utilitarian-Ethics"Please download to view full document