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Utilitarianism 10/21/2013 4:40:00 PMJeremy Bentham (1748-1832) Act Utilitarianism What makes an actions right/wrong? The Consequences An action is right if it has good consequences(utility) and wrong if it has bad consequences There are two question which any AU needs to answer What is utility( the good)? Whose utility determines rightness/wrongness? Some examples of utility/disutility: Please and pain (Bentham) Happiness and unhappiness (Mill) Preferences and Dispreferences (Singer) Whose utility determines the rightness/wrongness of an act?
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Principle of Utility (POU) An action is right if and only if there is no other action which I could have performed which a) would have produced a greater amount of utility over disutility or b) would haveproduced a smaller about of disutility over utility. How do we determine whether an action maximizes utility or minimizes disutility? Consider all of the people who will affected by the action Suppose that I bop you on the head, grab your iPad, and run Would this action be ethical? Who will be affected by this action? You ( laptop owner) Me Witnesses: probably not
Friends/Family: no Others: no Maximizing Utility Are there any problems with this method? It is not always practical It can be difficult to know what other people will find good/bad. Positive Features of AU It is able to explain why we value moral action Everyone who is capable of feeling falls within the scope of utilitarian ethics It is plausible account It is consistent with much of our actual moral reasoning. Maximizing utility by saving 5 people instead of just the one. Conceptual Problems with AU You are mountain climbing with your best friend and a stranger. You don’t know much about the stranger, but you know that he is very active in charity work—he volunteers in a soup kitchen and does charity. Your friend does not. While you are climbing a rope breaks and you have to choose who to save. You cant save both and if you do nothing, they will both die. AU will chose to save the charity man. Stats will be to chose your friend. Special Duties Problem The duties associated with some occupations may require us to act against utility.