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Paley, Bentham, Mill, Sidgwick

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1 Paley, Bentham, Mill, Sidgwick
Utilitarian Ethics Paley, Bentham, Mill, Sidgwick

2 Utilitarian Ethics Utilitarianism is the idea that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its contribution to overall utility: that is, its contribution to happiness or pleasure as summed among all people. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome.

3 Utilitarian Ethics Utilitarianism is often described by the phrase "the greatest good for the greatest number of people", and is also known as "the greatest happiness principle". Utility, the good to be maximized, has been defined by various thinkers as happiness or pleasure (versus suffering or pain).

4 Basic Insights of Utilitarianism
4/13/2017 Basic Insights of Utilitarianism The purpose of morality is to make the world a better place. Morality is about producing good consequences, not having good intentions We should do whatever will bring the most benefit (i.e., intrinsic value) to all of humanity.

5 The Purpose of Morality
4/13/2017 The Purpose of Morality The utilitarian has a very simple answer to the question of why morality exists at all: The purpose of morality is to guide people’s actions in such a way as to produce a better world. Consequently, the emphasis in utilitarianism is on consequences, not intentions.

6 William Paley William Paley (1743–1805)
His position on the nature of morality was similar to that of Ockham and Luther—namely, he held that right and wrong are determined by the will of God. Yet, because he believed that God wills the happiness of his creatures, his normative ethics were utilitarian: whatever increases happiness is right; whatever diminishes it is wrong.

7 William Paley William Paley was a British Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. He is best known for his exposition of the teleological argument for the existence of God in his work Natural Theology, which made use of the watchmaker analogy.

8 Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) is properly considered the father of modern utilitarianism. It was he who made the utilitarian principle serve as the basis for a unified and comprehensive ethical system that applies, in theory at least, to every area of life. Never before had a complete, detailed system of ethics been so consistently constructed from a single fundamental ethical principle.

9 Bentham’s “Act” Utilitarianism
“Nature has placed mankind under the governancy of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.” “The principle of utility Is that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question” “By utility is meant that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness, or to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness. . .” Jeremy Bentham ( ) - British philosopher, jurist and reformer. If not the founder of Utilitarianism, certainly gave one of the first systematic accounts of it. The fact that Bentham was a reformer is important because he developed Utilitarianism as a means of reforming the British legal and penal systems, which he thought to be unduly harsh and unduly complicated. Through Utilitarianism he sought to bring fairness and clarity to these systems. Bentham’s Utilitarianism was also aimed at changing the view, popular at the time, that morality is something one knows through one’s own intuitions. He thought this too subjective. Through Utilitarianism he sought to make morality more objective - to provide a clear and objective standard that anyone could apply in determining right from wrong. The Standard (Greatest Happiness Principle) - The standard Bentham gives us is happiness. That is, according to Bentham an act is right to the degree that it tends to promote happiness. And it is wrong, as it tends to promote unhappiness. He formulates this as the Principle of Utility (also known as the Greatest Happiness Principle) - “The principle that approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question.” This is also sometimes understood as the greatest good for the greatest number.

10 Early Criticisms of Bentham’s Approach
Hedonism – a moral theory “fit for swine” Atheistic – leaves out God (and by extension, any higher-order moral considerations) Promotes selfishness – calculus of pure self-interest Vulgar - Pleasure is a vulgar standard for judging right and wrong, which seems to argue that tiddlywinks or television, if they produce more pleasure, are more valuable than poetry, science or giving to charity. Bentham’s response is that, vulgar or not, nature has placed us under two masters, pleasure and pain, and there is no other standard. Pleasure/pain is the ultimate standard for determining good/bad, right/wrong, moral/immoral. And that which is used to prove everything else, cannot itself be proved. Realize, however, that even if Bentham is right that by nature we pursue pleasure and avoid pain that does not establish that we should do so. In other words, the fact that we do something does not establish that we should be doing it. In philosophy, this is known as the naturalistic fallacy, a logical fallacy (mistake) in which one tries to derive an “ought” (what we should do) from an “is” (what we in fact do). This should remind you of one of the problems with normative relativism. The normative relativist commits the naturalistic fallacy when he claims that from the fact that different cultures have different moral codes and values (is), we should not recommend a moral code or value for everyone (ought). Tyrannical - Finally, Utilitarianism seems to allow the one or the few to be sacrificed for the many. In other words, it seems to allow for a tyranny of the majority, because whatever makes the majority happy is what is right. So if torturing and killing innocent human beings makes the majority of those affected by it happy, Utilitarianism seems to suggest that that is right. This is by far the most important objection to Utilitarianism and it is not clear that Bentham’s theory can adequately respond to it. But it is an objection that John Stuart Mill addresses, so let us turn to Mill. Bentham’s rebuttal: Vulgar or not, nature has placed us under two masters, pleasure and pain - there is no other standard

11 Bentham’s Ethics Jeremy Bentham figured that laws should be socially useful and not merely reflect the status quo; and, that while he believed that men inevitably pursue pleasure and avoid pain, Bentham thought it to be a "sacred truth" that "the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation."

12 Bentham’s Ethics Bentham supposed that the whole of morality could be derived from "enlightened self-interest," and that a person who always acted with a view to his own maximum satisfaction in the long run would always act rightly.

13 Bentham’s Ethics Bentham's position included arguments in favor of
individual and economic freedom the separation of church and state freedom of expression, equal rights for women the end of slavery

14 Bentham’s Ethics the abolition of physical punishment (including that of children) the right to divorce, free trade, usury, and the decriminalization of homosexual acts. He also made two distinct attempts during his life to critique the death penalty.

15 Modern Criticisms of Bentham
Quantification and measurability of “the good” Incommensurate notions of “the good” Ignores other, morally relevant considerations Human Rights Justice Distribution of “the good” Difficult and often inconsistent in practice to solve for U(x) and maximize this variable No supererogation No value in performing more than required by duty Main Entry: su·per·er·o·ga·tion Pronunciation: "sü-p&r-"er-&-'gA-sh&n Function: noun Etymology: Medieval Latin supererogation-, supererogatio, from supererogare to perform beyond the call of duty, from Late Latin, to expend in addition, from Latin super- + erogare to expend public funds after asking the consent of the people, from e- + rogare to ask -- more at RIGHT : the act of performing more than is required by duty, obligation, or need

16 John Stuart Mill [ ] John Stuart Mill, Bentham’s successor as the leader of the utilitarians and the most influential British thinker of the 19th century, had some sympathy for the view that Bentham’s position was too narrow and crude.

17 John Stuart Mill’s Revisions: Utilitarianism
Elevate the “Doctrine of the Swine” – Pleasures of the intellect, not the flesh Qualitatively better, not quantitatively “Happiness” is NOT simply equivalent to pleasure “lower quality pleasures” shared with other animals – e.g., food, sex “higher quality pleasures,” uniquely human, involving our so-called higher faculties John Stuart Mill ( ). Mill was British and a disciple of Bentham’s. In fact, John Stuart Mill’s father James was a contemporary of Bentham’s, who along with Bentham, David Ricardo (the famous economist) and John Austin (the famous legal philosopher), educated and trained young John Stuart from a very early age to take over the Utilitarian movement from them. John Stuart Mill’s version of Utilitarianism set forth in the book by the same name was meant to respond to the objections leveled at Bentham’s version. Vulgar – Thus, in response to the charge that Utilitarianism is crude and vulgar, a doctrine worthy of swine, because it is focused on pleasure, Mill argues that it is not the pleasures of the flesh that are at issue, but the pleasures of the intellect. In other words, although Mill like Bentham believes in the Greatest Happiness Principle, and although he believes happiness consists of pleasure and the absence of pain, the pleasures that count, according to Mill, are the intellectual. That is, the pleasures of the mind, imagination, spirit and the like, not the pleasures of the flesh, the appetites, the body, etc. Intellectual Pleasures Inherently Superior - According to Mill, the reason the pleasures of the intellect count, and not the pleasures of the flesh, is because the pleasures of the intellect are superior, inherently superior. That is, they are superior independent of things like intensity, duration, certainty, propinquity, etc. They are qualitatively better, not quantitatively. They differ not in degree, but kind. And this is probably the single greatest difference between Mill’s version of Utilitarianism and Bentham’s. Mill’s is qualitative, whereas Bentham’s is purely quantitative. But how does Mill know that the pleasures of the mind are qualitatively better than those of the body? Well, he says to just ask those who have experienced both types of pleasures (intellectual and bodily), and the vast majority will say that the intellectual are superior. For example, if we were to take a group of people who have enjoyed eating ice cream and also enjoyed reading, and we were to ask them which is the better pleasure, the overwhelming majority would say reading, according to Mill. Realize Mill like Bentham is an empiricist. He believes that we know things through experience. So there is no other standard by which to judge, according to Mill, other than experience. Furthermore, in order to judge which of two pleasures is better, you must have experienced both as pleasurable. If, for example, you enjoyed eating ice cream but found reading painful, you cannot judge which is the better pleasure. Keep in mind, Mill’s claim is not that reading is a better pleasure than ice cream because it is more lasting, or because it is more intense, or for any other quantitative reason. Reading is simply a better pleasure and this is true even if it is not more lasting or more intense. Again, it is not a matter of degree but kind. Intellectual pleasures are of a superior kind, according to Mill. Socrates Dissatisfied - Mill also offers what amounts to a type of proof to support this claim. He says that it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool or a pig satisfied. What he seems to be indicating is that intellectual pleasures are so far superior to bodily ones, that just the mere possibility of having them is enough to remain human. In other words, it is often the case that we look around and see the dog chasing its tail or the pig rolling in mud and think that they are content, and that they don’t suffer the sorts of mental pain and anguish that we do. But even so, Mill maintains that we don’t want to trade places with them, because although our intellect is often the source of unhappiness, it can also be the source of great happiness (as well as dignity). Tyranny of Majority - In response to the objection that Utilitarianism allows for horrible results, i.e., a tyranny of the majority in which the few can be sacrificed for the many, Mill argues that that is absurd. In other words, if we suppose that people would be made happy by torturing or killing an innocent human being, that is idiotic and no moral theory can withstand that sort of idiocy. As Mill says, if we conjoin universal idiocy with any moral theory, of course the theory will fail. Mill goes on to say that we know from experience, from history, what makes people happy and unhappy. Thus, it is ridiculous to suppose that things like torturing or killing innocent human beings, or raping and stealing, will make the majority of those affected happy. This is also a response to the objection that Utilitarianism is too time consuming in that we have to stop and think about what will produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Mill says that here too experience is our guide, and that generally we don’t have to stop and think what will make people happy or unhappy. From experience we already know this. Impractical/Demanding - As to the objection that Utilitarianism is too demanding, in that it requires that we maximize happiness for the greatest number and that we remain absolutely impartial between our own happiness and the happiness of others, Mill says two things. First, in most cases we will only have to think of the small circle of people that will be affected by our actions. Most of us are not in a position to affect that many people, in the way that a President or leader of a country is. So, generally we will not be forced to consider the consequences of our actions on a global basis, but rather on a local basis. Second, although we have to remain impartial between our own happiness and the happiness of others, Mill presupposes that our happiness and the happiness of others are interrelated. That is, our happiness is bound up in the group’s happiness. Whether Mill’s responses are adequate to meet the objections leveled at Utilitarianism, I leave to you. Keep in mind, however, that even if you believe that Mill meets the objections, there is still the problem of the naturalistic fallacy. Mill, like Bentham, believes that it is our nature to pursue pleasure and avoid pain and that we should therefore evaluate good and evil in terms of pleasure and pain. But even if Mill is right, that is, even if by nature we pursue pleasure and avoid pain, the question remains whether we should, and whether we should use pleasure and pain as the standard for morality. “It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool or a pig satisfied.”

18 Mill’s Ethics Although his position was based on the maximization of happiness (and this is said to consist of pleasure and the absence of pain), he distinguished between pleasures that are higher and those that are lower in quality. This enabled him to say that it is “better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.” The fool, he argued, would be of a different opinion only because he has not experienced both kinds of pleasures.

19 John Stuart Mill’s Revisions: Utilitarianism (Cont)
Utilitarianism is NOT equivalent to selfishness. Mill writes: “. . .between his own happiness and that of another, utilitarianism requires that one be strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator.” “…not the agent’s own happiness but that of all concerned.” Notions like “rights” and “justice” are merely “rules of thumb” that represent underlying calculations of overall utility (rule utilitarianism) Mill – page 143- “…the happiness which forms the utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct is no the agent’s own happiness which forms the utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct is not eh agents own happiness but that of all concerned. As between his own happiness and that of another, utilitarianism requires that one be strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator.” Well…that certainly makes it more palatable…but also makes it more complex. As for rights and justice….Bentham was a harsh critic of “natural rights” – which wer central to the French and American Revolutions. Morality should be based on logic and evidence. Intro-page 137 Is this what Mill really meant?

20 Mill’s Ethics Mill sought to show that utilitarianism is compatible with moral rules and principles relating to justice, honesty, and truthfulness by arguing that utilitarians should not attempt to calculate before each action whether that particular action will maximize utility.

21 Mill’s Ethics Instead, they should be guided by the fact that an action falls under a general principle (such as the principle that people should keep their promises), and adherence to that general principle tends to increase happiness.

22 Henry Sidgwick (1838–1900). Sidgwick’s Methods of Ethics (1874) is the most detailed and subtle work of utilitarian ethics yet produced. Especially noteworthy is his discussion of the various principles of what he calls common sense morality—i.e., the morality accepted, without systematic thought, by most people. Sidgwick was himself an intuitionist as far as the basis of ethics was concerned: he believed that the principle of utilitarianism must ultimately be based on a self-evident axiom of rational benevolence.

23 Sidgwick’s Ethics He strongly rejected the view that all principles of common sense morality are self-evident. He went on to demonstrate that the allegedly self-evident principles conflict with one another and are vague in their application. They could be part of a coherent system of morality, he argued, only if they were regarded as subordinate to the utilitarian principle, which defined their application and resolved the conflicts between them.

24 Sidgwick’s Ethics He adopted a position which may be described as ethical hedonism, according to which the criterion of goodness in any given action is that it produces the greatest possible amount of pleasure. This hedonism, however, is not confined to the self (egoistic), but involves a due regard to the pleasure of others, and is, therefore, distinguished further as universalistic. Lastly, Sidgwick returns to the principle that no man should act so as to destroy his own happiness.

25 Act and Rule Utilitarianism
4/13/2017 Act and Rule Utilitarianism

26 Act and Rule Utilitarianism
4/13/2017 Act and Rule Utilitarianism Act utilitarianism Looks at the consequences of each individual act and calculate utility each time the act is performed. Rule utilitarianism Looks at the consequences of having everyone follow a particular rule and calculates the overall utility of accepting or rejecting the rule.

27 4/13/2017 An Example Imagine the following scenario. A prominent and much-loved leader has been rushed to the hospital, grievously wounded by an assassin’s bullet. He needs a heart and lung transplant immediately to survive. No suitable donors are available, but there is a homeless person in the emergency room who is being kept alive on a respirator, who probably has only a few days to live, and who is a perfect donor. Without the transplant, the leader will die; the homeless person will die in a few days anyway. Security at the hospital is very well controlled. The transplant team could hasten the death of the homeless person and carry out the transplant without the public ever knowing that they killed the homeless person for his organs. What should they do? For rule utilitarians, this is an easy choice. No one could approve a general rule that lets hospitals kill patients for their organs when they are going to die anyway. The consequences of adopting such a general rule would be highly negative and would certainly undermine public trust in the medical establishment. For act utilitarians, the situation is more complex. If secrecy were guaranteed, the overall consequences might be such that in this particular instance greater utility is produced by hastening the death of the homeless person and using his organs for the transplant.

28 The Continuing Dispute
4/13/2017 The Continuing Dispute Rule utilitarians claim: In particular cases, act utilitarianism can justify disobeying important moral rules and violating individual rights. Act utilitarianism also takes too much time to calculate in each and every case. Act utilitarians respond: Following a rule in a particular case when the overall utility demands that we violate the rule is just rule-worship. If the consequences demand it, we should violate the rule. Furthermore, act utilitarians can follow rules-of-thumb (accumulated wisdom based on consequences in the past) most of the time and engage in individual calculation only when there is some pressing reason for doing so.

29 Evaluating Utilitarian Ethics

30 Evaluating Actions by Their Consequences (Examples from the trivial to the life determining)
Example: (Not a deep moral issue) Do I eat the donut this morning? Considerations: Long term – at least 500 calories Short term pleasure – burst of sugar in my mouth Will make me sleepy after about 45 min. I love donuts, they make me happy Am I a pig? Other consequences to consider?

31 Triage

32 Medical Triage Example
1) Will die without extraordinary measures 2) Will live- --don’t treat now 3) Might save if they get medical attention Is this a “fair” concept? How do we morally justify letting people die without medical attention? Shouldn’t we be trying to save every human life? How would you feel if you woke up on tent #1? How do we morally explain to the patient in tent #1 they will not see a doctor?

33 Teleological Ethics… …Consequential Principles
Utilitarian Morality: An act is good/bad, right/wrong, depending on the consequences or ends produced by that act If the consequences are good, the act is good. If the consequences are bad, the act is bad. Utilitarianism: Judges the act, not the person Does not consider intentions or motive So, good intentions could produce a “bad” act And “bad” people (with bad intentions) can produce a good act Teleological ethics refers to ethical propositions which are aimed at a certain "end" (telos in Greek, hence "teleology".) They follow an "if...then..." format, like so: If one wants _________, then one should ________. or In order to get __________, one ought to __________. For example, Utilitarian ethical theories specify that the purpose (or end) of moral decisions is "happiness" (identified with pleasure). Thus, in order to maximize happiness, one ought to follow (whatever moral rules one determines using the Utilitarian pleasure-maximizing calculus). The opposite of teleological ethics is deontological ethics, which holds that one ought to do the right thing not for the sake of any goal, but simply because it is the right thing. Kant refers to these two types as hypothetical imperatives and categorical imperatives, respectively (and believes that ethics ought to focus on the latter). So much for good intent!

34 More Thoughts… Isn’t the military the ultimate Utilitarian?
We are willing to sacrifice soldiers to achieve our desired end state? Don’t Utilitarians use some Kantian ethics? …They have good intent! Patriot Act? Value of the individual Equal claim to triage treatment?

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