Mar1

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  • Mar1

    1. 1. pmail: fetuses & feelings Student: Provided the fetus is not able to feel anything, I'm still having a hard time grasping (i.e. agreeing with) arguments against abortion. I don't see much a distinction between killing a new embryo and using antibacterial hand sanitizer; both are just killing cells without feelings.  Is there another reason to distinguish them other than saying that one is a potential person?  DrC: You could expand this intuition into an argument by distinguishing the case of the fetus from an adult who is asleep, or in a coma. You could discuss this `thought experiment’: A world just like ours, except that when an adult falls asleep, s/he transmogrifies into a fetus, and when s/he awakes, this is a process of transmogrification from a fetus to an adult. Would it be okay to kill the futus?
    2. 2. pmail: DV Student: This pmail is regarding decision value utilitarianism. I am having difficulty seeing how this is can be as rigorously outlined and argued for as either consequentialist or deontologist ethics. It seems to me that it can be adjusted so that decision lines up with intuitions. We can defend a non-positive consequence maximizing action based on the meaning of the action as having more value, or vice versa. It is hard to see whether decision value is 1 part consequence + 1 part meaning, or if it varies by situation. DrC: You are facing a situation in which you will be under pressure to abort a fetus. Consider buying lottery tickets that allow you to buy (i) an abortion + a day at Disneyland, (ii) an abortion + Oxfam donations to Haiti, (iii) avoiding an abortion (like a “Get out of jail free” card in Monopoly) , (iv) avoiding an abortion + a day of working at some job you detest. You would pay nothing for i, nothing for ii, twenty dollars for iii, and forty dollars for iv. This goes some way towards quantifying your aversion to abortion. Others might assign different dollar values to these tickets. That just means that utility is subjective. That’s the orthodox view in decision theory.
    3. 3. pmail: happiness again Student: When discussing my pmail in class, I believe that you agreed with my general idea, but questioned my appeal to the critical vs. intuitive (hereafter C vs. I) distinction as I have applied it. I attempted to apply the C vs. I distinction in the same way that Singer does (92-93) when he responds to a possible objection to the indirect utilitarian reason against killing. The objection posits that it could be the case that one may murder another with out anybody learning of the victim's death, in which case the indirect utilitarian reason, i.e., the effect on the victim's friends and family, would be negligible. Singer responds that we "cannot foresee all the complexities of our choices" and so must adhere to intuitive moral principles, explaining this in much the same way as I have attempted. DrC: I think your application of C vs I is fine, as far as it goes. If I said otherwise, I take it back! But the case for endorsing the moral professor’s choice would be made at BOTH the C and the I levels, because even at the C level there isn’t omniscient about the future.
    4. 4. pmail: twinning, feelings Student: Re: Singer's point on twinning.  Just because you don't know whether an embryo will be one individual or two doesn't make it any less than one individual.  It seems unfair to say "Since we don't know if it's one or two individuals, it's obviously none at all."  I'm pretty sure that if there's any doubt over whether there's even *one* individual present, that would serve as basis enough to err on the side of caution.  Would this be a fair response to Singer? Student: Re: Infanticide, Singer seems to say that just because it feels wrong to us to kill a newborn infant doesn't mean it is.   Granted, but wouldn't preference utilitarianism take into account these cultural "feelings"?
    5. 5. pmail: Singer and Mill Student: John Stuart Mill, in his essay on Utilitarianism (Chapter 12 in the Cahn anthology), writes that "happiness is desirable and the only thing desirable as an end, all other things being only desirable as means to that end" (100). Mill, then, makes the supreme value in his ethical theory happiness (presumably achieved through the Higher pleasures). I am wondering if Singer would also agree that happiness is the ultimate aim. He, admittedly, seeks happiness through preference satisfaction and not higher pleasures as Mill does, but in the end they both seem to be seeking the same thing: Happiness. Is this fair? If so, then is the "utility" in all forms of utilitarianism "happiness", or could some form of utilitarianism propose something else as utility, say beauty? Student: Mill claims that "No reason can be given why the general happiness is desirable, expect that each person, so far as he believes it to be attainable, desires his own happiness." Singer brings sentience into this, but utimately is not this Singer's reason for accepting preference satisfaction as fundamental to his theory?
    6. 6. Singer Ch 7: non-religious ethics Singer: ... once we abandon those doctrines about the sanctity of human life that -- as we saw in Chapter 4 -- collapse as soon as they are questioned.... (175) DrC: Doesn’t Singer simply assume that religious doctrines about the soul are beyond the bounds of non-religious ethics? (137B) Assuming doesn’t have the power to make those doctrines collapse.
    7. 7. Singer Ch 7: potential Singer: We saw in our discussion of abortion that the potential of a fetus to become a rational, self-conscious being cannot count against killing it at a stage when it lacks these characteristics.... (182M) DrC: He dismisses without argument the idea of degrees of potential (160B11ff), because it won’t appeal to “traditional defenders of the right to life”.
    8. 8. Singer Ch 7: the principle of double effect Singer: But the distinction between directly intended effect and side-effect is a contrived one. (210T) DrC: It only looks contrived when a judgment about the costs of the side-effects is regarded as irrelevant to the justification for the intended action. But DV takes those costs into account: they can have greater or lesser weight. If sufficiently great, they can outweigh positive SU.
    9. 9. Cahn 13: Pojman “Strengths and weaknesses of...” W.D. Ross has argued that utilitarianism is to be rejected because it is counterintuitive. If we accept it, we would have to accept an absurd implication. Consider two acts, A and B, that will both result in 100 hedons (units of pleasure or utility). The only difference is that A involves telling a lie and B involves telling the truth. The utilitarian must maintain that the two acts are of equal value. But this seems implausible; truth seems to be an intrinsically good thing....
    10. 10. Cahn 14: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle: Presumably, however, to say that happiness is the chief good seems a platitude, and a clearer account of what it is is still desired. This might perhaps be given, if we could first ascertain the function of man. (113)

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