Chapter 10_Consequentialism-Its Difficulties - Chapter 10...

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Chapter 10: Consequentialism – Its Difficulties
[Measuring Well-Being] According to utilitarianism, we are morally required to maximize overall well-being. This means that, in order to know whether a given action is morally required, we must do four things: (1) Add up all of the benefits it produces. (2) Add up all of the harm it causes. (3) Determine the overall well-being of the action by subtracting the total harm from the total benefit. (4) Compare the action’s overall well-being with the overall well-being that other available action produces. In short, we need to know how to measure well-
Question: Is measurement of well-being possible? .
(The Argument from Value Measurement) P1: Utilitarianism is plausible only if there is a precise unit of measurement that can determine the value of an actions results. P2: There is no such unit of measurement. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- C: Therefore, utilitarianism is implausible. It is hard to deny P2. : A precise unit that could measure happiness or well-being does not seem to be realistically possible.
So, utilitarians must reject P1. How? The absence of precise measurement does not imply that we cannot compare the overall benefits of different actions. There are clear cases where some actions create more overall benefit than others, even though there is no precise way to quantify these benefits. For instance, a philanthropic doctor who provides free medical care for those who are sick and poor is clearly producing more overall good than another doctor who spends his/her free time horse gambling.
If most of our practical moral problems are like this, then utilitarianism could be a very workable ethical theory. For every moral problem, we would be able to determine which action produces the best overall net happiness, and, choose it, as utilitarianism requires. The problem is that not every moral problem will be this simple. In many cases, we will not be able to determine which action will produce the best overall net happiness. To the extent that this is so, utilitarianism will be unable to tell us what we are morally required to do. This means that utilitarianism has lost one of its
[Utilitarianism Is Very Demanding] There are three areas for which utilitarianism is regarded as demanding too much.

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