Lecture 1: What is the Highest Good? Flashcards Preview

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What is Utilitarianism? (Quote)

The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure


What is Utilitarianism?

The guiding principle of utilitarian normative ethics is the Utility Principle.
Following, Bentham, this principle is sometimes called the "greatest happiness principle"


What claim does the utility principle rest on?

- Consequentialism


What does Welfarism mean?

the ultimate good is individual happiness


What does hedonism mean?

the ultimate good is individual happiness


What does consequentialism mean?

moral rightness is determined by consequences on individual welfare


What does Sum-ranking mean?

Best consequences determined by the sum of the individual happiness


Psychological hedonism?

Happiness is the ultimate motive that persons pursue
a theory about the motives of actions; about what is desired


Ethical hedonism?

Happiness is the ultimate good
A theory about what is valuable or desirable


Benthams Hedonism?

According to Bentham, pleasure and pain are uniform experiences and only quantity matters
Quantity of pleasure and pain varies with intensity of the experience, duration, probability that they will occur, and remoteness in time.


What objection can be made to Bentham?

A "doctrine worthy only of swine"


Counter example to Bentham's hedonism?

Oyster example


Oyster Example

Benthams hedonism implies that the life of an oyster that lives forever is better than that of Haydn
This can't be right
So Bentham's hedonism is false
So Quantity of pleasure is not the only morally relevant factor


Hedonism in Mill's Utilitarianism: Mill's definition of happiness?
What is Mill keen to do?

Mill follows Bentham by defining happiness as pleasure and the absence of pain
Mill is keen to defend utilitarianism against the objection that hedonism renders it a "doctrine worthy only of swine"


What does Mill think Hedonism should consist of?

Mill thinks that experiences do not reduce to a single quality of pleasantness or painfulness

He argues that the experience of pleasure and pain can take on different qualities


What does Mill argue in accordance with pleasure?

According to Mill, there are higher and lower pleasures and the former is more valuable


What are higher pleasures?

They engage higher human faculties
higher pleasures are different in kind from lower pleasures


How do we establish that something is a higher pleasure?

Those who know both higher and lower pleasures will prefer the higher pleasures to the lower pleasures. E.g. Socrates and the fool


Is there a tension between Mill's claim that happiness consists of pleasure and pain and his claim that pleasure and pain are not of uniform quality?

Mill seems to think the two can be reconciled


Objections to Hedonism: Happiness is elusive
Is happiness a self-defeating end?

Is happiness a self-defeating end?
- Paradox of (psychological) hedonism: happiness is achieved only if is not directly pursued
Mill: utilitarianism does not suggest that individuals ought to promote their own happiness


Objections to hedonism:
Is happiness unattainable?

Mill is a reformer; general happiness is the standard for assessing progress in institutional reform


Objections to Hedonism:
Happiness is subjective:
Metaphysical Claim

Metaphysical Claim: experience of happiness is subjective
- Sum-ranking principle can only be applied if the experience of happiness is the same for all individuals

Mill must claim that while there are different qualities of pleasure, and not all individuals necessarily experience the whole spectrum, our experience of pleasure of any one quality is the same


Objections to Hedonism
Happiness is subjective
Epistemic claim

Epistemic claim: individuals are best judges of their happiness
-how do we know that the experience is the same?
-Mill's test: all judgement of those who have experienced different qualities of happiness


Objections to Hedonism
Against experientialism

Experience of happiness is not the only thing that matters
-Nozick experience machine
-we want to do certain things, and not just have the experience of doing them