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Lecture 2 - PHL 116 ine which DutymoreConflict of Prima...

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To Self: Duty not to commit suicide, duty not to get drunk Others: Duty not to kill, Duty not to lie, Duty to keep promises To Self: Duty to develop one’s talents cence – helping to better the condition of other human beings through instruction Conflict of Prima Facie Actual Duty mine which duty is more stringent or has more weight with 2 weighting principles PHL 116 Bioethics Lecture 2 I. Ethical Theories In all facets of life we are forced to make decisions that have moral implications. Situations arise frequently that prompt us to ask ourselves: “What is the right or moral thing to do?” Ethical theories provide a philosophical framework for generating principles and articulating guidelines for good conduct or right action. Ideally, any ethical theory ought to: 1.) provide guidance or aide in making moral decisions 2.) be reconcilable with our moral intuitions However, moral theories rarely satisfy both criteria in all cases of their application. While all moral theories provide guidance or aide in making moral decisions, in certain contexts or situations, a given moral theory might prescribe actions that are radically in conflict with a person’s intuitions. Here we will consider 3 such theories. II. Utilitarianism (Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)) The ethical theory Utilitarianism was formulated originally by the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham in his philosophical treatise, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789). According to Bentham, “pleasure is the only good, pain the only evil” and “any action ought to be taken only if it tends to augment the happiness or pleasure of everyone affected.” Bentham listed the following as examples of pleasures: (1) pleasures of the senses (taste, smell or touch), (2) pleasures of acquiring property, (3) the pleasure of knowing one has the goodwill of others. Another formulation of Utilitarianism was offered by the Scottish-born philosopher John Stuart Mill in his philosophical paper by the same name (1861). Mill agreed with Bentham that the principle of utility at the heart of utilitarianism is the basic moral norm, that is, that an action is right provided it maximizes human welfare. Mill proposed the following two-step argument for upholding utility: (1) Since people only seek pleasure, it would be pointless to tell them that they ought to do otherwise, for they will always do this. (2) Since each person seeks pleasure for him/herself, then the general good is what we are all aiming for (and, likewise, so, in line with utilitarianism, we ought to act so as to bring about the general good. Utilitarianism is typically divided into at least 2 different forms: (1) Act Utilitarianism and (2) Rule Utilitarianism . A. Act Utilitarianism According to Act Utilitarianism , the right action is that action out of the actions available to an agent that will bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of persons. Therefore, the basic prescription of utilitarianism is: Always act so as to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number. (This is known
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