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Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
Utilitarianism   intro or revision pp
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Utilitarianism intro or revision pp

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  • 1. Utilitarianism
  • 2. Definition:
    • Focus is on consequences .
    • Hedonism: Only pleasure is intrinsically good, and only pain intrinsically bad.
    • The proper aim of morality is therefore to promote happiness and diminish misery.
    • Classical hedonic utilitarianism (Mill): We ought to do whatever maximizes the balance of pleasure over pain for everyone.
  • 3. Rationale:
    • Rejects exceptionless rules – it’s not always wrong to lie, steal, break your promises, or disobey your parents.
    • Human happiness and misery give a solid basis for evaluating the norms of different cultures.
    • Can be reconciled with Christianity etc as considers others;
    • (Singer) arguably any non-egoistic moral theory must consider outcomes for others, so utilitarianism is basic.
  • 4. Flavours:
    • Act – JJC Smart. Approach sums up likely benefits and harms for each act. Easy to rationalize, difficult to apply, potentially erratic (Mill: ‘Godless expediency’).
    • Rule – Richard Brandt. Rule-based approach follows rules (of thumb?) established in advance (e.g. stealing usually doesn’t have the best consequences) Quicker, less erratic, might not be responsive to circumstances.
    • Preference/pluralist - Peter Singer - evaluate consequences in terms of various goods, not just hedonism: virtue, knowledge, pleasure, life, and freedom, or animal desires.
  • 5. Issues:
    • Could have bizarre implications: would slavery/racism, killing miserable rich and giving the money to charity be right if they maximized the total pleasure?
    • Right results, wrong reasons (= Kant’s attack).
    • Isn’t it wrong in itself to kill an innocent person, even if it had the best consequences?
    • Bernard Williams: George and the Chemical Warfare job; Jim and the Indian Massacre…
    • Nozick and the Experience Machine: do we choose a life of pleasure?
  • 6. Questions, Questions…
    • These are on the critical material in the handout…
    • Groups to discuss, then report back…
  • 7. Bernard Williams: Issues with Mill
    • What is the ‘George’ example?
    • What is the ‘Jim’ example?
    • What is ‘integrity’ and why does Mill think utilitarianism is incompatible with it?
    • What does Williams say about possible and/or remote effects?
  • 8. J.J.C. Smart – Act-Utilitarianism
    • Act vs. Rule – what’s the difference?
    • What objections to Rule-Utilitarianism are there?
    • What are hedonistic, ideal utilitarianism? Name some adherents…
    • Why are higher pleasures more ‘fecund’?
  • 9. J.J.C. Smart – Rule-Utilitarianism
    • What does Smart say about ‘average’ and ‘total’ happiness?
    • What use does Smart think an act-utilitarian can make of rules?
    • What is Smart’s response to Wiliams’ thought-experiments?
  • 10. Richard Brandt – Rule-Utilitarianism
    • How does Brandt define act-utilitarianism?
    • What does he see as its weaknesses?
    • What is his defence of rule-utilitarianism?
  • 11. Peter Singer: Preference Utilitarianism
    • What is the difference between hedonic and preference utilitarianism?
    • What is Nozick’s ‘Experience Machine’ idea, and how is it relevant to a defense of preference utilitarianism?
    • Why might an animal-rights activist prefer preference utilitarianism?
  • 12. Homework:
    • Is utilitarianism compatible with having integrity in one’s moral opinions and behaviour?
    • (50 marks)

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