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Unformatted text preview: ed that, in contradistinction to hedonism, it can explain why we ought to satisfy the wishes of deceased people. ought However, if they want to stick to an interpretation of However, their view which has this implication, they have difficulty in explaining why we should not, when we are old, satisfy preferences or desires we held as young people (concerning old age) that we gave up long ago, now that the time has come to satisfy them. Both hedonism and preferentialism present us with subjectivist notions of welfare. Some have found these 45 notions much too superficial. notions Utilitarianism-Perfectionist Utilitarianism-Perfectionist They have tried to develop a more objectivist notion of They welfare, based on some kind of objective list of properties that can characterize a life worth living. Let me call such notions ‘perfectionist’. Among the items on the perfectionist’s list we find such things as knowledge, close relations, friendship and achievements of various kinds. According to perfectionism, my welfare is increased when I acquire important knowledge or friends, or achieve certain things. things. The American Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick The (1938–2002) is a proponent of perfectionist notion of welfare. welfare. 46 Problems for Utilitarianism Problems There are many technical problems with the various There forms of utilitarianism. How are pleasure and pain to be measured? Which desires are to count? Is knowledge a good in itself? Should we take into account actual or probable effects on happiness? on How do we characterize the possible world which is to How guide us in our selection of rules? These are problems for the theorists themselves, and there has been a great deal said in attempts to resolve them. them. 47 Problems for Utilitarianism Problems The first problem is what we will call the formulation The first problem. We need to decide whether we should do that action which will bring about the greatest good possible— that is, maximize happiness—or whether we should and might ethically settle for making sure there is simply more happiness than misery. there If by expending all my efforts I can produce ten units of happiness and eliminate all units of misery, should I do that, or am I merely obliged to make sure I produce six units of happiness while leaving four units of misery? My mother used to recite the verse “Good, better, best /Never let it rest / Till your good is better / And your better, best.” And 48 Problems for Utilitarianism Problems Mill seems to be saying that you only need to produce Mill more good than misery, whereas the latter-day formulation requires that we do our best and maximize the good. the That becomes an important bone of contention in business. Am I required simply to do minimally what I have agreed to? Or am I obliged to do my best? have A second problem with utilitarian theory is the second distribution problem. The phrase “the greatest good for the greatest number of people” is ambiguous. Are we obliged to bring about the maximum good, or we obliged to affect the maximum number of people? we 49 Problems for Utilitarianism Problems Suppose I had five units of pleasure to distribute to Suppose five people. Let’s make it five pickles. How, according to the formula, should I give them out? The easiest answer seems to be to give each person a pickle. Then supposedly each would get one unit of pleasure and we would have distributed pleasure to the greatest number of people, five. the But suppose two people passionately love pickles and two people don’t care one way or another about pickles. Then wouldn’t it make sense to give the two people who passionately love pickles two apiece? And the two who don’t care none? the 50 Problems for Utilitarianism Problems (A) thus A 2 pickles 2 units of happiness B 2 pickles 2 units of happiness C 1 pickle 1 units of happiness D 0 pickle 0 unit of happiness E 0 pickle 0 unit of happiness Totals 3 recipients 5 units of happiness 51 Problems for Utilitarianism Problems (B) In the case where you distribute equally, you get A 1 pickle 1 unit of happiness B 1 pickle 1 unit of happiness C 1 pickle 1 unit of happiness D 1 pickle 0 unit of happiness E 1 pickle 0 unit of happiness Totals 5 recipients 3 units of happiness Thus, in case B, you distribute to the greatest number of Thus, people but don’t create the greatest amount of happiness, whereas in A, you create the greatest amount of happiness but don’t distribute to the greatest amount of people people 52 Problems for Utilitarianism Problems This is the problem of distributive justice: a problem of This fairness, a problem of how the goods and the burdens of the world are to be distributed. the It is a problem that the utilitarian decision procedures do not resolve well, one that seems better handled by deontologists. One sees this utilitarian justification used in defense of capitalism, because the claim is made that the economic system of capitalism produces the highest standa...
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