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Utilitarianism

 
 
spendius
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Sep, 2005 03:15 pm
djbt

Hey man,you're circling a bit.

I suggested syrup because it is just a label like rule uti.is (I'm sick of typing utilitarianism-aren't you?)
What is rule uti?We need to know what it is to allow it into a friendly discussion.

If the "court is out" on uti's position on the war how do we know it isn't out on a number of other things.Maybe a large number of other things.

And you used uti's standards to justify uti.Which is fair enough but it doesn't get past my guard.

On the other there is no fair comparison.2 is not like 3 but "thinking carefully" is like catatonia and hermitism.OK extreme thinking carefully but in the same spectrum.
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Sep, 2005 03:41 pm
spendius wrote:
What is rule uti?We need to know what it is to allow it into a friendly discussion.

A good suggestion. I will outline my take on rule utilitarianism some time tomorrow when I am less tired....

spendius wrote:
If the "court is out" on uti's position on the war how do we know it isn't out on a number of other things.Maybe a large number of other things.

I meant the court was out on our Governments' motivations, not on a utilitarian's stance on the war. But you are right, for a utilitarian, coming to a conclusion on any complex and important issue is a lengthy, careful process.

spendius wrote:
On the other there is no fair comparison.2 is not like 3 but "thinking carefully" is like catatonia and hermitism.OK extreme thinking carefully but in the same spectrum.

I'm not sure how to respond here, because I'm not sure what you are trying to say.
0 Replies
 
spendius
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Sep, 2005 05:27 pm
djbt wrote-

Quote:
I will outline my take on rule utilitarianism some time tomorrow when I am less tired....


We can't wait that long.There's zillions of decisions need taking in the next 8 hours.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Sep, 2005 06:21 am
joefromchicago wrote:
If you think that is objectionable in itself (like djbt), then you should be more hesitant about your support for utilitarianism.

Why? When I read "The Origin of Species", I find several claims I find objectionable. Nevertheless, I believe that descent with modification, the principle Darwin described in this book, is the best explanation we have for the evolution of species over time. I am not hesitant at all in describing myself as a Darwinist. So why should I be hesitant to describe myself as a utilitarian, only because I find objectionable phrases in Bentham's and Mill's writings? I still agree with the principle they are arguing for, and that is what counts.

joefromchicago wrote:
Bentham and Mill do not say that hedonism (or any other system of morality) is "just as good" as utilitarianism.

Indeed they don't. But if you apply the principle of utility to systems of moral philosophy, you find that a system that contributes as much to people's happiness as utilitarianism does is as valuable as utilitarianism itself. I know that Mill and Bentham didn't do this. In fact, I remember reading a preface by him to a new edition of Blackstone (1765). Blackstone did at least as much for the rule of law as Bentham , probably more (and the rule of law tends to make people happy). Nevertheless, Bentham's preface stops just short of advising the reader not to bother with Blackstone and read Bentham instead. But just because a prophet doesn't practice what he preaches, that doesn't mean he preached the wrong thing.
0 Replies
 
spendius
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Sep, 2005 06:49 am
Thomas wrote-

Quote:
But just because a prophet doesn't practice what he preaches, that doesn't mean he preached the wrong thing.


It does to me.

I do not see how social commentators from before the advent of cheap and efficient energy distribution,instant mass global communicatons and weapons systems that scare the daylights out of leaders can have anything useful to contribute to modern thinking.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Sep, 2005 06:55 am
It's sad you don't see how, spendius. Have you considered the possibility that you haven't been looking hard enough? If so, on what basis did you reject it?
0 Replies
 
spendius
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Sep, 2005 07:14 am
Thomas wrote-

Quote:
It's sad you don't see how, spendius. Have you considered the possibility that you haven't been looking hard enough? If so, on what basis did you reject it?


First off it isn't sad.There are many other things to feel sad about before this.

I'm not sure what your last sentence means.I was referring to social commentators.

I never cease to consider the possibility that I haven't looked hard enough although I have considered how easy it is to suggest such things.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Sep, 2005 08:31 am
djbt wrote:
joefromchigago, one final comment before we move on from your inability to see Mills' subtle ought:

I'll leave it to those who have some familiarity with Mill (I have no idea who this "Mills" fellow is) to judge whether I have been able to discern his subtleties.

djbt wrote:
I accept 'one ought to care about those other than oneself' as a working assumption which, although unprovable, is, I think, a reasonable assumption...

I can't understand why you'd assume that.

djbt wrote:
...(I also hold, as working assumptions, other unprovable beliefs, such as belief in the existence of an external reality, and belief that entities other than myself are conscious), and it is an assumption demanded by my conscious.

I happen to share your other working assumptions, but those are epistemological, not ethical assumptions. As for contending that your assumption is demanded by your conscious, my only reply is: your conscious what?

djbt wrote:
In case you think my conscience is too weak a foundation for a moral system, let me turn to Mills to argue my corner:

Of course your conscience is too weak a foundation for a moral system. If you say that your conscience demands that you ought to care about others, and if by "conscience" you mean your moral sense (i.e. your sense of what is right and what is wrong), then what you're saying, in effect, is that you ought to do what you think you ought to do. That's circular reasoning, and that can't be the basis for anything. And to the extent that Mill reached the same conclusion, he made the same error.

djbt wrote:
Now, moving on, getting back on right sides: If you are not a utilitarian, where do you find fault with Mills' reasoning? Do you disagree that happiness is desirable? Or do you agree that it is desirable, but hold that there are other things that are equally, or more, desirable?

No doubt happiness is desirable. One of the major problems, as I have attempted to explain earlier, is how can a utlitarian make the leap from saying that an individual's happiness is desirable for that individual to saying that an individual ought to desire happiness for others. That is not, I hasten to add, necessarily an "is-ought" problem. Rather, it is a problem of connecting the two logically.

Allow me to illustrate the problem in this fashion: let's say that a person (we'll call her Debbie) acts solely for the benefit of others' happiness, such that her actions always tend to increase the pleasure of society in general, even though her actions bring no happiness at all to her. Is Debbie acting morally?

I think, for the utilitarian, the answer must be "yes."* But it is one of the foundational tenets of utilitarianism that happiness is desirable for the individual. In this case, then, Debbie is acting morally but she is also acting irrationally: she is increasing society's pleasure but she is not striving to increase her own. If that is the case, though, we are faced with a rather curious dilemma: how can a system of morality oblige someone to act in an irrational manner, and how would that be moral?


*If the answer is "no," then that would call into question the entire "greatest happiness" principle.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Sep, 2005 08:37 am
Thomas wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:
If you think that is objectionable in itself (like djbt), then you should be more hesitant about your support for utilitarianism.

Why? When I read "The Origin of Species", I find several claims I find objectionable. Nevertheless, I believe that descent with modification, the principle Darwin described in this book, is the best explanation we have for the evolution of species over time. I am not hesitant at all in describing myself as a Darwinist. So why should I be hesitant to describe myself as a utilitarian, only because I find objectionable phrases in Bentham's and Mill's writings? I still agree with the principle they are arguing for, and that is what counts.

If your disagreements with Mill, Bentham, and Darwin cause you some hesitation, even though you ultimately disregard that hesitation, then you are doing what I suggested that you do.

Thomas wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:
Bentham and Mill do not say that hedonism (or any other system of morality) is "just as good" as utilitarianism.

Indeed they don't. But if you apply the principle of utility to systems of moral philosophy, you find that a system that contributes as much to people's happiness as utilitarianism does is as valuable as utilitarianism itself.

You would apply the principle of utility to utilitarianism? Explain to me how that isn't viciously circular.

Thomas wrote:
I know that Mill and Bentham didn't do this. In fact, I remember reading a preface by him to a new edition of Blackstone (1765). Blackstone did at least as much for the rule of law as Bentham , probably more (and the rule of law tends to make people happy). Nevertheless, Bentham's preface stops just short of advising the reader not to bother with Blackstone and read Bentham instead. But just because a prophet doesn't practice what he preaches, that doesn't mean he preached the wrong thing.

I agree with your last point, but I'm not sure why you're making it.
0 Replies
 
Ray
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Sep, 2005 11:15 pm
Hi, so I just got back from Philosophy course, and the prof. pointed out the naturalistic fallacy(I might start a thread on this) found in Mill's essay that was intended to prove Utilitarianism. He vaguely said that since everyone wants pleasure, people ought to increase it. This is the naturalistic fallacy.

joefromchicago,
Is it possible that Mill refer to a person experiencing pleasure or pain so as to judge whether the feeling is "good" or "bad", and then prescribing it universally? Even if one is not feeling the pain or pleasure, another person might, and thus it is illogical to cause pain when you know that it is intrinsically bad? Question Question
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2005 08:27 am
Ray wrote:
joefromchicago,
Is it possible that Mill refer to a person experiencing pleasure or pain so as to judge whether the feeling is "good" or "bad", and then prescribing it universally? Even if one is not feeling the pain or pleasure, another person might, and thus it is illogical to cause pain when you know that it is intrinsically bad? Question Question

I'm not sure I understand you here, Ray. If you're suggesting that utilitarianism rests on an assumption that all people feel pleasure and pain in largely the same way, I think you're probably right. For Mill, however, causing pain is not illogical (there's really nothing logical or illogical about it); rather, it's wrong to cause pain (or, more properly, to cause disutility). The logic is in explaining why it's wrong.
0 Replies
 
 

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