James Rachels: The Debate over Utilitarianism
Posted March 12, 2009on:
Chapter:6 – James Rachels: The Debate over Utilitarianism
Book: Contemporary Moral Problems
Author: James E. White
Quote: “Right actions are those that have the best consequences.”
What I expect to learn:
The learning expectation for this chapter review would be are those nonhuman beings considered to be given moral consideration?
For me, this chapter is all about studying happiness and its consequences. This chapter also describes what the problem with hedonism. According to Rachels, the problem about Hedonism is it gets thing the wrong way around. Hedonism misunderstands the nature of happiness. Happiness is not something that is recognized as good and sought for its own sake, with other things appreciated only as means of bringing it about.
It also distinguish what is rule-utilitarianism and act-utilitarianism. Rule-utilitarianism, the new version of the theory which rules are established by reference to the principle and individual’s acts will then be judged right and wrong by reference to the rules. Act-Utilitarianism is the original theory.
What I’ve learned:
What have I learned is that not all happiness is truly happiness till the end. Some greatest happiness has more consequences than happiness.
1. What is the utilitarian doctrine?
2. What is hedonism?
3. What is rule-utilitarianism?
4. What is act-utilitarian?
5. Who are the utilitarians?
1. Rachels says that classical utilitarianism can be summed up in three propositions. What are they?
Classical Utilitarianism is classified as:
a. First, Actions are to be judged right or wrong solely in the virtue of their consequences.
b. Second, in assessing consequences, the only thing that matters is the amount of happiness or unhappiness that is caused.
c. Third, in calculating happiness or unhappiness that will be caused, no ones happiness as to be counted as more important than anyone else’s.
2. Explain the problem with hedonism. How do defenders of utilitarianism respond to this problem?
According to Rachels, the problem about Hedonism is it gets thing the wrong way around. Hedonism misunderstands the nature of happiness. Happiness is not something that is recognized as good and sought for its own sake, with other things appreciated only as means of bringing it about.
Utilitarianism sought a way to formulate their view without assuming hedonistic account of good an evil. G.E. Moore, an English philosopher, suggested that there are three obvious intrinsic goods; Pleasures, Friendships And aesthetics enjoyment – and that is right actions are those that increase the world’s supply of such things.
3. What are the objections about justice, rights, and promises?
The objection about justice is that in the case about justice, he should bear false witness against the innocent person.
The objection about rights is what about the morality of the officer’s behaviors?
The objection about promises is why utilitarianism is vulnerable to this sort of criticism?
4. Distinguish between rule- and act- utilitarianism. How does rule-utilitarianism reply to the objections?
Rule-utilitarianism, the new version of the theory which rules are established by reference to the principle and individual’s acts will then be judged right and wrong by reference to the rules. Act-Utilitarianism is the original theory.
5. What is the third line of defense?
The third line of defense is a small group of contemporary utilitarian’s has had a very different response to the utilitarian arguments. That argument points out that the classical theory is at odds with ordinary notions of justice, individual rights, and so on; to this there response is essentially, “So what?”.
1. Smart’s defense of utilitarianism is to reject common moral beliefs when they conflict with utilitarianism. Is this acceptable to you or not? Explain your answer.
For me, it is not acceptable because I would not reject my common moral beliefs just because there is a conflict with utilitarianism because it is what I know even before.
2. A utilitarian is supposed to give moral consideration to all concerned. Who must be considered? What about nonhuman animals? How about lakes and streams?
Utilitarian’s focuses on human beings but because nonhuman beings also can cause unhappiness with humans, then they also consider nonhuman beings.
3. Rachels claims that merit should be given moral consideration independent of utility. Do you agree?