Mill Revised - SAM BLACK, PHIL. 120: Utilitarianism I....

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SAM BLACK, PHIL. 120: Utilitarianism I. Definition Utilitarianism: An act, rule or principle is right , if it promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of persons (or perhaps sentient beings). Lectures on Utilitarianism are divided into two topics: 1) Theories of intrinsic value or the “good for a person” that figures in the “greatest good for the greatest number” forumula (2 lectures: 1 overview of theories of a person’s good and 1 in-depth discussion of Mill’s theory of a person’s good). 2) Theories of the right that define “right action” as the actions that cause the greatest good for the greatest number (2 lectures). II. A Quick Overview of Different Conceptions of Happiness, the Good Life, or “Intrinsic Value” (Values are instrinsic if they are valuable for their own sake, rather than being valuable in virtue of being a means to something else) These theories provide different account of the “good for a person” that could be slotted into the utilitarian formula: promote the greatest good for the greatest number (the utility calculus). We will pinpoint the location of Mill’s theory of ‘higher pleasures’. Desire (or preference) satisfaction theories of a 1
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person’s good Def : A person is happy the greater the quantity of satisfied desires they have. ‘Actual’ desire theories specify that the relevant satisfied desires are the wants a person actually has at any given time. Examples: Thomas Hobbes Hobbes: “whatsoever a man desireth it is that which he calleth good”. The Case for Desire Theories of Good: If a person is asked, ‘What should other people do if they want to help you?’ they often answer, ‘Help me to get what I want!”. Some problems for desire theories of the good: i) Misinformed desires: Ex: Imagine your last partner (the creep). Does your life go better in virtue of having satisfied your desire to date him or her? Desire theorists may reply that the desires that serve as the measure of good must be informed desires rather than a person’s actual desires. ii) Time-Sensitive Desires: I have very intense desires at 5 years old for me to spend the rest of my life watching Sesame Street and marrying the girl next door. Would I really be better off over the course of my life if other people tried to ensure that those “now for then” desires were satisfied? (It is possible that the “now for then” 2
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desires are more intense than my “now for now” desires.) a. The stipulation that the desires in question be ‘informed desires’ may fail to resolve the problem. Even if I learned at 5 years old that my desires would change as I grew older I may still desires now for my ‘older self’ that he watch lots of TV and live in the same house as his parents, and marry the girl next door. b. Priorities can change among adults as well.
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This note was uploaded on 07/15/2010 for the course PHIL 120 taught by Professor Evantiffany during the Spring '08 term at Simon Fraser.

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Mill Revised - SAM BLACK, PHIL. 120: Utilitarianism I....

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