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Chapter 1- Ethical Theories- James Rachels: The Debate over Utilitarianism March 1, 2009

Filed under: itethic — hikaru011 @ 2:52 pm
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Otsuka Hikaru

ITETHIC

Book: Contemporary Moral Problems

Book Review: Chapter 1- Ethical Theories- James Rachels: The Debate over Utilitarianism

Library Reference: N/A

Internet Reference: N/A

Learning Expectation:

  • I expect to learn Hedonism

  • Three propositions of classical utilitarianism

  • Act utilitarianism

  • Rule Utilitarianism

Quote:

“Classical Utilitarianism, the theory defended by Bentham and Mill, can be summarized in three propositions:

1. Actions are judged right or wrong solely in virtue of their consequences. Nothing else matters. Right actions are, simply, those that have best consequences.

2. In assessing consequences, the only thing that matters is the amount of happiness or unhappiness that caused. Everything else is irrelevant.

3. In calculating happiness or unhappiness that will be caused, no one’s happiness is to be counted as more important than anyone else.”

Book Review:

In assessing consequences, the only thing that matters is the amount of happiness or unhappiness that caused. Everything else is irrelevant. Clearly, when we talk about utilitarianism, happiness is the most important thing. Classical Utilitarianism is all about happiness, calculating happiness, etc.

According to the Book, Hedonism is a perennially popular theory that goes back at least as far as ancient Greeks. Hedonism is the belief of a something that if it is good then it will be called, happiness but it misunderstands the meaning of happiness because happiness is not something that is recognized as good and sought for its means of bringing it about. Instead, happiness is a response as goods, independently and in their own right. Utilitarianism says that right actions produce the most good. But is happiness the only thing matters? We know that happiness is the ultimate good. According to utilitarianism, what is pleasurable for us is good and what bring us pain is evil. For example, friendship, we think that friendship is a good thing and so we make friends. Making and having friends makes us happy.

Rule Utilitarianism is actions conform in to the rules that will lead to greater good while an Act Utilitarianism states that the right action is one that will give happiness to a person. Rule utilitarianism focuses on the greatest number of happiness.

Integrative Questions:

  1. What is Rule Utilitarianism?
  2. What is Act Utilitarianism?
  3. What is Hedonism?
  4. Do hedonism misunderstands the meaning of happiness?
  5. Who defended the classical utilitarianism?

What I have learned:

I have learned about Hedonism. Hedonism is said to misunderstand the meaning of happiness. Maybe because when we talk about utilitarianism, all we hear is about happiness, for the greatest happiness, etc.

Review Questions

1. Rachels says that classical utilitarianism can be summed up in three propositions. What are they?

Classical Utilitarianism, the theory defended by Bentham and Mill, can be summarized in three propositions:

4. Actions are judged right or wrong solely in virtue of their consequences

5. In assessing consequences, the only thing that matters is the amount of happiness or unhappiness that caused.

6. In calculating happiness or unhappiness that will be caused , no one’s happiness is to be counted as more important than anyone else.

2. Explain the problem with hedonism. How do defenders of utilitarianism respond to this problem?

Hedonism is a perennially popular theory that goes back at least as far as ancient Greeks. Hedonism is the belief of a something that if it is good then it will be called, happiness but it misunderstands the meaning of happiness because happiness is not something that is recognized as good and sought for its means of bringing it about. Instead, happiness is a response as goods, independently and in their own right.

Defenders of utilitarianism suggest that in order to over ride Hedonism, we must utilize our resources and other good things in order for us to be happy.

3. What are the objections about justice, rights and promises?

The objection for justice is a fair judgment. The objection for rights is not valued especially to racisms on a community, promises are be likely to be broken in promising a fair judgment, and rights are valued.

4. Distinguish between rule- and act- utilitarianism. How does rule- utilitarianism reply to the objections?

Rule Utilitarianism, the new version of Utilitarianism modifies the original theory, Act utilitarianism, so that individual actions will no longer be judged by Principle of Utility. Instead, rules will be established by reference to the rules.

Rule Utilitarianism is actions conform in to the rules that will lead to greater good.

Act Utilitarianism states that the right action is one that will give happiness to a person.

5. What is the third line of defense?

Act-Utilitarianism

Discussion Questions

1. Smart’s defense of utilitarianism is to reject common moral beliefs when they conflict with utilitarianism. Is this acceptable to you or not? Explain your answer.

– No. As a human being, we have moral and common beliefs.

2. A utilitarian is supposed to give moral consideration to all concerned. Who must be considered? What about nonhuman animals? How about lakes and streams?

The one who lacks knowledge in morality should be considered first.

3. Rachels claims that merit should be given moral consideration independent of utility. Do you agree?

Yes.

 

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