Utilitarianism2 Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1831) Act Utilitarianism The morally right act for an agent A at a time t, is that act available to A at t, that will maximize the total amount of good in the world (that will have the best consequences) “The greatest good for the greatest number”
Hedonistic Utilitarianism3 What is good? Pleasure and the absence of pain are good Pleasure is any sensation you would rather have than no sensation at all; and pain is any sensation you’d rather not have than no sensation at all. .
What Bentham thinks are the advantages of Utilitarianism4 Neutralistic – treats everyone in the same way Realistic – it’s based on real psychology. It works with people as it finds them and organizes society so that they being that way actually has good consequences for everyone. Non-metaphysical – it doesnt make goodness/badness right/wrongness some sort of weird qualities. What in the world is “a natural right?” Non-elitist – it counts all sentient creatures. And all types of pleasures equally Determinate in principle – in principle, you can use the hedonic calculus to get an actual answer to the question of “what should I do in this case?”.
The Hedonic Calculus5 For each action-alternative: Determine Intensity x duration Determine Probability Calculate Total = (intensity x duration) x Probability Perform the action-alternative with the highest total
The Hedonic Calculus: what should I do with my $506 If I buy CALL OF DUTY: Black Ops II • I will receive pleasure of 7 intensity for 30 hours. The probably of this is high – 80%. • The impact on me: 7 x 30 x .8 = 168 hedons • My wife will be probably be somewhat annoyed that I’m wasting my time and using up the TV. (-3 intensity for 5 hours at probability of 50%) • The impact on her: -3 x 5 x .5 = - 7.5 hedons TOTAL IMPACT: 160.5 hedons
The Hedonic Calculus: what should I do with my $507 If I donate the money to a children’s charity: • I will receive pleasure of 3 intensity for 50 hours. The probably of this is high – 80%. • The impact on me: 3 x 50 x .8 = 120 hedons • 50 Starving children will be cared for, each receiving a pleasure of 9 intensity for 100 hours. The probability for this is very high – 90%. • The impact on her: 50 x 9 x .9 = 405 hedons TOTAL IMPACT: 525 hedons
The Hedonic Calculus: what should I do with my $508 1. If I buy myself Black Ops II, the world will be improved by 160.5 hedons 2. If I donate the money to a children’s charity the world will be improved by 525 hedons 3. I should do whatever will bring about the greatest pleasure in the world 4. I should donate the money to the charity
An important distinction9 What is the right action for you to do? The action that a good person would do? The subjectively right act – the act you believe will maximize utility. The objectively right act – the act that will actually maximize utility The epistemically right act – the act that you are rationally warranted to perform.
How do we regard different types of pleasures?10 What counts as pleasure? What about sadistic and masochistic pleasures? Bentham: the source of pleasure doesn’t matter Are there higher and lower pleasures? Bentham: It’s a subjective criterion – “Pushpin is as good as poetry” J.S. Mill: There is an objective quality to different pleasures that should also be factor into our calculations Quality comes from what people would choose if they had access to all possible pleasures
Are all goods commensurable?11 Can all pleasures be roughly compared? Can they be reduced to some sort of homogenous value?
Intellectual skill development: Objection by counter-example12 An objection shows that there’s something wrong with the theory or with one the assumptions that supports that theory. A counter-example is a specific case to which the theory gives the wrong answer according to our ordinary intuitions
Counter-examples and13 Utilitarianism Assumptions made by Bentham’s Act Utilitarianism: ① The right action is the one that maximizes the total balanced of pleasure in the world ② The source of pleasure doesnt matter ③ Each person is to count for one, and none for more than one ④ Tradeoffs of cost to some for gains to others are acceptable ⑤ Values are homogenous
Criticisms of Utilitarianism14 It’s too difficult to apply People care about more than just pleasure We can not reduce all human goods into quantifiable units which can be aggregated and compared There is no non-arbitrary limit to how far into the future we should consider consequences Intention is important for determining the moral status of actions, but no room for this in utilitarianism Justifies acts that seem to be plainly wrong like murder and rape
Other forms of Utilitarianism15 Rule Utilitarianism - Always act according to the rule that would produce the most utility in the world (vs. “act” utilitarianism) Preference Utilitarianism: Always act so as to maximize satisfaction of people’s preferences (vs. “Hedonistic” Utilitarianism)
Mill’s personal relationship toBentham Son of Bentham’s best friend Raised to be the perfect Utilitarian Prodigy – Oxford by 12 Became an amazing Utilitarian thinking machine completely committed to the cause Had a complete mental breakdown by the time he was 21 followed by disabling clinical depression This caused him to rethink the basic assumptions of Utilitarianism
Mill’s central correction to Utilitarianismo Pleasures differ in quality as well as in quantity “The Decided Preference Criterion”:o Humans prefer the higher pleasures – those activities that “Of two pleasures … if one of the engage their higher faculties two is, by those who are competently acquainted witho Higher pleasures are always going to both, placed so far above the other trump lower pleasures – have an than they prefer it… and would not infinite value by comparison. resign it for any quality of the other pleasure … we are justified ino Hedonic calculus can’t help us ascribing to it a superiority in decide what is right anymore – we quality…” need something else - Utilitarianism, Ch. II
We want happiness not contentment one would be There are things almost no willing to trade for no amount of something else Therefore, The most satisfactory life for anyone will contain a mix of higher and lower pleasures "it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied” “it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied” This is true as a matter of empirical fact – its what people want out of life. We want to be proud of our lives. We want to live with human
A good enough life?o A life with few and transitory painso A life with many and various pleasureso A life that is more active than passiveo A life lived with a realistic expectation of one’s prospects
What sort of life is a good (enough)life? There are as many different kinds of good lives as there are individual persons: Different mixes of excitement and tranquility Different combinations of higher and lower pleasures Unique individuals require unique recipes for happiness
Differences between Bentham andMillMill’s Utilitarian principle: Actions are right in proportion totheir tendency to increase the greatest happiness for thegreatest number.Bentham’s Utilitarianism Mill’s “Utilitarianism” (?) Hedonistic Non-hedonistic Pleasures vary in quality Pleasures are homogeneous Non-maximizing. Aims for a threshhold of happiness Maximizing Sensitive to distribution Indifferent to distribution
Williams’s “Integrity objection” against Utilitarianism22 Jim is a botanist doing research in a South American country led by a brutal dictator. One day he finds himself in the central square of a small town facing 20 Indians who have been randomly captured and tied up as an example of what will happen to rebels. The army captain tells Jim that if he agrees to kill one of the Indians, the others will be released in honor of Jim’s status as a guest. If, however, Jim refuses, then all the Indians will be shot. What should Jim do?
Williams’s “Integrity objection” against Utilitarianism23 There’s a crucial moral distinction between what happens and what I do Without this distinction we can not understanding what it means to have integrity Moral integrity requires the individual to view himself as a moral agent whose actions flow “from projects or attitudes which in some cases he takes seriously at the deepest level, as what his life is about” Utilitarianism can’t understand this notion of moral integrity, because it leaves no room for describing the ethical importance of the relationship between our projects, identity, and actions.