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Utilitarianism and Doing the Right Thing

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A presentation of Bentham and Mill's Utilitarianism.

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Utilitarianism and Doing the Right Thing

  1. 1. How to Know What Is Good ORHow to Know What Is Good OR Moral PhilosophyMoral Philosophy
  2. 2. Jeremy Bentham 1748-1842 A philosopher and legal jurist First founder of Utilitarianism A theory of how we should act “Act” utilitarianism Happiness/Pleasure is the measure of the good Mentor to John Stuart Mill
  3. 3. Measure happiness & painMeasure happiness & pain The only component of happiness is pleasure Avoid pain and embrace the pleasure Measuring pleasure and pain Is it possible? What produces the greatest amount of happiness?
  4. 4. A Good Choice produces theA Good Choice produces the greatest good (pleasure) for thegreatest good (pleasure) for the greatest number of people.greatest number of people. Utilitarianism is the moral philosophy often called CONSEQUENTIALISM because it focuses on the consequences of actions. “Utility” can be interpreted in several ways but it doesn`t actually mean useful, but more - happiness - well being -pleasure
  5. 5. Bentham uses Hedonism ofBentham uses Hedonism of ancient Greeceancient Greece Bentham’s Hedonistic Calculus Intensity Strength of pain or pleasure Duration How long will it last? Certainty How likely is this to occur? Nearness How soon will it happen? Productivity Will it generate more? Purity How much is mixed with the other? Extent How many will be affected?
  6. 6. HedonismHedonism The good life is one filled with pleasure. The pursuit of pleasure (especially that of the physical senses) is a good in itself. Different versions of hedonism...like everything else, it exists on a continuum Mental pleasure, psychological pleasure, spiritual pleasure Epicurus=long term pleasures + pleasures of the mind
  7. 7. John Stuart Mill 1806-1873John Stuart Mill 1806-1873 Was an ’experiment’ in child rearing by his father James Mill & Jeremy Bentham Most famous for “On Liberty” – basis of many constitutions and charters of freedom Father of Liberalism Motto: “I am my own man”
  8. 8. John Stuart Mill 1806John Stuart Mill 1806 Was a child prodigy who read ½ of Plato at the age of 6 He edited his father’s books at 7 Became a member of parliament and championed women’s rights Studied under Jeremy Bentham Disagreed with Bentham’s hedonism Suggested that pleasures exist on a hierarchy (some are better than others) More cultured than Bentham
  9. 9. Happy Pig or Sad SocratesHappy Pig or Sad Socrates Mill’s famous statement that shows his ideas of different pleasures, mental ones being at the apex. His question, is it better to be a happy pig or a sad Socrates expresses the idea that rational beings have greater value than non- rational ones, even if they are not ‘happy’ The sad Socrates has more PLEASURE than the happy pig Some pleasures are so valuable, that a small amount of it makes unhappiness OK.
  10. 10. Which would you rather be?Which would you rather be?
  11. 11. Act Utilitarianism= judges acts inAct Utilitarianism= judges acts in isolationisolation An action is deemed moral because it produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. “common moral sense” = seems good but the danger = that this might require us to do very bad things. How do we get the numbers right? Act U would sanction child slavery and other abominations
  12. 12. Rule Utilitarian=act + ruleRule Utilitarian=act + rule 20th c. Philosophers developed rule utilitarianism to avoid moral dilemmas of the act utilitarianism General rule: no one should do anything they can’t imagine asking everyone else to do Strength of theory: offers alternatives to deontology, more flexible Weakness: doesn’t define happiness or pleasure, rights of minorities, measuring greatest good + number
  13. 13. Immanuel Kant 1724-1804Immanuel Kant 1724-1804
  14. 14. Deontology’s answer: ImmanuelDeontology’s answer: Immanuel KantKant Like Aristotle & Plato, Kant believed that the GOOD is an absolute and can be identified The only thing that is good for its own sake is a good will (intention) Everything else that you can imagine as good, can be qualified (altered because of context) If your intentions are pure, they are intrinsically good
  15. 15. Good=DutyGood=Duty What is good? That which is consistent with duty (higher moral principles/virtues) AND that which is rational. To have a good will is to act on higher moral principles that are rational, justified by reason. Kant is a rationalist, like Plato, Aristotle and Descartes.
  16. 16. Categorical ImperativeCategorical Imperative Categorical=absolute Imperative=command /duty So, an absolute rule that must be obeyed. “Act only according to the maxim (rule) whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law of nature. Situation x: if telling a lie is the ‘right’ moral choice, then you must agree that everyone can lie all the time
  17. 17. Ends and not meansEnds and not means Act so that you treat people as ends (subjects with innate dignity) and not means (objects to be used whose value is determined by their usefulness) Kant believed that people had to act according to their duties (higher principles) even when the consequences were negative.
  18. 18. Deontology -rootsDeontology -roots This theory ignores consequences and focuses on duty Deon = Greek for duty “ology” from logos meaning reason, word or study. Where would be now if not for the great leaders of the world who brought change? Do you think they were deontologists?
  19. 19. StrengthsStrengths Impartial = imperative must be applied without exception, no playing favorites Emphasis on intent of the person which allows you to see how they value virtues and principles, despite a negative outcome Criticisms: too rigid, what about the ethics of care (wouldn`t you lie and steal to save a loved one’s life?)
  20. 20. How Do You Know WhatHow Do You Know What is Right?is Right? Which path to take? How to decide? Moral imagination? Moral intuition? Universal principals? Means or ends?

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