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Flashcards in Utilitarianism - Problems And Responses Deck (8)
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Explain the first problem.

Pig philosophy - because Bentham regards activities as 'commensurable' in terms of pleasure, he does not distinguish between satisfaction of 'bestial desires', and higher pleasures. But isn't there more value in poetry than a bar of chocolate?


How could a utilitarian respond to accusations of being a 'pig philosophy'?

JS Mill - we can distinguish between higher and lower pleasure because those who have experienced both consistently place greater value on more refined pleasures. Furthermore, he points out that a human would never become a lower animal, just for the promise of the fulfilment of desires.


Explain the second problem

Pleasure not quantifiable - pleasure and pain are subjective, so the hedonistic calculus is problematic.


Response to pleasure being immeasurable

Behaviour is always used as a rough guide, even by doctors who ask for a scale of 1 - 10 when attempting to ascertain a person's level of pain.


Explain the third problem

Is happiness an intrinsic good? We can argue that utilitarians conflate the satisfaction of achieving an end, with the end itself. This is illustrated by Nozick's 'Experience Machine' - this machine promises the illusion of absolute satisfaction of all desires, and yet something prevents us from wanting to be connected to the machine, despite its offer of absolute pleasure.


How could we respond to the third problem?

We do not have sufficient experience of the machine to be 'competent judges'. Also, Mill - the machine would reduce us to animals.


Explain the fourth problem

Too demanding. William's supererogatory argument.


What are the problems with utilitarianism?

Swine ethic, pleasure not quantifiable, happiness not the sole aim, too demanding, actions and motives, the utility monster, individual rights, moral agency