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Section 5.2 The End Justifies the Means

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1 Section 5.2 The End Justifies the Means
Good Makes Right

2 Consequentialism vs. Formalism
According to consequentialism (teleology), the rightness of an action is determined by its consequences According to formalism (deontology), the rightness of an action is determined by its form (by the kind of action it is).

3 Intrinsic and Instrumental Value
Consequentialist ethical theories usually define the right in terms of the good. Extrinsically or instrumentally valuable things are good because of what you can do with them. For example, money is extrinsically valuable. Intrinsically valuable things are good in and of themselves, regardless of what you can do with them. For example, happiness is intrinsically valuable.

4 Ethical Egoism According to ethical egoism, what makes an action right is that it promotes one’s own best interest. In this view, one’s only moral obligation is to oneself.

5 Psychological Hedonism
Psychological hedonism is a theory of human motivation. According to psychological hedonism, the only thing that individuals can desire is their own happiness.

6 Argument for Ethical Egoism
We are morally obligated to perform an action only if we are able to perform it. We are able to perform an action only if we believe that it will maximize our happiness. Therefore, we are morally obligated to perform an action only if we believe that it will maximize our happiness.

7 Problems with Psychological Hedonism
A good scientific theory should be informative—it should tell us something about the world. If a theory is consistent with all possible states of affairs—like the claim that either it’s raining or it’s not raining—it’s not informative. Because psychological hedonism is consistent with all possible states of affairs, it, too, is uninformative.

8 Thought Experiment: Feinberg’s Single-Minded Hedonist
Imagine a person (Jones) who has no intellectual curiosity, who does not appreciate nature or art, who has no interest in athletics or politics, and who has no talent for crafts or commerce. But Jones does desire to be happy. Can Jones achieve happiness?

9 Consequences of Ethical Egoism
It confuses the object of our desires with the result of satisfying them. Those who believe in the theory can’t advocate it. It discriminates against others.

10 Act-Utilitarianism According to act-utilitarianism, what makes an action right is that it maximizes happiness, everyone considered. The way to determine whether an action is right is to consider whether it produces more total happiness than any other action one could perform.

11 Problems with Measurement
All happiness cannot be weighed on one scale because there are different types of happiness. Even if happiness could be weighed on one scale, it’s unclear whether future generations should be included in the measurement.

12 Thought Probe: Animal Rights
Jeremy Bentham believed that since animals can suffer, an action’s effect on animals should be taken into account when performing utilitarian calculations. Do you agree? Is it possible for us to gauge animal suffering? If so, how much should animal suffering be weighed in the calculation? As much as human suffering?

13 Problems with Rights According to act-utilitarianism, the end justifies the means—as long as one maximizes happiness, it doesn’t matter what means one uses to do so. This is inconsistent with the notion of rights—that certain things should not be done to others even if they produce good consequences.

14 Thought Experiment: McCloskey’s Utilitarian Informant
Suppose a Negro rapes a white woman and that race riots occur as a result of the crime. Suppose further that a utilitarian knows that falsely accusing a Negro will stop the riots. Should he accuse the innocent Negro?

15 Thought Experiment: Brandt’s Utilitarian Heir
Suppose that Mr. X and his family are destitute and that his father, who is ill and in a nursing home, is well-to-do. Suppose further that Hastening his father’s death would produce more happiness than letting him waste away in the nursing home. Should Mr. X hasten his father’s death?

16 Problems with Duties We have a number of duties to others, including a duty not to break our promises. Act-utilitarianism maintains, on the contrary, that our only duty is to maximize happiness.

17 Thought Experiment: Ross’s Unhappy Promise
Suppose that fulfilling a promise would produce 1000 units of happiness. Suppose that breaking the promise and doing something else would produce 1001 units of happiness. Should one break the promise?

18 Thought Experiment: Godwin’s Fire Rescue
Suppose that an archbishop and your brother are caught in a fire and only one of them can be saved. Saving the Archbishop would produce more happiness than saving your brother. Should you save the Archbishop?

19 Problems with Justice Justice requires that equals be treated equally.
According to act-utilitarianism, if treating equals unequally maximizes happiness, then we should act unjustly.

20 Thought Experiment: Ewing’s Utilitarian Torture
“Suppose we could slightly increase the collective happiness of ten men by taking away all happiness from one of them.” Should we take away that man’s happiness?

21 Thought Experiment: Ewing’s Innocent Criminal
Suppose that we can’t find the criminal who committed a crime. Suppose further that we have a suspect who would benefit from incarceration and whose incarceration would deter others from crime. Should we put the suspect in jail?

22 Thought Probe: Singer’s “Preference Utilitarianism”
Under Singer’s philosophy, “moral decisions are based on the most intense preferences of a given individual or group. Thus, claims Singer, many times animals will be more deserving of life than certain humans, including disabled babies and adults who are brain-injured or in vegetative comas.” Is Singer’s “preference utilitarianism” more plausible that conventional act- or rule-utilitarianism?

23 Thought Probe: The Utility Machine
Suppose that an inventor has a device which, if marketed, would improve the happiness of its owners by 1000 percent. Suppose further that the inventor will market it only if he can kill 50,000 lives at random every year. Should the device be put on the market?

24 Rule-Utilitarianism According to rule-utilitarianism, what makes an action right is that it falls under a rule that, if generally followed, would maximize happiness, everyone considered. To decide whether an action is right, we must decide what rule it falls under and whether generally following that rule would maximize happiness.

25 Problems with Rule Utilitarianism
A morally correct rule is one that, if followed, would maximize happiness. Rules that would maximize happiness, however, would have exceptions. Rules with enough exceptions, however, would sanction the same actions as act-utilitarianism.

26 Thought Experiment: Nozick’s Experience Machine
Suppose a machine could give you any experience you desired. Would you plug in? For how long? Would there be anything wrong with spending your entire life in such a machine?

27 Thought Probe: Beneficial Drugs
Suppose there were a legal drug that reduced irritability, increased productivity, and made people happy in their work without producing any negative side effects such as addiction or dependence. Would it be morally permissible for an employer to require employees to take it? Would it be morally permissible for an employer to put it in the company’s water supply? Does your answer support or undermine utilitarianism?

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