Lecture 3 Outline

Lecture 3 Outline - Act Utilitarianism & Rule...

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Utilitarianism Lecture 3 Summer School PHIL 102 1 Act Utilitarianism An act is right if the action, itself, maximises happiness The principle of utility is applied directly to all our acts on a case by case basis In each situation, the right choice is the one that produces more overall happiness in the world than any of the other options. All of the other choices in the situation are wrong NOTE: Given that the effects of actions are typically probabilistic , the consequences of an action must be understood as specifying the probability of various states of affairs 2 Act Utilitarian Case Study Angela (17 year old, unmarried, pregnant, middle-class Act UT) 1. abort fetus 2. give child up for adoption 3. keep the child What should she do (as an Act UT)? List people who will be affected by decision Determine the number (and kind) of pleasure each option will (most likely) produce for each person Add results Choose option that (is most likely to) produce most units of pleasure 3 Act Utilitarianism Strengths: 1. Provides a clear method for determining what each person should do in each situation 2. Everyone’s pleasure or interest counts equally 3. Future pleasure, even of those who not yet exist, counts just as much as present pleasure 4. Morality of act turns on future consequences of the act (not past causes). Is forward looking 5. Morality of act turns on expected consequences of the act rather than actual consequences 4 Act Utilitarianism Objection: Unworkable (we can’t calculate the consequences each time we make a choice) Why not? 1. If in±nitely many choices are possible in a situation, then ±nding the choice that maximises happiness is impossible 2. Necessary information is not available 3. Can’t tell what the long term consequences of actions will be 4. Have to consider counterfactuals (what would have happened if we had acted otherwise) and can’t tell what they are How might a Utilitarian respond to this objection? 5
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Lecture 3 Outline - Act Utilitarianism & Rule...

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