Presentation on theme: "Justice Utilitarianism. Basic Insights The purpose of morality is to make the world a better a place. We should do whatever will bring the overall greatest."— Presentation transcript:
Basic Insights The purpose of morality is to make the world a better a place. We should do whatever will bring the overall greatest benefit to the world. Implication: Since the focus is upon making the world a better place, the focus is upon consequences and not intentions.
Prying Apart Consequences and Intentions Two shipments of vaccines have arrived in port. The vaccines of shipment A are all laced with poison. Dr. Evil intends to distribute these vaccines and kill hundreds of children. The vaccines of shipment B are untainted. Dr. Dogood intends to distribute these vaccines, so as to minimize the spread of a disease expected to kill hundreds of children if not vaccinated. The shipments were mixed up, however. Dr. Dogood distributes A-vaccines, while Dr. Evil distributes B-vaccines. Who made the world a better place? Dr. Evil or Dr. Dogood?
Utilitarianism Is A Morally Demanding Position It requires us to increase and not decrease overall happiness On top of that, it requires us to do the most we can to increase overall happiness and to prevent decreases in overall happiness It requires us not to give our own interests greater priority in the calculation of overall happiness than the interests of any other individual.
Utilitarianism Is Deeply Serious About Moral Progress In THIS World If we can agree that the purpose of morality is to make the world a better place; and If we can rigorously assess various possible courses of action to determine which will have the greatest positive effect on the world; then We can provide a rigorous answer to the question of what we ought to do.
Act Utilitarian Method 1.Identify conflicting values, obligations 2.Determine alternate courses of action 3.Determine relevant audience 4.Determine consequences of each alternative act for every person in the audience 5.Select the act that maximizes happiness (minimizes unhappiness)
Case 1: County Road Kevin is the engineering manager for the county road commission. He must decide what to do about Forest Drive, a local, narrow, two-lane road. For each of the past 7 years, at least one person has suffered a fatal automobile accident by crashing into trees, which grow close to the road. Many other accidents have also occurred, causing serious injuries, wrecked cars, and damaged trees. Kevin is considering widening the road. Thirty trees will have to be cut down for him to do this. Kevin is already receiving protests from local citizens who want to protect the beauty and ecological intergrity of the area. Should Kevin widen the road or not?
Act Utilitarian Analysis of Case 1 1.Conflicting values: Public Health and safety Beauty of and ecological integrity 2.Alternative actions: Widen the road Don’t widen the road 3.Determine relevant audience: 65,000 users of the road, families and friends of accident victims, county taxpayers.
Act Utilitarian Analysis of Case 1 (cont.) 4.Consequences of alternative actions a. Widening the road Save 1 life, 2 serious, 5 minor injuries per year 250 friends of potential victims not unhappy Avoid lawsuits against county (risk of millions in penalties) Spend $1,000,000 on construction 65,000 users lose aesthetic pleasure Lose 30 trees b.Not widening the road Reverse of a. 4.Consequences of a are better than b. Therefore, Kevin is morally obligated to widen the road.
How do you measure happiness? Bentham’s answer. For a pleasure or pain, look at: 1.Its intensity 2.Its duration 3.Its certainty or uncertainty 4.Its propinquity or remoteness 5.Its fecundity 6.Its purity 7.Its extent
Presupposes a common currency of value Everyone’s preferences count equally. We thus need to aggregate preferences. To aggregate preferences we need to measure preferences on a single scale.
Suppose you were forced to choose one of the following. Which would you choose? 1.Have an upper front tooth pulled out. 2.Have a pinkie toe cut off. 3.Eat a worm. 4.Choke a stray cat to death with your bare hands. 5.Live the rest of your life on a farm in Kansas.
Edward Thorndike 1930s social psychologist. Tried to prove what the utilitarian assumes: there is a common currency of value. Here’s what he found: Tooth $4500 Toe$57,000 Worm$100,000 Cat$10,000 Kansas$300,000
Information about consequences is not always available. ▫Do your research ▫Sometimes you have to make reasonable sincere guesses ▫Utilitarianism is a cognitively demanding moral theory.
Who counts as part of the audience? ▫Future generations? ▫Animals?
Bentham: “The day has been, I am sad to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated by the law exactly upon the same footing, as, in England for example, the inferior races of animals are still. The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognised that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog, is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”
Distribution of happiness seems to matter, not just total happiness. ▫Does it?
Resort Society 1,000 people 100 are workers; the rest are free to do whatever they wish The workers provide for the needs of the entire society They are poor and unhappy Suppose the workers each have 1 unit of utility; the rest each have 90 units of utility. The average utility is 81.1 Commune Society 1,000 people at any given time there are 100 workers; the rest are free to do whatever they wish The workers provide for the needs of the rest of the society There is a rotation scheme, such that everyone takes a fair turn at being a worker. Everyone has the same utility, say, 45 units each
Which society do you think is more just? 1.Resort Society 2.Commune Society
Which society would a utilitarian say is more just? 1.Resort Society 2.Commune Society
Which society would you choose? 1.Resort Society 2.Commune Society
Repoll: Which society would you choose? 1.Resort Society 2.Commune Society
Act Utilitarianism seems to have problems capturing some of our strong moral intuitions—fairness, justice, inviolable rights. ▫Maybe so. ▫John Stuart Mill takes this problem very seriously and attempts to show that utilitarianism can indeed capture these intuitions.