Monday 10/8

Utilitarianism II

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Synopsis

We began today by applying Classical Utilitarianism to a specific, practical case. The point of these sorts of applications is to help us understand the commitments of these theories while working out procedures for their application. In this case we used a Utility Chart to discover that it is permissible to break ones promises should doing so promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number, considered equally.

Having thought about how the theory bears on its application, we considered the various properties of Classical Utilitarianism must have. We further argued that CU's assumption that happiness is the sole intrinsic good (eudaimonism) may be problematic, since it can be argued that happiness is not the sole intrinsic good. Indeed, it would seem that such things as honor and friendship are also intrinsic goods given our arguments. Responding to this objection often consists of changing the measure of utility. If happiness is not the sole intrinsic good, then we reject happiness as the measure of utility. Possible alternative measures are pleasure (hedonism), kinds of pleasure (qualified hedonism), best interests (idealism), or preferences (preferentialism). By changing how they measure utility, the utilitarian is able to meet the criticism that happiness is not the sole intrinsic good by developing what amount to alternative utilitarian ethical theories to CU. Utilitarianism thus shows us that the idea of utility is rich indeed.

The very notion that consequences are all that matters for morality may, however, pose problems the utilitarian, who cannot give up consequentialism without abandoning utilitarianism altogether, cannot escape. We take up this question next time after Quiz III.