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Unit 3: Utilitarianism

Justice and Individual Rights UPF
by

José Luis Martí

on 27 February 2013

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Transcript of Unit 3: Utilitarianism

Is torture justified under some particular circumstances?
The von Mezler case
The terrorist bomb and the Israel SC What about torture Act utilitarianism: unfeasible and implausible

Rule utilitarianism: unstable and then collapses into Act utilitarianism again Act versus Rule utilitarianism And this... With this… Compare this… (1) Is it possible to distinguish preference intensity?
(2) Is there a common currency of value?
Are Bach, Sakespeare and Picasso comparable?
What about Messi’s goals Two problems for (actual or ideal) preference utilitarianism Ideal or objective preference utilitarianism: welfarist (maximizing people’s well-being) or non-welfarist (maximizing other things, such as people’s virtues)

The problems of ideal preference utilitarianism:
What kind of rationalism?
Neutrality and perfectionism Ideal Preference Utilitarianism Preferences can be mistakenly formulated
They can be inconsistent
They can be uninformed
They can be illegitimate (external)
They can be selfish or deeply immoral
They can be adaptive
They can be manipulated, or cultivated Problems with Actual
Preference Utilitarianism Which kind of preferences: the actual or subjective ones or the filtered, ideal or objective ones?
Liberal neutrality versus perfectionism
Democratic utilitarianism: the economic theory of democracy
Problems with the aggregation of preferences: the Arrow’s dilemma Preference Utilitarianism The move from pleasure as a mental state towards propositional pleasure (the mother being satisfied by her daughter's achievements)

But propositional pleasure depends on preferences, so hedonistic utilitarianism becomes preference utilitarianism Hedonistic Utilitarianism The offer: The greatest amount (or balance) of perfect experiences ever dreamed: writing great novels, being a player of Barça football team, driving formula 1 cars, having the perfect partner (or several ones), get a 10 in this course, etc.

The prize to pay: These experiences are fake and the connection is forever. You now know it, but if you connect, you won’t know it anymore

Who of you will connect to the machine forever? The machine’s dilemma Hedonistic utilitarianism: Utility is defined as happiness, and happiness as pleasure (as a mental state)

The right thing to do is the one which maximizes the overall balance of (my or our) pleasure over pain

Problem: the Nozick’s experience machine Hedonistic Utilitarianism (1) Individual versus collective or social utilitarianism
(2) Hedonistic versus preferences utilitarianism
(3) Preferences utilitarianism: subjective or actual versus objective or ideal
(4) Ideal preference utilitarianism: welfarist versus non welfarist utilitarianism
(5) Act versus rule utilitarianism Types of Utilitarianism (1) Naturalism: the goal it promotes does not depend on metaphysical or religious entities, but on natural properties; it is about the human well-being, not about God
(2) Neutrality and egalitarianism: it is neutral regarding the views of the good life and it gives equal weight to everyone’s views
(3) Consequentialism: It is very intuitive, since it makes the rightness of our actions depend solely on their consequences; it is based then on rational cost/benefit calculations Consequentialism: the right thing to do is the one that produces better consequences all things considered

Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism, but not all consequentialisms need to be strict utilitarian

Consequentialism opposes deontological theories (Kant, Rawls, Nozick) Introduction to Utilitarianism The hegemonic theory of justice for a good part of 20th Century (until 1971)

Still very popular: Peter Singer, Richard Hare, James Griffin, John Harsanyi, etc.

And consequentialists such as: Philip Pettit, Amartya Sen, Richard Brandt, Brad Hooker, John Broome, etc. Introduction to Utilitarianism Making a donation (money, food, organs)
Telling a lie
Breaking a promise
Economic policies
Law and economics (i.e., abortion cases) Other examples You receive at the hospital one donated heart
And 10 people in the waiting list…
How do you decide who is getting the heart? How can you order them?
Who needs it more?
Who has more chances to survive?
Who is younger?
Who is more talented?
Who can contribute more to the society?
What about the smokers? And drinkers and bad eaters? The case of organs transplant Now imagine that you are this guy… 182 passengers, no communication is possible
The fighters need 25 minutes to take off and shoot down the plane
Case 1: The plane is approaching NYC, 30 minutes to reach it
Case 2: The plane is still over the Atlantic, 3 hours to reach NYC
What’s the right thing to do? But now it is 2012: consider 2 cases You have this in mind And receive a phone call… Or this one… Imagine you are this guy Founders: Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), James Mill (1773-1836) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

The motto: “The right thing to do is the one that pruduces the greatest net happiness for the members of the society”

The goal is to maximize utility, which is whatever it produces happiness or pleasure, or prevents pain or suffering Introduction to Utilitarianism 2.1. Introduction to utilitarianism

2.2. Types of utilitarianism: hedonism,
preferences, act-utilitarianism, rule-utilitarianism

2.3. Objections Contents 1) When to stop calculations about consequences?

2) The impossibility to get certainty on counterfactual reasoning: the Terminator’s paradox


3) It does not account for the
separability of persons: William’s
example of making experiments

4) It does not honor/respect the idea of rights: the example of the $10 credit General objections to utilitarianism Cognitive dissonance: smoking or safety belts
Jon Elster’s idea of adaptive preference
Examples: economic aspirations, dominated women, dominated groups in general Adaptive preferences
and cognitive dissonance Justice and Fundamental Rights 2012
José Luis Martí
joseplluis.marti@upf.edu Unit 3. Utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham James Mill John Stuart Mill
(1748-1832) (1773-1836) (1806-1873) The Perfect Matrix THE FOUNDERS OF A MOVEMENT The theory's popularity is based on three features: And with this... And this.
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