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Moreover, there would be a fact of the matter concerning what promotes the greatest good for the greatest number that is independent of what we, or anyone else, happen to believe about what actions are right and wrong, and what things are good and bad; i.e., there would be an objective standard for moral judgments.
P2-Introduction to Challenges for ConsequentialismBefore we get too carried away with the solutions Utilitarianism might appear to provide, we should pause to consider what we were forced to do in order to apply the method. If applying the method brings with it a set of challenges that are at least as difficult to respond to as the challenges faced by virtue theorists, we might be careful about how quick we are to accept utilitarianism as a viable alternative. I’m sure many of you spotted some potential problems as we went through the process.The long and the short of the challenges appears to be that, as much as we might like it to, Utilitarianism does not actually provide us with a rational decision procedurefor ensuring that the action we perform is the ethically right action. There are simply too many unknowns and too many questions concerning our assignments of values to think that we have a universal formula that we can simply plug the particular facts into to come up with an objective answer in all and any given cases.These difficulties in application may not turn out to be the most serious challenges faced by supporters of the view, however. Granting that neither virtue theories nor Utilitarianism can provide a rational decision procedurefor ethical action, we might still be prone to think that Utilitarianism provides a satisfactory—or at least a more satisfactory—theoretical account of what it is that makes actions ethical. Two other challenges that are often leveled at the theory itself might bring this conclusion into question.The first challenge relates to the way Utilitarianism considers ends and means. The view that the ends justify themeansleads to some counter-intuitive implications concerning moral action. The view that pleasure is the only intrinsic good leads to some others. The second challenge relates to what the theory requires of us in order to satisfy the demands of morality. The moral imperative to optimize the good means there are really only two categories of action: morally required actions and morally prohibited actions. The insistence on impartiality alsocreates some tensions with our intuitions concerning duties to particular others (like children, parents, spouses, and friends). In each of these cases, there are some fairly strong intuitions concerning morality that the utilitarian claims we should give up. Whether or not we find ourselves willing to do that will likely be a central factor in our own willingness to accept the theory.