Unformatted text preview: Lengbeyer NE203 Utilitarianism handout 09/2009 CONSEQUENTIALIST REASONING: UTILITARIANISM o RIGHT ACTION = whatever MAXIMIZES the GOOD (true of all ‘consequentialist’ theories) 0 in Utilitarianism, the GOOD = experiencing of happiness = pleasure minus pain How to do it right 0 maximize the sum total of happiness, NOT the # of people who beneﬁt (it’s not ‘majority rule’!) 0 consider all the options, NOT only the obvious ones 0 consider all the consequences—NOT only the shortuterm, direct ones-—for all affected parties (maybe
even animals, too, since they can experience pleasure & pain?) 0 consider all the different kinds of pleasures 8: pains (of body + of higher faculties) o calculations need NOT be precise, quantitative
we do them informally all the time, often w/o even realizing it; certainty is NOT required 0 weigh consequences impartially, unselﬁshly, treating everyone’s happiness & suffering equally——
particular identities of those affected don’t matter, Util is NOT self-oriented, or nation-oriented o evaluate acts (using the utility principle; here. intentions are irrelevant) differently from how evaluate
actors (here intentions are relevant, even for Utilitarian—ASK: Did this
actor make diligent, careful efforts to choose the happiness-maximizing act?) l What about our familiar moral rules? I 0 traditional moral rules (don't lie, cheat, steal, kill, ...) have no inherent, direct importance, and should
be violated whenever that would enhance overall long-run world happiness -> BUT they serve as helpful,
convenient rules of thumb because they guide behavior in directions that are generally utility-maximizing.
(They save us from needing always to calculate, & from the calculation errorslbiases to which we're prone.) ' Major objections to the theory I - It’s demanding, a difﬁcult standard for living: ignores our Special ties to ourselves, our personal projects,
loved ones, countries——demands sacriﬁce for beneﬁt of others, strangers. ls it too demanding to be correct? Act Utilitarianism vs Rule Utilitarianism I The latter takes a broader viewpoint (it has us ask, Does this particular action conform to a general policy ...
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- Spring '09