Utilitarianism Intro

Utilitarianism Intro - Page 1 of 5 Classical Utilitarianism...

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Page 1 of 6 Classical Utilitarianism Utilitarianism – approaching questions of right and wrong by considering the consequences of our actions. Two influential utilitarianism proponents: Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. 1. Utilitarianism Characterized Value-based moral theories: considerations of value are prior to considerations of right and are the basis for a theory of right conduct. Utilitarianism represents a version of consequentialism because it makes the rightness of an action depend entirely on fact about the values of consequences of actions. Utilitarianism makes specific claims about: 1. How actions are related to their consequences in determining their rightness. Utilitarianism involves a maximizing conception of right action: right actions would produce the greatest amount of value. The theory directs us to maximize the good; actions that do so are right, those that don’t are wrong. 2. Which kinds of valuable consequences count morally. Utilitarian consequences have to do with the welfare of individuals (people and maybe other sentient creatures.) The goodness or badness of the consequences of our actions in relation to the welfare of individuals determines the rightness or wrongness of an action. Utilitarianism accepts welfarism – the view that the only kind of value that is of fundamental relevance for ethical evaluation is welfare. 3. The scope of concern regarding such consequences. Ut. Theory is universalist and impartialist with regard to the issue of whose welfare counts. It is universalist since the values of the consequences of our actions on all individuals who will be affected by them are counted as morally relevant. Ut. Theory rules out special weighting; it is impartialist: every individual whose welfare will be affected in some way by one’s action is to count equally. Thus, the deontic status of an action is determined solely by how much value the action would produce. “Utility” refers to the values of the consequences of actions, more specifically, the net value of the consequences of actions. An action can have both good and bad effects upon the welfare of individuals. If all courses of action have negative utility, we follow the one with the least negative utility (most utility.) Theory of Right Conduct for Ut. An action A is obligatory if and only if A has a higher utility than any other alternative action that the agent could perform instead. An action A is wrong if and only if A has less utility than some other alternative action that the agent could perform instead. An action A is optional if and only if (i) A has as high a utility as any other alternative action that the agent could perform instead, but (ii) there is at least one other alternative action that has as high a utility as A. (In other words, an action is optional if and only if in terms of utility production it is tied for first place with at least one other action.) Generic principle of utility
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This note was uploaded on 05/03/2008 for the course PHIL 107 taught by Professor Kaplan during the Spring '07 term at North Texas.

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Utilitarianism Intro - Page 1 of 5 Classical Utilitarianism...

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