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I have attached the discussion instruction and the required reading materials. I have also attached the instructors breakdown of the subject. Please review the questions carefully. Also, disregard the last part of the instructions about responding to peers. If you have a question, please let me know.

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One famous worry about utilitarianism is that it demands that we regard our own set of desires, ends, and our own happiness, as just one among a great many others whose lives we might impact. Accordingly, our own desires, ends, etc. bear very little weight when determining what the greatest happiness of the greatest number is, and thus what our moral responsibility is. Think of a situation or area of life in which this might be true, and our concern for our own well-being and happiness has to take a back seat to the concern for the wellbeing and happiness of the greatest number. What might a utilitarian say to someone who thinks this is too high a sacrifice? Would this be a plausible response? Be sure to back up your answer with references to the resources, and respond to your peers by considering what someone who disagrees with them might say. I. Utilitarianism A. Calculate Like a Utilitarian Here’s the basic idea. Utilitarians decide what’s morally right and morally wrong by working with a really easy formula. Step One – Take any action that you’re wondering about and decide: how much harm would be caused if I choose this action? You’ll need to consider not just harm to yourself and harm to the others directly involved in the action, but also the harm to everyone who could conceivably be affected by the action, including society as a whole. Step Two – Now think about that same action and decide: how much benefit would be caused if I choose this action? Again, you need to consider not just benefits to yourself and to others directly involved in the action, but also the benefit to everyone who could conceivably be affected by the action, including society as a whole. Step Three – Finally compare the overall harm caused by the action to the overall benefit caused by the action. If the harm is greater than the benefit, then it’s immoral. If the benefit is greater than the harm, then it’s moral. Very simple, right? Many of you will suggest that most of the time we can’t know exactly how everyone will be affected by any action, but that’s not really a challenge to this theory of morals. It’s ok to just “take your best shot” – make an honest, rational assessment of the consequences of the action, compare the harms and benefits that it will cause, and then do whatever causes the most benefit and the least harm. B. What’s Wrong With Utilitarianism? You will remember from last week that the theory of ethics called “relativism” had a fatal flaw – it doesn’t work for really seriously awful actions. In other words, even a relativist will want to stand up and say Hitler was immoral for torturing and killing millions of people – and as soon as there’s one moral truth like that that doesn’t depend on anybody’s culture, the whole theory of relativism fails. The theory of utilitarianism doesn’t have any fatal flaws like that, and it has something no other theory has – a practical method for deciding whether an action is morally right. Of course it does have a down side – not a fatal flaw, but a down side. It doesn’t make sense of many of our moral instincts. For example, if Joe gives $100 to charity and he had to work three days to earn that, then Bob gives $1 million dollars to charity that he’ll never even notice missing, according to utilitarianism Bob is the more moral person, because his action will lead to more overall benefit than Joe’s. Let’s say Joe gave the $100 bucks to an animal charity because the suffering of animals bothers him, and Bob gave the $1 million bucks to an animal charity because he wanted to get his name in the paper. It seems clear that Joe’s contribution is morally good and Bob’s is a bit suspicious – but when you use the utilitarian formula you have to conclude that Bob is a better guy than Joe. A utilitarian doesn’t care what anybody’s intentions are. She thinks intentions don’t make any difference to morality. What matters is the results of our actions. C. The Tyranny of the Majority Your discussion assignment this week asks about the notion of “the tyranny of the majority”, and this part is a little tricky. Many people have objected that utilitarianism will lead to an elitist approach to morality. Think of it this way. If what’s morally right is what brings about the greatest good for the greatest number, what will happen to, say those who are severely ill. These people can’t really do much to contribute to the overall benefit for everyone, so utilitarianism will always lead to moral decisions that leave them in the lurch. Let’s say you’re in charge of the only lifeboat on a sinking ship. You have to decide which 50 people will be saved with you in the lifeboat – so how do you go about that? You’ll probably think like a utilitarian. You’ll choose the people who can help bring about the greatest benefit and the least harm. Will you take the injured people? Probably not – because they will not be able to contribute to the difficult task of saving everyone’s lives, and they will actually use up the energies of people who could better contribute to overall survival. In the context of the lifeboat that makes good sense, but what if the lifeboat situation was somehow really common? Would it make sense to make a general rule about never saving the injured because that won’t result in the greatest overall benefit and least overall harm? No, that wouldn’t make sense. All of us feel instantly that people have a moral obligation to help the needy when they can. If everybody used the utilitarian approach all the time all the less fortunate people in our society would be ignored. That’s what the tyranny of the majority is. The majority benefits, but in the process lots of smaller groups, and groups that need the support of others, will be morally ignored. There’s a way around this problem for a utilitarian. We can apply utilitarianism to rules, rather than to individual cases. When you’re the one in the lifeboat making decisions then and there maybe it’s right to use the utilitarian method and leave behind the sick and injured. What happens though if we make that a general rule? Whenever you have to decide who gets to go in a lifeboat the moral thing to do is to leave behind all the people who are sick and injured – see how that just doesn’t feel right? To fix this problem, the utilitarian focuses on general rules rather than on specific actions, pointing out that it’s not an overall benefit to society for the needs of all the sick and injured people to be ignored. All of our lives would be worse if we applied the general rule of ignoring the sick and injured whenever it seems those who are well can make a greater contribution. That’s how the utilitarian gets around the problem of “the tyranny of the majority” II. Animal Rights When we apply the utilitarian theory to the issue of animal rights we get a view proposed by a utilitarian philosopher named Peter Singer. Think about where our meat comes from. The vast majority of it is produced on factory farms, and those are run by people who care more for profits than they do for the suffering of animals. It’s easy to make a lot of money in factory farming if you use excruciating methods for “processing” the animals – like trapping them for their entire lives in indoor stalls too small to allow any movement, or feeding them so much that they are unable to stand on their own legs, or skinning them alive because it’s cheaper to do it that way. Do animals feel pain? Yes they do. That’s actually not debatable – it’s a fact, so we need to add all that pain to our assessment of overall harms. You get the picture. Meat production methods cause excruciating suffering to millions of animals every day. When we eat meat we effectively encourage this unnecessary cruelty, because we are paying the factory farms to keep doing it. Now think about the overall benefits of eating meat. People in our society really enjoy eating meat – it’s what’s for supper! (Have you heard that ad?) Those who work in the business of meat production do have the benefit of making a living, so we should consider that too. Can we add the nutritional benefits of eating meat to our list? No, because human beings don’t need to eat meat to be healthy, and that’s not debatable. We are healthier we eat less meat, so those nutritional benefits can’t go in the benefits column. If anything, we should add them to the harms column. It’s not hard to see how this turns out when we compare the overall harms to the overall benefits. Eating meat brings us pleasure, helps some people make a living, but it causes excruciating torture to literally millions of animals every day. Does the benefit outweigh the harm? No, definitely not. That means that if you’re a utilitarian it is morally wrong to eat meat. 61 Traditional of Ethics IntroducingTheories Philosophy Federico©Terry Caputo/iStock/Thinkstock Why/ Getty Images You have your way. I have my way. As for “It is the mark of an educated mind the right way, the correct way, and the only to be able to entertain a thought way, it does not exist. without accepting it” —Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra —Aristotle mos81165_06_c06.indd 175 1/6/14 2:33 PM CHAPTER 6 Section 6.1 How Should One Act? Learning Objectives After reading this chapter, students will be able to: 1. Characterize the classical theories of ethics—utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics. 2. Identify some of the problems these theories confront. 3. Describe other metaethical views, such as relativism and egoism. 4. Apply ethical theories to problems that affect both individuals and larger groups, including environmental challenges. What We Will Discover • Philosophers have developed theories to provide support for our claims about right and wrong. • Other theories such as egoism and relativism offer alternatives to traditional theories of ethics. • Ethics has many specific applications to our lives, from the very personal and specific to those that affect everyone in society. 6.1 How Should One Act? E thics, or moral philosophy, investigates how we can evaluate our behavior in terms of right and wrong, good and bad—in other words, how we determine what we should do, what we should not do, and how to tell the difference. After looking at the three classical ethical views that philosophers have presented and some of the problems with these theories, we will explore some alternative approaches. Utilitarianism Suppose you and five of your friends are hanging out one night and decide to order a pizza. You are all equally hungry and decide to order two pizzas, each of which has six slices. Thus, when the pizzas are delivered, it is pretty easy to determine how to divide the pizzas in a way that is the fairest: Everyone gets two slices. It may be that one person wanted a third slice, and someone else may have only wanted one. Yet without knowing anything else, this arrangement, more than any other, will be the most beneficial to the greatest number of people. Photos.com/© Getty Images/Thinkstock Jeremy Bentham is associated with the founding of utilitarianism, which states that given a choice between two acts, the one that creates greater happiness for the greatest number of people should be chosen. This simple example demonstrates the basic notion at the heart of the ethical doctrine known as utilitarianism. Often associated with the philosophers Jeremy Bentham (1748–1822) and John Stuart Mill, utilitarianism offers a very straightforward and direct way to evaluate behavior. When given a choice between two acts, utilitarianism states that mos81165_06_c06.indd 176 1/6/14 2:33 PM Section 6.1 How Should One Act? CHAPTER 6 the act that should be chosen is the one that creates the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. Philosophers (and economists) often use the term utility to express this quality. Utility is the satisfaction one gets from something. For instance, if you like chocolate ice cream more than vanilla ice cream, we can say that chocolate ice cream has a higher utility for you, relative to vanilla ice cream. In theory, at least, each of us can rank all of our choices according to a scale that indicates our relative preferences. Some philosophers, such as Bentham, even attempted to assign numbers to these preferences. If someone likes chocolate ice cream five times as much as vanilla ice cream, that person would presumably be willing to accept five vanilla ice cream cones as a substitute for one chocolate ice cream cone. It should also be noted that utility is regarded in terms of net utility: The correct moral choice is that which generates the greatest good and also minimizes unhappiness. Read more of John Stuart Mill’s ideas on this topic in his work Utilitarianism in the Chapter Readings section of the Appendix. Because utilitarianism considers an act’s consequences in assessing its morality, utilitarianism is also regarded as a consequentialist theory. The basic idea in consequentialism is to consider the consequences that will result from the choices one confronts: If the consequences of one act produce the greatest net good—or the highest utility—for the greatest number of people, this is the act one should carry out. Many people find this to be a rather obvious ethical viewpoint; clearly if we had decided to give all the pizza slices to just three people and no slices to the other three, this would seem rather unfair. It should also be clear that utilitarianism offers an approach to scenarios other than distributing pizza and ice cream. Imagine Mary really loves to dance, but she does not get to go dancing very often. Mary has three children, with whom she enjoys spending time and who enjoy spending time with her. One night she is given the option of staying home and spending time with her children or going dancing. What should she do? The utilitarian might argue that, on the one hand, the pleasure Mary gets from dancing is greater than staying with her children. Yet on the other hand, her children will receive great pleasure if she does not go dancing. Therefore, the “utility calculation” is that the net happiness of Mary and her three children will be higher if she stays home, even though Mary’s individual happiness might be slightly lower than it would have been if she had chosen to go dancing. Utility is often described in terms of pleasure, which can be problematic for utilitarianism. Imagine someone finds pleasure in playing video games and drinking beer all day long. Given a choice between, say, helping out in a homeless shelter or drinking and playing the newest video game, a person may well choose the latter, which suggests to some that utilitarianism has no way to distinguish between different kinds of pleasures. Presumably, we want our theory to be able to make a distinction between hedonistic and nobler pleasures. Mill saw this as a potential problem and insisted that pleasure should be considered not just in terms of quantity but also quality: that certain kinds of pleasures, or certain ways of satisfying desires, are simply better than others. A pig may be happy rolling around in the mud and eating garbage, but Mill insisted that people who take that approach to pleasure fail to develop their potential as human beings (relative to pigs, at least). According to Mill, it is better to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied pig. This is not to say that one should always choose something less pleasurable; rather, it is simply an indication that pleasures themselves can, or perhaps should, be distinguished from each other. It is not always easy to say that one pleasure is “superior” to another, and certainly people have long argued about this issue. However, these kinds of examples indicate a problem utilitarianism confronts if we evaluate acts solely in terms of their pleasurable consequences (Mill, 1909). mos81165_06_c06.indd 177 1/6/14 2:33 PM Section 6.1 How Should One Act? CHAPTER 6 Many people find utilitarianism to be an easy and useful approach to making ethical decisions. When distributing goods, services, or even time, it would seem to be a “no-brainer” to choose the option that would satisfy or please as many people as possible, compared to any other available choice. However, philosophers have raised a number of problems in response to utilitarianism, which may make it a less plausible ethical theory than it first appears. Problems With Utilitarianism Utilitarianism has what philosophers call an intuitive appeal: It seems to be relatively obvious, and just plain common sense, to evaluate our actions based on the results those actions produce. If all we know about a situation is that four kids in a sandbox have one toy, the best option would be for the children to share that toy, even if each child is quite sure he or she would get the most pleasure from playing with it alone. However, many philosophers have objected to utilitarianism, and for a number of reasons. As we have seen, distinguishing different kinds of pleasures from each other can be difficult. Does utilitarianism have any way to address the situation of a person who gets pleasure from staring at the wall or doing something else that most people would find quite unpleasant (something often called masochism)? Mill (1863) suggests there are “higher” or “more refined” pleasures and that they should be preferred, but who is to say which is a “higher” pleasure? Is reading poetry somehow better than watching soap operas? What if someone gains pleasure by sleeping all the time or hitting his thumb over and over with a hammer? More significant objections to utilitarianism have been posed on the basis of calculating the outcome, or consequences, of a choice. Suppose you are on a cruise ship that catches fire; you and 19 others are lucky enough to survive on a lifeboat. There is enough water to last for a week or more, but you have no food and do not know whether you will be rescued. Everyone is aware of how grim the future looks; as the boat drifts, everyone gets hungrier. It becomes apparent that everyone is going to die unless your group finds food. The utilitarian in the group poses the following options: All 20 people die, or 19 people live if one person is killed and eaten! To justify his position, he cites historical examples of similar cases in which cannibalism helped the majority survive. However, while this scenario may appear to result in the greatest good for the greatest number, do we really want an ethical theory that not only allows cannibalism, but actually endorses it as the fairest and most ethical decision? Few of us are likely to experience a situation this extreme, but we may find ourselves in situations where the basic utilitarian calculation actually leads to results that are very unfair and unjust. This is particularly threatening anytime individuals find themselves in a minority, whether because of their sex, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any of the other ways in which society categorizes people. For example, suppose a local grade school must decide if it should use taxpayer money to build ramps to make the building accessible to students in wheelchairs. This tax will likely decrease the pleasure of each taxpayer and may only be used by a few individuals throughout the year. In this way it would result in a net utility that would favor a decision not to build the ramps. Would you consider this a fair outcome? mos81165_06_c06.indd 178 1/6/14 2:33 PM Section 6.1 How Should One Act? CHAPTER 6 Great Ideas: The Trolley Problem A very famous challenge to our ethical intuitions, originated by Philippa Foot, is easy to describe but more problematic to solve. In Foot’s 1967 essay “The Problem ...
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Application of Utilitarianism - Outline
I) A Situation Example
II) What a Utilitarian Would Say to Someone Who Thinks This Too High a Sacrifice
III) Would This Be a Plausible Response?


Running head: APPLICATION OF UTILITARIANISM

Application of Utilitarianism
Name
Institution

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APPLICATION OF UTILITARIANISM

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Application of Utilitarianism
Example of a Situation of Sacrificing Own Happiness for The Happiness of The Greater
Number
I have been thinking of a certain business idea for a long time. I have always dreamt
of designing beautiful shopping bags, especially for women and children to make shopping
time more interesting. My idea is however that these bags will be made of plastic. Plastic is
cheap to manufacture and therefore will make the bags more affordable to everyone as not a
lot of people would be willing to spend a lot on a shopping bag. I have been thinking of how
much money I would get by supplying the designer shopping bags to stores for them to make
their customers happy by beautifully packing what they have purchased in them. The bags
can even be used reused at home maybe to carry some snacks while going for a picnic or so.
If I would make this dream of mine come true, I would be very happy to see people walking
out of stores with bags beautiful bags designed by me and probably became rich.
But the controversy is that I care about our environment. I always get mad at people
who contribute to environmental pollution knowingly for their selfish gains. Plastics are one
of the biggest polluters of the environment. Plastics are non-biodegradable and once
manufactured last thousands and thousands of years on ear...

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