Chapter 6: Utilitarianism


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Chapter 6: Utilitarianism

  1. 1. Chapter Six Utilitarianism <ul><li>Utilitarianism is a universal teleological system. </li></ul><ul><li>It calls for the maximization of goodness in society. </li></ul><ul><li>It asks for the greatest amount of goodness for the greatest number of people. </li></ul>
  2. 2. Two Types of Ethical Systems <ul><li>Deontological: From the Greek word deon meaning “duty” and logos meaning “logic”, we get the theory that states the locus of value is the act or kind of act. </li></ul><ul><li>Teleological: From the Greek word telos meaning “goal directed”, we get the theory that value is in the outcome or consequences of the act. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Utilitarians <ul><li>Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) </li></ul><ul><li>He invented a theory for measuring pain and pleasure that he called the hedonic calculus. </li></ul><ul><li>According to Bentham, one should maximize pleasure and minimize suffering. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Utilitarians <ul><li>John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) </li></ul><ul><li>Mill wanted to distinguish happiness from mere pleasure. </li></ul><ul><li>He defined happiness in terms of a higher order of pleasures or satisfactions. </li></ul><ul><li>These, he argued, are more refined and superior to lower pleasures. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Two Types of Utilitarianism <ul><li>Act-utilitarianism: An act is right if and only if it results in as much good as any available. </li></ul><ul><li>Rule-utilitarianism: An act is right if it conforms to a valid rule within a system of rules whose acceptance leads to greater utility for society. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Utilitarianism: Strength <ul><li>Strength: A possible answer for every situation, it is an absolute system. </li></ul><ul><li>It is not just a system, but it gets at the substance of morality because it has a material core: promoting human good and alleviating pain. </li></ul><ul><li>It makes common sense. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Utilitarianism: Weakness <ul><li>How do you measure the term “greatest”? </li></ul><ul><li>The greatest number of people over the greatest amount of happiness –how to define? </li></ul><ul><li>What about those who are not in the greatest amount? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it total or general happiness? </li></ul>
  8. 8. Can we know the consequences? <ul><li>We normally do not know the long term consequences of all of our actions. </li></ul><ul><li>Consequences go on into the infinite future, so we really cannot know them. </li></ul><ul><li>Calculation is impossible. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Three kinds of Consequences <ul><li>C. S. Lewis maintains there are three: </li></ul><ul><li>Actual consequences of the act </li></ul><ul><li>Consequences that could reasonably have been expected to occur </li></ul><ul><li>Intended consequences </li></ul>
  10. 10. Criticisms of Utilitarianism <ul><li>The No-Rest Objection – we always have an infinite set of acts to choose </li></ul><ul><li>The Absurd-Implication Objection- that two acts are of equal value </li></ul><ul><li>The Integrity Objection – personal integrity can be violated because we choose something other than our most central and deeply held principles </li></ul>
  11. 11. Criticisms of Utilitarianism <ul><li>The Justice Objection – Some acts could be considered useful and still be against the justice system. </li></ul><ul><li>The Publicity Objection – Moral principles must be known to all, but utilitarians do not claim everyone should act like a utilitarian. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Utilitarianism and Posterity <ul><li>Provides a very strong philosophical justification for the notion that we have obligations to future generations. </li></ul><ul><li>Supports the conviction that we ought not to end humanity. </li></ul><ul><li>Morality is about promoting human happiness, so it does not matter if those humans do not exist yet. </li></ul>