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AS Ethics: Utilitarianism

Sarah Priddey

on 23 May 2011

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Transcript of Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism Bentham Mill Singer Strenghts Weakneses Jeremy John Stuart Peter Activity:
Devise a snakes and ladders game on Benthams theory of Utilitarianism or you could plan a game involving cards with questions or situations requiring Utilitarian solutions For Debate:

"The only good is pleasure, the only evil is pain"

Do you consider this to be a valid statement?
How useful would it be as a method of measuring actions? Activity:
Choose 2 different activities (eg. having a tattoo or studying for your A-Levels) and apply Bentham's Hedonic Calculus to them.
How useful is it as a measure?
Is that the outcome you agree with? Stretch and Challenge:

"It is vain to talk of the intrests of the community, without understanding what is the intrest of the individual"

How could Bentham use Utilitarian ethics to create laws? It's straightforward and based on the single principle of minimising pain and maximising pleasure and happiness. A system which aims to create happier life for individuals and groups is attractive Provides a clear mathematical method of deciding any course of action by balancing pleasure and pain It a popular approach to ethics as people do seek pleasure and avoid pain It relates to actions which can be observed in the real world Popular and Straightforward W all know that giving to charity is good and that cruelty is bad, utilitarianism rewards charitable giving and condems cruelty Teleological It's consequentialism is also a strength, as when we act it is only natural to weigh up the consequences. Universal Utilitariamism's acceptance of the universal principle (the greatest good for hte greatest number) is essential for any ethical system. It is important to go beyond your own personal point of view The idea of promoting the well-being of the greatest number is also important This is the basis of the national heath care system. Care is provided to improve the health of the populationand if more money is spent on the heath service, people are healthier and therefore happier The Impartial Observer Preference Utilitarianism also gives us the valuable principle of being an impartial observer. "Standing in someone else's shoes"
RM Hare It is important to think about others's intrests or prefernces as long as one also includes behaving justly Inaccurate prediction of consequences Ignores duty Advocates injustice Emphasises pleasure Ignores intentions Ignores individuals and minorities It is good to consider the consequences, but as with any teleological ethical theory it is difficult to predict the consequences with any accuracy based on consequences An act may be right or wrong for reasons other than the amount of good or evil that it produces. The Dying Millionaire The millionaire asks his friend to swear that on his death bed he will ensure all his assets are left to his local football club. Soon after the millionaire dies. The friend, whilst arranging the transfer of the money sees an advert on the TV that calls for money to save 1, 000, 000 people who are dying of starvation.

Should he keep his promise or save 1, 000, 000 people?
Should promises be kept, the truth and obligations honoured? WD Ross thought that the role of duty was important and advocated the acceptance of prima facie duties, duties that are self evident.

For example;
harm prevention
self improvement
respect for freedom
gratitude for example if you are carrying a heavy load through and someone holds open a door for you, it is self evident that you say thank you The end justifies the means Utilitarianism justifies anything to happen so long as there is a good outcome. Surely there as some things that are simply bad regarless of the results they produce The innocent man that is unjustly imprisoned framed for murder to prevent riots During WWII the Nazi's carried out many experiments of the Jewish people. Amongst other things this involved;
Experimentations to find out how the human body reacted to freezing cold temperatures in order to combat hypotherapy
Giving healthy people malaria to test the effectiveness of a cure
Forcing Jews to drink only sea water, in order to discover a way to make sea water drinkable
Poisoning Jews to test the effectivness of various poisons
Jews being subject to low pressure simluations to mimic the conditions that pilots experience at high altitude when ejecting from planes

All these experiments produced good outcomes, the nazi's and then the rest of the world discovered many useful ideas. Many would argue however that these experiements are cruel, inhumane and should not be carried out regardless of how beneficial the result are the majority of society Origins in Hedonism Ancient Greek Philosophy Epicurus thought that pleasure was the main aim of life Pleasure for the individual Therefore the most good act would be that which gave you the most amount of pleasure Teleological Democracy Hedonic Calculus Principle of Utility Pleasure Tasks:
Why might the fact that we aren't always able to predict the future be a problem for utilitarianism? Give an example
Suggest examples of pains that are good and pleasures that are bad. How do they cause difficulties for Bentham's theory?
Is honesty intrinsically good (is honesty good for honesty's sake) or instrumentally good (good because it can lead to good results)?
Why might a critic of Utilitarianism argue that the theory doesn't protect the intrests of minority groups?
One contemporary Utilitarian, Peter Singer, goes as far as to consider animal in the equation, the greatest good for the greatest number. When making moral decisions, should you include the happiness and the well-being of non-humans? Justify your views.
Why does Benthams theory pose a problem for those who believe we have a special obligation for certain people (parents, family and so on?)
Sadistic guards tortue a wrongly imprisoned innocent man. What difficulty does this example pose for Bentham' theory. The Hedonic Calculus weighs up the pain and pleasure generated by the available moral actions to find the best option. It considers 7 factors The PURITY of the plesure (Is there likely to be pain mixed with pleasure?)
How near is the pleasure to you? (REMOTENESS)
How WIDESPREAD will the pleasure be?
The DURATION of the pleasure
The INTENSITY of the pleasure
What is the CERTAINTY that the pleasure will result?
How CONTINUOUS is the pleasure? "Nature has placed mankind under two soverign 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" Higher and Lower Pleasures Quality not Quantity Happiness Rule Utilitarianism Preferences Minimising Suffering Minority groups Bentham believed that all human beings pursued pleasure and sought to avoid pain. He saw this as a moral fact, as pleasure and pain identified what we should and should not do. The rightness or wrongness of an action can be determined by it's utility or its usefulness By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendancy which it appears to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question; or, what is the same thing in other words, to promote or to oppose that happiness. I say of every action whatsoever; and therefore not, only of every action of a private individual, but of every measure of government 'An action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number' where good is pleasure and the greatest number is the majority of society Good therefore is the maximisation of pleasure and the minimisation of pain The pleasure is not for one person alone, but for the majority of society Allows us to calculate pleasure, which is measured in hedons, and pain, in dolars. As it deals with quantities it is known as a 'quantitive theory' For Discussion:
Suppose a rape is committed that is thought to be racially motivated. Riots are brewing that may result in many deaths and long term racial antagonism. You are the police chief and have recently taken a man into custody. Why not frame him? He will be imprisoned if found guilty and this will result in peace and safety. Only you the innocent man and the real rapist (who will keep it quiet), will know the truth. The balance of pleasures and pains is compared with that of other options and the best result is determined. The action that lead to the most pleasurable consequences is the morally correct one to pursue. Pleasure has intrinsic value It is valuable in itself, not because it leads to something else Criticisms of Benthams Utilitarianism
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