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TOK Utilitarianism's Perspective on Morality

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Haley Just

on 14 June 2013

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Transcript of TOK Utilitarianism's Perspective on Morality

Theory of Knowledge
Perspectives on Morality
UTILITARIANISM
Utilitarianism:
"An ethical philosophy in which the happiness of the greatest number of people in the society is considered the greatest good" ("Oxford," 2013).
in short:
an individual's one moral duty is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain
meaning:
if the consequence to your action does not benefit the majority, the action was not morally just
TOK Diagram
Reason
Emotion
Ethics
History
is the utilitarian perspective on morality truly moral?
Knowledge Question:
Situation 1: The Man
Situation 2: The Villain
The Trolley Problem
Person A can take an action which would benefit many people but, in doing so, person B would be harmed
A trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people who are tied down and thus unable to escape. You stand on a bridge under which the trolley will pass, and you know, if you had a heavy weight to drop in front of it, you could stop the trolley and save the people.
As it happens, there is a larger man also on the bridge. You know you could easily push him down to stop the trolley.
Do you act?
A trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people who are tied down and thus unable to escape. You stand on a bridge under which the trolley will pass, and you know, if you had a heavy weight to drop in front of it, you could stop the trolley and save the people.
As it happens, the larger man on the bridge next to you is the one who tied the people up on the tracks. You know you could easily push him down to stop the trolley.
Do you act?
Situation 3: The Loop Variant
A trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people who are tied down and thus unable to escape. You stand some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. You know pulling the lever would switch the trolley to another track and save the people.
As it happens, you notice a man walking along the other track - because it is never in use. You know diverting the trolley to that track would kill him.
Do you act?
The Doctrine of Negative Responsibility
we are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of the choices we make
sometimes we choose to act, other times we do not. Either way, each has consequences
we are just as responsible for the foreseeable consequences we fail to prevent as for those that we bring out directly
WWUD
(What Would a Utilitarian Do?)
Situation 1: The Man

Situation 2: The Villain

Situation 3: The Loop Variant
ACT
ACT
ACT
Mr. Spock proves he thinks through a Utilitarian perspective
The best defense would be:
"I could not have prevented it"
"I didn't do it"
is not necessarily a good defense
Meaning:
by sacrificing himself for his team
the founder of modern Utilitarianism
Jeremy Bentham
"it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right or wrong"
advocated individual & economic freedom,
freedom of expression, equal rights for women, decriminalizing of homosexual acts and animal rights
(1748 - 1842)
emphasized that Utilitarianism was an egalitarian doctrine
everyone's happiness counts equally
Example of Utilitarianism in History
In 1945, WWII :
His sacrifice

is portrayed to the audience as heroic and moral
Japanese were prepared to fight until death

They still had 4 000 000 troops & 4800 kamikaze pilots

If war went on for another year, 1 000 000 more casualties could be expected
dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima
based on a Utilitarian belief
President Harry Truman
CONCLUSION
Utilitarians believe their actions are morally just

Non utilitarians may believe that those actions are not
I believe

utilitarianism sounds nice
but not necessarily realistic

and entirely depends on the circumstances
Full transcript