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Utilitarianism

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  • 1. Utilitarianism Revision
  • 2. David Hume Ethics should be based on what is most Useful . To determine whether an action is right or wrong one must look at what would be most useful in that situation. Francis Hutcheson Believed happiness was most important in determining what is right or wrong. “greatest happiness for the greatest number.” Jeremy Bentham Wanted to create a system of right and wrong - benefit all society. One of the first Utilitarian view point. Most useful thing in any moral dilemma is happiness . (leads people to make right ethical decisions.) Creating the Principle of Utility = Maximize pleasure – minimize pain Neither Hume nor Hutcheson were Utilitarians, joining of the two views: usefulness and happiness that makes Utilitarianism an ethical theory. +
  • 3.  
  • 4.
    • “ Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pleasure and pain. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do...” Bentham.
    • Teleological (concerned with outcomes)
    • It also Hedonistic
    • Principle of Utility =
    • Maximize pleasure – minimize pain
  • 5.
    • Hedonic Calculus or way to seek pleasure (pleasure seeker.)
    • Produce maximum happiness and minimum pain for maximum number of people.
    • Intensity
    • Duration – how long it lasts
    • Certainty of pleasure
    • Fecundity – ‘productive’ leads to other pleasures
    • Propinquity – how near to pleasure
    • Purity – some pleasure involve pain as well which are not as pure as pleasures that have no pain.
    • Extent – more people that experience it the better.
  • 6.
    • Act is right = more pleasure than pain or prevents pain
    • Act is wrong = more pain than pleasure or prevents pleasure.
    • But:
    • What is happiness/ pleasure?
    • Is all pleasures morally good?
    • Is all pain morally bad?
  • 7.  
  • 8.
    • John Stuart Mill ( 1806-1873) had some problems with Bentham's Utilitarian arguments:
    • The hedonic calculus attempts to quantify happiness, is this possible? Hard to apply when faced with an immediate ethical dilemma.
    • Bentham's utilitarian argument is teleological = accurately predicting the consequences of an action. Not always possible.
    • What counts as pleasure? One person’s pleasure is another's pain .
    • Does not distinguish between different sorts of pleasures or give them a rank order
    • What about minorities ?
    • The emphasis on pleasure Mill saw little more than animal instincts e.g. sex, food, drink
  • 9.
    • “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied:
    • Better to be Socrates dissatisfied
    • than a fool satisfied.”
  • 10. Higher/ Lower Pleasures
    • Physical Pleasures =lowest pleasures shared with animals e.g. pigs
    • Highest pleasures = stimulate mind, only be experienced by humans.
    • Mill’s Principle of Utility:
    • Happiness is desirable.
    • Happiness only thing desirable as an end in itself.
    • General happiness of all is desirable. Increase happiness of others increases your own.
  • 11. Philosophical Critics of Mill
    • Henry Sidgwick – how can we distinguish higher and lower pleasures... Which higher pleasure takes priority in moral decisions?
    • W.D Ross ‘a single factor’ they don't account for complex lives and moral decisions – family takes precedence over reason.
    Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus “ To do as one would be done by, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, constitutes the ideal perfection of Utilitarian morality.” Mill
  • 12. Comparison: Bentham Mill
    • “ The greatest happiness (pleasure) for the greatest number.”
    • Focused on the individual situations – Act
    • Relative ethical theory based on each situation.
    • Quantitative – Hedonic Calculus (Can be seen as absolute guide to ethics)
    • In search of maximising happiness
    • Hedonistic based on pleasure
    • Teleological (end result) / Consequentialist (consequences)
    • “ The greatest happiness for the greatest number.”
    • Focused on protecting common good universally – Rule
    • Absolute ethical theory based on universally applied rules.
    • Qualitative – higher / lower pleasures
    • Teleological/ Consequentialist
  • 13. Bentham Mill
    • Act Utilitarian
    • Looks at the consequences of an action
    • in every individual circumstance
    • work out if it will maximise pleasure minimise pain.
    • Strong: Bentham following one principle – Principle of Utility. Must be adhered to without exception.
    • Rule Utilitarian
    • General rules
    • applied Universally across societies to promote happiness
    • These rules should not be broken as they are the basis of morality.
    • Mill was a Weak Rule Utilitarian
    • he believed that the rule sometimes needs to change for certain situations.
  • 14.  
  • 15. Preference Utilitarianism R.M. Hare (1919-2002)
    • Need to consider our own preferences + those of others.
    • Need to “ stand in someone else’s shoes ” and try to imagine what someone else might prefer – universally (universilisability.)
    • What would I prefer in this situation?’
    • However, remember that it is a Utilitarian argument so aims to create greatest good for greatest number so is necessary to consider the preferences of others in order to achieve this.
    • “ equal preferences count equally, whatever their content.”
    • Are there any problems with this?
  • 16. Peter Singer
    • “ Our preferences cannot count any more than the preferences of others” Singer
    • everyone’s individual preferences must be taken into consideration when deciding what was in the best interest of the group.
    • interests were given equal value.
    • So in Singer’s view, killing a person who prefers to go on living would be wrong and not killing a person who prefers to die would also be wrong.
    • Singer’s approach to Utilitarianism is to minimise suffering rather than maximise pleasure.
    • far greater agreement about what causes pain that what gives pleasure.
    • Pleasure is more subjective to individuals than pain.