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Utilitarianism and Deontology

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Chris Martin

on 6 September 2018

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Transcript of Utilitarianism and Deontology

PFP 1061: Ethics
Utilitarianism, Kant's Deontology, and Arendt's Banality of Evil
Deontology = Rule-based ethics
Kant Explained
Think that Lying is Sometimes Ethical?
But what does it Add up to? Could Kant have Helped?
It takes Strauss years of meaningless sexual pursuits in the name of picking up women (not to mention over 400 pages in his book) to come to the same conclusion Kant would have come to at the beginning: "How could something be good that's based on a false reality and a learned behavior?"
Hannah Arendt
German-American writer and philosopher who wrote many influential works including her controversial,

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963)
What is meant when Arendt speaks of...
The Banality of Evil
Class discussion
German Philosopher, Immanuel kant , is known for his work on ethics, aesthetics, and questions of metaphysics
He suggested that humans have a sense of practical reason and this reason alone should persuade us to obey a set of moral rules and laws. Kant provided a
Categorical Imperative
(a set of maxims that should always allow one to calculate the best way to act for themselves to be seen as ethical) to take away doubt that he had cracked secret to morality.
Kant's Categorical Imperative which make up his deontological ethics includes rules (or maxims) like :
"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."
Reference: Kant, Immanuel (1993) [1785]. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. Translated by Ellington, James W. (3rd ed.). Hackett. p. 30
You must not lie.
For if you follow your duties you will always be ethical....
If it were a universal law that lying is acceptable, everyone could lie whenever they wanted to with no consequence or guilt. Would this be a good thing? If your answer is no, then, according to Kant, lying is always unethical as you would have to make an exception in the rules for yourself.
Maybe it is. But often people make up their own rules and forget to question their motivations.
In this lewd, crude, and often rude New York Times Bestselling book about pickup artists, Strauss (or under his pseudonym, "Style"), learns how to pick up women from groups of expert "pickup artists"
"It was no longer necessary to deceive women by telling her I wanted a relationship when I just wanted to get laid...one morning, she asks how many women you've been with. This is the only time you're allowed to lie."
"We were all searching outside ourselves for our missing pieces, and we were all looking in the wrong direction. Instead of finding ourselves, we'd lost our sense of self, a blonde 10 in a two-set didn't have the answers. The answers were to be found within."
An excerpt from her famous book (1963: 287)
...For when I speak of the banality of evil, I do so only on the strictly factual level, pointing to a phenomenon which stared one in the face at the trial. Eichmann was not lago and not Macbeth, and nothing would have been farther from his mind than to determine with Richard III "to prove a villain." Except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement, he had no motives at all. And this diligence in itself was in no way criminal; he certainly would never have murdered his superior in order to inherit his post. He merely, to put the matter colloquially, never realized what he was doing. It was precisely this lack of imagination which enabled him to sit for months on end facing a German Jew who was conducting the police interrogation, pouring out his heart to the man and explaining again and again how it was that he reached only the rank of lieutenant colonel in the S.S. and that it had not been his fault that he was not promoted. In principle he knew quite well what it was all about, and in his final statement to the court he spoke of the "revaluation of values prescribed by the [Nazi] government." He was not stupid. It was sheer thoughtlessness - something by no means identical with stupidity - that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of that period. And if this is "banal" and even funny, if with the best will in the world one cannot extract any diabolical or demonic profundity from Eichmann, that is still far from calling it commonplace

1. How can the banality of evil help explain the "Bystander Effect" or the phenomenon in which individuals in the presence of others will be less likely to help someone in distress (someone else will do it or should)
Arendt, a well known intellectual and Jewish philosopher was tasked in 1962 by
the New Yorker
with covering the famous trial of Adolf Eichmann.

Eichmann, a high ranking Nazi and architect of the holocaust fled to Argentina after WW2 and lived there until he was captured and tried in the early '60's.

The collected essays she wrote were later put together to be one of the most pressing and controversial books of the 20th century. Exposing how evil is in the everyday and in our failures to think otherwise from "just doing our job"
Zygmunt Bauman in his work,
Moral Blindness
(2013: 23), writes "how safe and comfortable, cosy and friendly the world would feel if it were monsters and only monsters who perpetrated monstrous deeds
Jeremy Bentham (Founder)
John Stuart Mill ( well known proponent and student of Bentham)
Greatest good for the greater number of people provides the utility of maximum happiness with minimum sorrow.
Interested in defining right vs. wrong by measuring the consequences of actions and how much good they produce for people versus how much bad they produce.
Utilitarianism is a consequential theory of ethics.
This means it is only interested in the
of an act, not the
Example: Imagine two men on a raft lost out at sea. One a surgeon and the other a beggar.

The raft will only continue to stay afloat with one occupant. If the doctor is of a utilitarian mindset, he may push the beggar into the water to his death and still feel good about the consequences of this choice. He will surely go on to provide more "good" for a larger number of people than the beggar will ever do...
Ethical dilemmas crave context and context involves social constructions.
In other words, utilitarianist theories are too individualistic.
Who defines the greatest good? Greatest for Whom!?
The Classic Trolley Example
Since utilitarian and Kant's theories have fundamental flaws in defining how to act ethical with certainty.

Let's now talk about the danger of doing nothing. This can be just as bad as doing something that may or may not be ethical.
Doing Nothing is Unethical
Fun activity link
While speaking to the police Eichmann always claimed his actions could not have been unethical because he followed the categorical imperative as it was set out by Kant. He did his duty, followed the law, and did not lie....
(Click the picture to watch)
(Click text to enlarge)
2.What would Kant or Bentham/Mill's ethics have us do in this situation?
Full transcript