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J OHN S TUART M ILL (1806-1873) Utilitarianism. U TILITARIANISM Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory of ethics and morality. It is a consequentialist.

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Presentation on theme: "J OHN S TUART M ILL (1806-1873) Utilitarianism. U TILITARIANISM Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory of ethics and morality. It is a consequentialist."— Presentation transcript:

1 J OHN S TUART M ILL ( ) Utilitarianism

2 U TILITARIANISM Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory of ethics and morality. It is a consequentialist theory because what determines whether a given act is right or wrong are the consequences of the act.

3 T HE P RINCIPLE OF U TILITY The Greatest Happiness Principle Utility is defined in terms of happiness and pleasure. The consequence that needs to be measured is the amount of HAPPINESS an act produces. When confronted with a moral dilemma, then, utilitarianism says that we ought to do the act that will produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people.

4 T HE G REATEST H APPINESS P RINCIPLE Actions are right in proportion to their tendency to promote happiness and wrong as they tend to promote unhappiness. Happiness is defined as PLEASUSE and the absence of PAIN. Unhappiness is defined as pain and the privation of pleasure.

5 E QUAL CONSIDERATION : I MPARTIALITY Utilitarianism, unlike egoism, treats all individuals the same. No one should receive special consideration.

6 H ISTORICAL B ACKGROUND Jeremy Bentham( ) Happiness can be measured in terms of pleasure and pain. Pleasure and pain can be measured in terms of physical pleasures and pains. Hedonism

7 H ISTORICAL B ACKGROUND John Stuart Mill ( ) Happiness can be measured in terms of pleasure and pain. There are qualitative differences among the distinct kinds of pleasures. Not all pleasures are the same, and they do not all produce the same amount of happiness.

8 P LEASURES Sensual (physical pleasures) Intellectual (scientific discoveries, understanding) Emotional (moral sentiments)

9 Q UALITY VS. Q UANTITY A small dosage of love is more desirable (pleasurable) than large amounts of sensual pleasures. A feeling of accomplishment is more pleasurable than the absences of pain. This is why many people are willing to endure physical pain to accomplish a goal or win an athletic competition.

10 Q UALITY VS. Q UANTITY The feeling of praise is be more pleasurable than sensual pleasures. This is why many people are willing to go without certain sensual pleasures to received praise. The feeling of moral sentiments, such as loyalty and honesty, is more pleasurable than the absence of pain. This is why many people are willing to endure pain to feel these moral sentiments.

11 H OW TO DETERMINE QUALITY ? How or who determines which pleasures are more desirable? This can only be done by people who have experienced the distinct kinds of pleasures in question and have decided that one is much more superior than the other. In the final analysis the only judge we have to determine these things is the personal experiences of the members of a community of people.

12 Q UALITY Mill argues that people overwhelmingly have concluded that the pleasures associated with the higher faculties (thinking, love, friendship) are more pleasurable than the pleasures associated with the lower animal faculties (nutrition, reproduction, and physical sensation).

13 P ROOF : T HOUGHT EXPERIMENT Would you trade places with an nonhuman animal, such as a rat, if the rat was content and enjoyed all of the physical sensual pleasures possible and the human did not? Mill says, “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.”

14 H IGHER I NTELLECT : P LEASURE AND SUFFERING Mill realizes that there are pleasures that one can receive from the higher intellect that could never be matched by the lower intellect. Many of these pleasures concern the moral sentiments, such as love. Consider the joy one can receive from the love between a parent and their children, or between friends, Mill also realizes that these higher faculties can also cause more acute suffering.

15 C ASE A NALYSES 1) Euthanasia 2) Marihuana 3) Nonhuman Animals

16 O BJECTIONS 1) Is Pleasure all that matters? Is Pleasure all that is good? 2) Are the consequences all that matter? 3) Treating everyone the same is not always morally preferable. 4) There are acts that have intrinsic moral value irrespective of the consequences.

17 1. I S P LEASURE ALL THAT M ATTERS ? H EDONISM What is Good? What is right? What is right is to produce as much good as possible. Is pleasure the only good? Your girl friend cheats on you but you do not find out, so it causes you no pain. Therefore, no immoral act has been committed? Moreover, would you agree that her cheating was morally correct since it produce more happiness than unhappiness?

18 2.1 CONSEQUENCES ALL THAT COUNT ? Justice: There are cases (counter examples) in which the application of the utilitarian principle categorizes, as out moral duty, acts that are intuitively and self-evidently unjust. For instance, sacrifice the life of an innocent person to stop riots (bearing false witness or framing an innocent person). This action seems wrong and unjust, yet it might produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

19 2.2 CONSEQUENCES ALL THAT COUNT ? Rights: There are cases (counter examples) in which the application of the utilitarian principle categorizes, as our moral duty, acts that intuitively and self-evidently undermine a person’s basic and fundamental rights. I take the organs of a person against his or her will, for the sake of saving several other people. “Tyranny of the majority”: in fact any act that produces more happiness is our moral duty, irrespective of the individual rights it violates

20 2.3 CONSEQUENCES ALL THAT COUNT ? Backward-looking Reasons: There are acts in the past that create moral obligations in the future. For instance, a promise. Because utilitarianism only looks to the future it disregards these acts as having any moral relevance whatsoever. So if I promised to do act x tomorrow, but when tomorrow gets here I don’t feel like doing it any longer, then I am not morally obligated any longer; but this seems wrong.

21 3. S HOULD WE TREAT EVERYONE THE SAME ? 3.1 This leads to ridiculous results of supererogatory acts. You can always cause more happiness by giving up what you have, until you have nothing! 3.2 There are special relationships we have among friends and family that require moral special treatment with higher moral obligations than our relationships with strangers.

22 P RACTICAL P ROBLEMS 1) The consequences of one’s acts are not always known. 2) The happiness our acts produce cannot always be calculated and known.

23 F IRST D EFENSES 1) In the real world all unjust actions coincide with bad consequences, and all actions that violate the rights of an individual cause, in the long run, more unhappiness. Response: Is this true? We cannot conceive of cases in which injustice would cause more happiness to more people?!

24 S ECOND D EFENSE : R ULE -U TILITARIANISM A central problem of ACT-UTILITARIANISM utilitarianism is that each individual case has so many particular and unique circumstances that it can always find exceptions to our common sense moral principles. Utilitarian should promote rules not an individual act.

25 R ULE -U TILITARIANISM Rule-utilitarianism does overcome the problems and criticisms presented. For instance, we should not bear false witness, even if in a particular case the outcome produces more happiness, because as a rule, bearing false witness will produce more unhappiness than happiness.

26 P ROBLEMS WITH R ULE -U TILITARIANISM Does Rule-Utilitarianism allow for exceptions to the rule? If bearing false witness is wrong (as a rule) can there be exceptions? If yes, on what basis? If on the consequences, then we are back to act-utilitarianism. If no, then we no longer have utilitarianism (consequences and happiness); this theory cares about rules in and of themselves.

27 T HIRD D EFENSE Utilitarianism might argue that our common sense intuitions about justice, fairness, and rights (our basic values) are wrong. Therefore, the counter-examples fail to show that utilitarianism is false. Utilitarianism will point out that the development of “common sense” values are derived from the happiness principle. For instance, we believe that lying is wrong because it harms and hurts people, we believe that violating people’s rights is wrong because it harms and hurts people (These reduce happiness) Does it make sense to say that lying is wrong in itself if it harms no one?

28 F OCUS ON THE BAD AND NOT GOOD Consider the case of bearing false witness in order to prevent a riot. The example focuses on the harm done to the innocent man. Consider the innocent women and children that will dies and suffer if the innocent man is not sacrificed. Consider all of the torment and suffering of hundreds of people this one act can prevent.


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