Monday 7/22

Utilitarianism II

Due to the campus-wide power outage we had Thursday and the resulting class cancellation, we will follow Thursday's schedule today. As before,

Examination II

Remember that we have the second of our five in-class examinations today. At 100 points, this one is worth twice as much as the first exam, so the stakes are somewhat higher. In lieu of a practice exam, expect the second exam to be approximately as long as the first one, have about the same mix of kinds of questions, but to focus on:

  • All of Divine Command Theory;
  • All of Natural Law Theory;
  • Most of Utilitarianism, up to but not including what we discuss today;
  • Case Analysis under moral theology (Divine Command Theory and Natural Law Theory); and,
  • Act-Utilitarian Case Analysis.





We began today by reviewed the various properties of Classical Utilitarianiasm. We further noted 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), 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.

That is, CU assumes that consequences are all that can be used to determine the morality of an action. Yet this is problematic because it gives rise to the Justice, Rights, and Backward-Looking Reasons arguments. The utilitarian response cannot be to jettison consequentialism, since that would be to give up on the very idea of UET.

It is important to understand the Justice, Rights, and Backward-Looking Reasons arguments so as to appreciate the utilitarian response. Specifically, we found that the utilitarian responds to these arguments by changing from an act-evaluative theory to a rule-evaluative theory. Thus, instead of calculating the utility of alternative actions, we calculate the utility of all actions done according to a specified rule. That is, instead of considering the consequences of a particular action, the rule-utilitarian looks instead at the consequences which accrue from consistently acting according to a particular rule or policy.

We will see just how this works when we consider cases under utilitarian analysis next time.