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Group 2 page for Reading Notes

Please post your reading notes to this page. Please start each set of reading notes with the author, title of the work, and the sections of the work you're discussing in your notes.

Intro to Consequentialism (Sept 18)

There are a few types of Consequentialism. According to the article, there is not an orthodox set of types of Consequentialism, 
so the terms are for the most part created for the purposes of the article.

Plain vs. Scalar Consequentialism
The two epithets the article attaches to each version of Consequentialism are Plain and Scalar. Plain Consequentialism allows for only one correct answer: the one with the best possible result. Scalar Consequentialism allows for multiple answers, each with a varying degree of rightness based on the consequences of the action.
Expectable vs. Reasonable Consequentialism
Expectable consequentialism states that one's expectations are what determines whether an action is right or wrong. Reasonable consequentialism takes it one step further, claiming that an agent should inquire and come to a reasonable conclusion about what consequences an action may yield. It is questionable whether this distinction should be made, the idea that one can legitimately claim to be a consequentialist without making reasonable inquires into what the results of an action will be seems duplicitous.
Dual Consequentialism
This separates moral from objectively correct actions. The objectively right action has the best consequences, and the the morally right action has the best expected consequences.
Rule Consequentialism
An action is correct based on what would happen if everyone would take that action. Even if taking a certain action wouldn't solve the problem if one person took it, the correct course of action is to follow the rule that, if universally followed, would provide the best consequence.
More Information and Criticism of the Article
The main criteria on what provides the best outcome is the one which provides the most happiness. For example, taking actions that will cure a disease will reduce the amount of suffering the disease causes, thus increasing overall happiness. The example repeatedly referred to in the article is that of increasing speed limits, and whether it will reduce deaths. However, it is stated that reducing deaths may not increase over all happiness. This is absurd: first of all, no account is made for possible happiness. Even if someone were to die in a car accident who was unhappy, their death prevents any future situation in which they acquire happiness. Thus, not only guaranteed happiness but possible happiness should be taken into account. While being alive is no guarantee of happiness, being dead is a guarantee that no happiness will ever occur. Secondly, it is stated that the frustration of driving slow will reduce the overall happiness. However, the trivial frustration of being slowed in traffic is not a feasible counter to the loss of life for an individual or to the grief and loss of those close to the deceased. So, I would say that possible happiness and the triviality of what kind of happiness is lost are necessary components to any effective system of Consequentialism.

Mill, Utilitarianism (Sept. 23)

Failure of the “Doctrine of Swine” criticism (page 4)

P1. If the label, “doctrine of swine” is to be considered a valid criticism of utilitarianism then, it must show that humans and pigs have exactly the same pleasures.
P2. It is degrading to assume humans and pigs have exactly the same pleasures, since humans have many uniquely different sources of pleasures as opposed to pigs.
P3. Human beings have more elevated faculties than the animal appetites. For example, the human intellect.
P4. When the higher human faculties of intellect and imagination are not satisfied, human beings are not happy.
P5. Pigs do not have intellect or imagination; hence they cannot derive pleasure from these faculties like human beings can.
C. Therefore, the “doctrine of swine” is an unjustified criticism of utilitarianism.

Qualitative Superiority of Intellectual Pleasures (page 5)

P1. If people consistently prefer one type of pleasure to another, knowing both well enough, then the preferred pleasure is qualitatively superior.
P2. Literate people would never consent to being fools even with the promise of having all their desires fulfilled if they assented.
P3. No person of feeling and conscience would agree to be selfish and base, even if persuaded that they would be more content in that state.
P4. Fools are more readily satisfied, while the literate are aware that their happiness will have imperfections.
P5. Even with the awareness that the intellectual life will only lead to imperfect happiness, people still prefer it to the life of a fool.
P6. The pleasure of indulging the intellect is consistently preferred over indulging in only sense-based pleasures.
C. Therefore, the pleasure derived from indulging the intellect is superior in quality to gratifying only the sense-based pleasures.

1. Utilitarianism is a two-part theory. A) Promote Happiness. B) Mitigate Unhappiness. In what ways are these two conceptions different? How much do they overlap?
2. If men readily give into temptation, which constitutes the fulfillment of a base desire, at the cost of the higher pleasures, even in the full knowledge that they are going for the lower desire, then doesn’t that automatically show that the base pleasure is the more preferable end, regardless of the guilt one may feel. If the end is the only criteria of judgment for any action, then Mill’s analysis of one’s knowledge that they are going for a lower desire at the cost of a higher one makes no sense. The rationale of the agent is immaterial because the action taken is to achieve a pleasurable end and to increase one’s own immediate happiness.
3. The distinction between instrumentally pleasurable and intrinsically pleasurable is unclear. What things have inherent pleasure?
4. Is the lack of one unifying principle in ethics really all that problematic? Must we suppose that one principle surely exists even though we haven’t discovered it yet and may only tacitly consent to it?
5. If you do not achieve the end you set out to achieve, then does that failing make the work and effort meaningless? (But you may have acquired so many skills along the way that could be put towards another end. One, which may have been unforeseen and only, came to light because of your failings). How does redirecting one’s life and goals factor into the utilitarian theory?
6. Is it possible to always keep the end goal in mind? Can’t people act on a whim, without a calculated approach as to the outcome, and still get a pleasurable result?


Mill, Utilitarianism (Sept. 25)

Virtue as a component of happiness:
P1. If you hold virtue to be the supreme end of action, then you implicitly accept happiness as the supreme end too.
P2. An end is a self-evidently desirable thing, which cannot be desired for anything beyond itself.
P3. Happiness is an end because everyone desires his or her own happiness, for its own sake, and not as a means to some greater end.
P4. In order to desire virtue, you must psychologically associate performing virtuous acts with the feeling of pleasure.
P5. By viewing virtuous actions as components of your own conception of pleasure, you firmly link the action and the feeling together.
P6. Pleasure is happiness.
P7. Hence, performing virtuous actions become a part of one’s conception of happiness.
C. Therefore, thinking of virtue as an ultimate end also entails the implicit acceptance of happiness as an ultimate end.

1. Mill says that any action is reducible to happiness and avoidance of pain whether we realize it or not. Is there any conceivable action that does not fall under this definition? Do all modes of action really only promote happiness as the ultimate end?
2. Does the fulfillment of a duty entailed by virtuous conduct always lead to some form of happiness? For example, will someone be happy if they died for their country out of a sense of duty?
3. Mill claims that the cultivation of virtue and development of a strong will both originate from the initial desire to have those capacities. How strong is this claim in refuting the underlying assumption of certain schools of thought, which contend, that desires need to controlled?


Mill, Utilitarianism (Sept. 30)

Chapter V: On the Connection between Justice and Utility

A concrete understanding of justice is required to better compare it and Utility. Mill classifies the following characteristics of justice:
1. It is unjust to deprive someone of their personal liberty, property, in other words, to violate their legal rights (Mill, p. 20).
2. Due to the diversity in opinion concerning legal rights, they are not seen as the “ultimate criterion of justice” and if a law infringes on a supposed right, this right is known as a moral right. It is unjust to violate moral rights of individuals.
3. It is just to obtain what one deserves, generally decided by the goodness or evilness of an action. The desert is distributed by those to whom the right/wrong was done.
4. It is unjust to “break faith”, or violate an engagement, with another. However, this is not absolute, as a stronger obligation of justice or an unjust act by the other overrules the promise (Mill, p. 21).
5. Justice should not entail any sort of partiality, though impartiality does not have to be seen as a duty due to the benefits of showing preference when it harms no others. Concerning rights, impartiality is required, a concept linked intrinsically with that of equality. Equality is thought to be the dictate of justice, unless utility is thought to be better served by inequality, through government exceptions or social class benefits.

The concept of wrongness is directly linked with the idea of penal sanction, whether the punishment be by law, public opinion or individual conscience (Mill, p. 22).
Duty may be exacted from individuals; it is expected, contrary to that which we wish for or admire in others, but understand if it does not occur.

Division of Moral Duty (Mill, p. 22)
1) Perfect obligation: Correlative right resides in some person/s
2) Imperfect obligation: act may be obligatory, occasions of performance up to choice (ex. Charity)
- Justice generally involved “personal right”.
- Whatever type of injustice (delineated above) there must be “a wrong done, and some assignable person who is wronged”.

Justice vs. Generosity
P1 Justice implies a right/wrong done AND a specific individual’s right violated.
P2 No one can “claim” our kindness, as those virtues are not morally binding.
P3 If the good we can do is owed to mankind generally, generosity and justice are aligned.
C “Wherever there is right, the case is one of justice…” (not generosity) and if not, no distinction can be made between the two concepts.

Society and Justice (Mill, p. 23)
P1 The two elements of the idea of “a right” are a hurt to one and a demand for punishment on the other.
P2 One can expect society to protect their rights, through law or education.
P3 As soon as society ought not secure a supposed “right”, such a thing does not, in fact, belong to the individual as a right.
C To have a right is to have something society ought to protect.
- General utility: not simply rational, rather also animalistic, related to the human need for security.
- The power of the utility above changes “recognized indispensability” to “moral necessity”.

Justice grounded in utility is seen to be the greatest of all morality.
P1 Justice concerns the essentials of human well-being
P2 The essentials of human well-being are of greater absolute obligation than other guiding rules of life.
P3 Individual right being the determined “essence” of justice further binds the obligation.
P4 Moral rules protecting oneself from harm are the most vital to human well-being.
---P1 observing moral rules protecting human life preserves peace.
---P2 without the obedience of these rules, everyone would need to be on guard
---P3 though one may not need the aid of others, one always needs that they not harm them.
---C Moral rules prohibiting the harm of others are the most vital to life.
C Justice represents a collective of moral requirements that are above others on the social utility scale, thus have greater obligation (Mill, p. 24).

HOWEVER, keep in mind:
P1 Some greater social duty may require the overruling of a general maxim of justice.
P2 What is just in ordinary cases, is not just in a given particular case.
C The indefeasibility of justice endures and injustice remains untenable.

In conclusion,
P1 All cases of justice are cases of expediency as well, with justice having more passionate followers.
P2 Justice represents a collective of moral requirements that are above others on the social utility scale, thus have greater obligation.
P3 The passionate sentiment should be found in all cases of justice.
C Therefore, all cases of justice have an origin in the social utility, linking justice with utility, reiterating and proving the feasibility of the duality of P1.

Justice corresponds to particular and salient social utilities, more absolute than any others generally speaking, protected by more passionate sentiment than is simple human pleasure (Mill, p. 25).

Discussion questions:
- What would Mill claim to be “a stronger obligation of justice”, permitting the violation of engagements?
- Where does Mill draw lines when it comes to creating particular exceptions to the general maxims of justice?
- What would Mill say about the justice/utility of interfering in an independent nation and waging war for the “greater cause” of democracy?

Later consequentialism (Oct. 2)

Tom Guo

Contemporary Utilitarianism-Mark Timmons

Objections to Utilitarianism

P1 There exists several objections towards the Utilitarian theory to which utilitarian responses have lead to variations of the utilitarian theory that differs from the theory established by Bentham and Mill (p131)

P2 One such objection challenges the theoretical correctness of utilitarianism(Theoretical Objection). The objection believes that the main theoretical aim of a moral theory should be the provision of a way to define the nature of right and wrong, and thus allow for the judgement of the moral correctness of an action.(p131)

P3 Thus, theoretical objections of utilitarianism tends to attack circumstances where utilitarianism justifies actions that are immoral under ordinary moral values if such actions produce greatest happiness. Examples of such conflicts includes blaming an innocent person of a crime if doing so is the only way to quell an imminent public riot, or breaking a promise to someone to spend the money in a certain way and instead donate them to charity, where they will create greater happiness for more people. These decisions seems unacceptable under normal moral thinking, but are justified under utilitarianism. Thus, as supporters of theoretical objections believes, the utilitarianism fails to provide us with an accurate way of determining the right and wrong of an action, since it conflicts with many long-held common moral values.(p131-134)

Responses to Theoretical Objection

P4, Some Utilitarian responses to the objections above includes questioning the correctness of the moral intuition behind those objections. For example, an utilitarian would argue it is not necessarily morally wrong to break a promise given special circumstances. Others would argue that if long term effects are considered, many seemingly morally wrong decision that would not actually be justified under utilitarianism. For example, framing an innocent may lead to controversies in the future that could lower the overall utility in the long term, and thus morally incorrect under utilitarianism just as it would be incorrect under common moral standards.(p136-138)

P5, However, these responses above seems inadequate in dealing with possible situations where the issue is not as complex and does not leave much room to debate. Instead, some more radical responses have lead to new variations of utilitarianism that seeks to defend itself against the objections above.(p138)

Rule Utilitarianism

P6, Rule utilitarianism is such variation that attempts to defend the traditional act utilitarianism from critics. Under act utilitarianism the morality of an action is judged on a individual cases and based on individual circumstances. Rule utilitarianism instead argues that the correctness of an action depends on whether it is a correct action following correct and relevant moral rule. The moral rule in turn, is correct only if it produces at least as great utility as any other alternative rule that is relevant.(p138)

P7, When measuring the utility of a rule, we consider the utility that would be generated if the rule is adopted by most people when facing the situation described by the rule. (p139)

P8. The approach under rule utilitarianism seems covers up the issue brought up by theoretical objections. While certain action, like framing an innocent, may yield greater utility in rare individual cases, it cannot be the correct that having a moral rule that "it is okay to frame innocent" would yield greater utility compared to "one should never frame an innocent person". Further more, the rule can be refined to allows for exceptions where it is perhaps right to overrule certain moral value when there is the need(such as "only lie if doing so would save lives").(p139-140)

P9, Timmons then raise the issue that rule utilitarianism is not free from its own issue and objections. For example, a rule could simply be refined to say certain action is wrong unless performing it brings greater utility, thus subjecting rule utilitarianism to the same type of theoretical critiques of act utilitarianism.(p141). Furthermore, morally acceptable rules accepted in society may turn out to be wrong under rule utilitarianism when they do not produce the most utility when compared to certain other rules that may not be as widely accepted, or even considered wrong. As a result, Timmons believes rule utilitarianism is not the answer to the objections facing utilitarianism.(p141)

Other Objections to Utilitarianism and Desire Fulfillment Utilitarianism

P10, Other objections to utilitarianism involves attacking the idea that classical utilitarianism is based on hedonism. That is, classical utilitarianism assumes experience of pleasure and the avoidance of pain is the only thing of intrinsic value. Critics like Robert Nozick points out that we value not only the experiences of pleasure generated by our thought, but also the ability to physically accomplish or be something as well(Where as classical utilitarian seems to suggest that we would be content strapped to a machine that generates fantastic experiences for us).(P142)

P11, Utilitarian response to objections like those of Nozick's lead to desire fulfillment utilitarianism(DFU). DFU argues that an action is correct if it generates the greatest fulfillment of desire(instead of utility used by classical utilitarianism). This means instead of simply be satisfied with experiences of the mind, actions must actually accomplish things that fulfill desire of people to be correct(Thus simply being strapped to the "experience machine" proposed by Nozick would not be sufficient).(P143)

P12, Timmons again points out that DFU have its own problems as well. Since not all desires fulfilled necessarily contributes to one's welfare, it seems that fulfillment of one's desire does not necessarily make people better off. DFU theory as Timmons points out, do not define what is the right desire to fulfil so that it further our welfare. (p143-144)

P13, Since the DFU theory fails to account for the welfare from the fulfillment of desire, Timmons suggests that a pluralistic account may provide an adequate account of welfare as well as answering to the theocratical objections of utilitarianism that rule utilitarianism tried but failed to address.(p144)

Pluralistic Utilitarianism

P14, Pluralistic Utilitarianism seeks to answer to various objections above by brining in the pluralist idea of intrinsic value. The idea of intrinsic value suggests that there are three components of human welfare that are intrinsically good: pursuit of one's personal projects, the realization of those projects, and personal and social relationships. However, these three components is only valuable if it morally respects persons. Thus only the morally constrained pursuit/realization of personal project and social relationships is of intrinsic value.(p144-145)

P15, as a result, Pluralistic theory address theoretical concern that some obviously immoral action can be justified to have greater utility. Since actions such as murder does not respect persons, they have no value regardless of the utility they could've generated. (p144-146)

P16, However, Timmons then points out that pluralistic theory lacks the determinacy of classical utilitarianism. Classical utilitarianism is able to clearly determine the correctness of an action based on the net utility the action generates. On the other hand, Timmons suggests that pluralistic lacks this kind of clarity because it is based on the idea of respecting persons. Because it is difficult to determine what constitutes as "respecting persons" given the myriad of circumstances, it is sometime difficult to say whether an action have "respected persons" and therefore difficult to say whether it is correct. This also diminished the contrast utilitarianism seems to have with opposing theories such as Kant's moral theory.(p146)

P17,From the evaluation of various type of utilitarianism that birthed in response to various objections, Timmons suggests several general observation regarding utilitarianism. That utilitarianism is focused on the idea that morality should be determined by human well-being, based on the rationality to choose the best course of action from the given choices, and to suggest impartiality is essential to morality.(p147)

P18, However, Timmons point out that utilitarianism still have trouble addressing the theocratical objections(as seen in P4-P9) without sacrifice some of its determinacy and clarity.(P16)

Conclusion: Timmons Concludes that the main issue with utilitarianism is that it fails to respect the separateness of the persons. While individuals would make decisions that sacrifices their own welfare to to further their welfare in the future, utilitarianism attempts to expand this choices to a social scale. Thus, the rightness of the decision is based on its impact to the society as a whole, rather then individuals. This leads to the kind of issue given raise to the theoretical objection of utilitarianism(P1-3). The reason why many attempted utilitarian responses to the theoretical objection have failed is because it again fails to address the importance of the individual(P4-10). Pluralistic Utilitarianism is able to counter the theoretical objections precisely because it addressed the importance to respect an individual "as persons" rather then a rather insignificant part of a greater whole. But also because pluralistic utilitarianism took the individual into account, it lost the determinant power of classical utilitarianism.(P14-P18)


1. What is wrong with utilitarianism conclusions on certain actions contradict moral norms? Should a moral theory be considered invalid simply because it creates result that contradicts widely accepted norms?

2. Is there really no way to address the individual under utilitarianism without sacrifice its determinant power?

3. Relating to the question above, is it possible to reach a clearer defination as to what constitutes "respect people as persons" in a way to make pluralistic utilitarianism more applicable?

Rule utilitarianism (Oct. 7)

Brandt's Ideal Code theory.

Basically, he is encouraging the use of what he calls an "ideal code", a form of rule utilitarianism.
Brandt states his thesis as follows:
An act is right if and only if it would not be prohibited by the ideal moral code for the society (594).
He feels that rule utilitarianism, in the specific form of this Ideal Code, is an ideal moral code (an ideal code is defined as one which is at least as beneficial as any other on page 594) for a society to adopt. He claims that an Ideal Code meets the necessary criteria, which is given in the formal argument below.
P1. The theory contains no internal inconsistencies or unintelligible concepts.
P2. It is consistent with known facts.
P3. It is capable of precise formulation, so its implications for action can be determined.
P4. It is acceptable to reasonable people with a wide variety of experience.
P5. It compares well with other normative theories.
P6. It is amenable, not to the intuitions that are held by individuals uncritically, but to those that stand in light of supporting remarks.
Co. Therefore, rule utilitarianism is an effective basis for a moral code. (590-591)

He goes on to explain that in order for a principle to be ideal, it needs to have "currency".
He defines a principle as having currency if it is agreed upon by a large majority of the members of a society.
A code is defined as having currency if the members of that society recognize it as representing those principles.
He suggests a 90% consensus as a minimum.
One of the possible criticisms he addresses is that an optimific moral code of the type he proposes will inevitably collapse into act-utilitarianism:
P1. It is chaotic to expect people to always be able to take the specific action that maximizes utility.
P2. An optimific moral code contains no direct rule that instructs an agent to do the most good possible.
P3. In the case of conflicting rules within an optimific code, it is not to be assumed that utility will be the deciding factor, the way that it is in John Stuart Mill's theory of utilitarianism.
P4. The public nature of any rule-utilitarianism code does not condone actions that will maximize utility for an individual in secret, but will be detrimental in public.
Co. Therefore, no optimific code needs to contain a utilitarian rule, and it is not the case that a person in an optimific moral code must always do what maximizes utility (601).

Further considerations in deciding if a moral code is at least as good as any other
A. A code must have currency, as defined above, which means that it cannot be overly complicated.
B. It must take into account situations that are likely to arise even without being morally sanctioned by the majority of people required to make the code have currency, such as the current provisions for self-defense.
C. It must have a system of punishments and excuses for infractions. (597-600)


1. Is Brandt's argument that the ideal moral code will not collapse into act-utilitarianism convincing? Even if his argument is successful, does the fact that the ideal code won't collapse into act-utilitarianism create a meaningful difference between it and Mill's theory?
2. On page 599, he claims that there should be thought given to the actions of others when assessing the right action in a situation. Is this problematic? Does it mean that in practice, optimific rule-utilitarianism is not as simple to understand and implement as it claims to be?

Kant, Groundwork (Oct. 28)

In this part of the text Kant introduces the idea that the will of every rational being is a universally legislative will. He says that this is the most important element that distinguishes categorical imperatives from hypothetical ones. He introduces the concept of a realm of ends, which demonstrates how rationality shows that we are makers and subjects of laws, and following laws becomes a universal duty.

Argument 1: All other previous attempts to create a formula for morality have failed

1. Each previous framework has overlooked is the fact that the will of every rational human being is a universally legislative will

2. In these previous formulas humans were bound to actions through his/her duty to laws; this fails to recognize that each individuals actions are driven by an intrinsic will of their own

3. True morality cannot occur when a person is acting as a subject to a law because this law came about via something

Argument 2: The ground of duty and its true sense as he explained earlier in the text cannot be achieved if laws do not stem from a persons individual legislative will

1. To achieve true moral duty of action one must not have any alternative interest or ‘stimulus’ behind ones action

2. This cannot occur if one is being told (via a law) that one must act a certain way, because this ‘will’ comes from somewhere else

3. The danger in the will arising from elsewhere is that, while it may still lead to good consequences, it did not arise from an individuals own will.

The essence of duty stems from the grounds that ones actions must arise from their own individual will. If laws are a result of some other will, something else, than there can be no grounds for duty to occur.

Argument 3:

In order to get around the dilemma of argument 2, when it comes to laws, in relations between two rational people, the will (and in essence, the law) of one of must be considered universally legislative

1. Because of reason we know that rational people are an end in themselves; this applies to all rational people

2. However, because of rationality we know that humans are ends unto themselves, and therefore means unto themselves

3. Laws, in there essence, determine ends to a means- in order for this to be rational it means that humans must be both authors and subjects of the laws

4. With this, abiding to law requires becomes a universal principle, obedience is unconditional, and therefore obedience due to specific interest is not possible


Do you agree with Kant that obedience to law is unconditional (and therefore a duty)? Does his argument that rationality leads to laws being of everyone’s own legislative will work for you?

Do you agree with Kant’s claim in Argument 1 that previous frameworks have failed because individuals were bound to follow laws, and therefore were unable to exercise there own universal legislative will?

Kant, "On a Supposed Right to Lie (Oct. 30)

The Right to Lie: Kant on Dealing with Evil

Author Christine Korsgaard

Reading Notes by Jane Bellet

As we’ve learnt in class, Kant’s view on the duty to always tell the truth causes the most concern with his critics. They see his moral philosophy as too rigid, which leaves one “powerless in the face of evil”.

In his writings he describes two situations which demonstrate such rigidity, with the second one about not lying to a murder, that has sparked particular concern.

I quite like how Korsgaard puts it that “unsympathetic readers are inclined to talk [these examples] as evidence of the horrifying conclusions to which Kant was led by his notion that the necessity in duty is rational necessity- as if Kant were clinging to a logical point in the teeth of moral decency.” (p.327)

I found her main argument complex so decided to focus solely on it because there are so many different elements within it.

Premise 1: Kant’s Formula of Universal Law tells us we must never act on a maximum that we could not concurrently will to be a universal law

Premise 2: One can create a universal maximum that, in the case of evil, you will respond to evil by attempting to stop it from occurring by the use of deception, when the evil person is unaware that you will attempt to stop evil from occurring

Premise 3: In this example the murderer (as the author sees it) will not make his intentions known, thus deceiving us (ie. he would not announce he is here to kill the victim)

Premise 4: However, this is because the murder assumes we do not know his intentions but in reality we do.

Premise 5: And so given those facts, the universal maximum Korsgaard has outlined (the one in premise two) when you use deception on the murder (which is done when you lie about knowing the whereabouts of his intended victim), you are not contradicting the universal maximum.

Conclusion: Therefore, lying to the murder is morally permissible when looked at under Kant’s Formula of Universal Law.


Following this point, she argues that we need special principles for dealing with evil and introduces a ‘double-level’ theory to understand Kant. She says that this allows for better guidance and in situations in which Kant’s theory seems uncompromising. In cases of following his Formula of Humanity, and consequently, his Kingdom of Ends idea, it may not be feasible, particularly in instances where you may be used as a tool for immoral means.

I am not sure if I wholly agree with her double-level approach, although I do agree that perhaps we should have separate principles in dealing with evil. I am interested to hear what the group has to say on this.


Does what Korsgaard arguing make morally valid sense? (ie. use deception as a means to stop evil from occurring?)

What do you think Kant would say in conclusion of her argument? Would he agree/disagree and on what basis?

Do you think that the author's approach to a two-tier system of understanding Kant is necessary or appropriate? If yes, what flaws or critiques do you have of her double-level approach?

Intro to Virtue Ethics (Nov. 4)

Foundation in Aristotelian ethics

- Aristotle’s definition of character:

o Active- “virtuous inner dispositions…involve being moved to act in accordance with them” (IEP, 2b)
o Stable- actions are expected in any situation with any audience
o In development- natural tendencies either good or bad, influenced by those around
 Necessitates good role models
o PracticeUnderstanding: “Habituation is mere an aid to the development of virtue, but true virtue requires choice, understanding, and knowledge” (IEP, 2b)

- Aristotelian virtue re: Book II Nicomachean Ethics

o Virtuous action chosen for its own sake (purposive disposition)
o “Lies in a mean”: virtue displays mean/appropriate amount of emotion
o w/ right reason and right desire (logic and feeling)

Distinct from deontology and consequentialism
• Account of moral psychology: w/ character development and emotional focus (IEP, 2b)
• “The study of ethics is imprecise”, not recognized by other two forms (IEP, 2c)
o They do not explain the complexities of moral situations [uncodifiability of ethics thesis]
Virtue ethics offers “rules of thumb…true for the most part, but may not always be the appropriate response”

Aristotle’s function argument
“Every action aims at some good”

- Actions with ends in themselvesend of the greatest good, Eudemonia/happiness/fulfillment
P1 A thing with a function is good when it performs its function well
P2 Man has a function
P3 A good man is a man who performs his function well
P4 Man’s function is reason, the distinctly human trait
P5 The Good man is the man who reasons well
C “Eudemonia is the life of virtue – activity in accordance with reason, man’s highest function” (IEP, 3a)

Rosalind Hursthouse: Virtue decided not for consequences, but rather for “constitutive elements of eudemonia (i.e. human wellbeing), which is good in itself” (IEP, 3c)
- Virtues benefit their possessor, integrated with self-interest (do not lead to, but are the good life)
Philippa Foot: Virtues are valuable through their contribution to the good life
Thomas Hurka: Virtues recognized the importance of rationality, thus contributing to our wellbeing and perfection

Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle

The importance of politics (master art/superior end)

P1 Every action aims at a good, thus good is that to which all things aim.
P2 Ends are either activities or products of those that produce them (science vs. military action)
P3 The ends of the “master arts” are prioritized above the ends of the subsections
P4 If there is an end desired for its own sake, and the chain is not infinite, it is valued above all else (chief good)
P5 Politics governs sciences and the learning thereof (w/ strategy, economics, and rhetoric)
P6 Politics must consider the ends of a nation/city-state, which is “finer” than simply for one
C Political science is the end deserving of further inquiry

Preface notes (Aristotle, 3)
- The wide variety of virtues each with “rough truth”; it is foolish to look for precision

P1 Man is a good judge of that which he knows
P2 A young man is inexperienced in life’s actions
P3 This young man (in years or in spirit) follows only his passions
P4 Those with ends in knowledge rather than action, have unprofitable studies
C “Those who desire and act in accordance with a rational principle knowledge about such matters will be of great benefit” (Aristotle, 3) Only those who apply the knowledge benefit

The aim of political science/”the highest of all goods achievable by action” = Happiness (generally accepted)
- The wise, those of superior refinement living well and doing well
- The masses Pleasure, wealth, honour (circumstantial happiness)

Upbringing and understanding
- Well brought up -> Listens and understands lectures on the just, on political science
- Not well brought up -> Must learn from the wisdom of others

    • The various goods for the various “arts” (i.e. medicine, strategy, architecture, etc.) is the good for all men the art serves**

P1 An end for all action is/are the good/s achievable by action
P2 A final good is self-sufficient (life is desirable, lacking nothing, when good is isolated)
P3 Happiness is the aforementioned chief good
C Happiness is final, self-sufficient, and the end of action

Three classes of goods
1. External
2. Relating to the soul: “most properly and truly goods…psychical actions and activities we class as relating to soul” (Aristotle, 8)
3. Relating to the body

P1 Actions and activities relate to the soul, justifying identifying ends therein.
P2 Virtue belongs to virtuous activity.
P3 Happiness belongs to virtue.
P4 Lovers of the noble find pleasant that which is by nature pleasant.
P5 Virtuous acts must be in themselves pleasant…also good and noble
C “Happiness then is the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing in the world…” (Aristotle, 8).

Note: linked with external goods as well (having others and things likely increases happiness)

P1 Character is permanent, continued through a life.
P2 Virtuous activity are the most permanent.
C The happy man will be happy throughout his life.

- Positive events would increase happiness, Negative events would “crush and maim” happiness; But, nobility and “greatness of soul” will prevail no matter the event.

P1 Activities give life its character
P2 No happy man will do hateful or mean acts
P3 The happy man makes the best of his situations
C “No happy man can be miserable” (Aristotle, 10).

P1 Happiness is an activity of soul.
P2 The student of politics studies virtue above all else. (encourages obedience to laws)
P3 The virtue to be studied is “human virtue”
P4 Human virtue is of the soul, not of the body.
C The student of politics must study the soul (in a general sense, to avoid laborious strain)

- The soul is irrational and the principle is rational
- Irrational element:
o Vegetative: nutrition and growth (common to all species), occurs in sleep, opposes the rational principle
o Appetitive/desiring element: (especially in continent, temperate and brave man) obeys the rational principle

P1 The soul is two-fold (opposing and obeying rationality)
P2 Virtue involves activities of the soul
C Virtue is likewise multi-faceted; intellectual vs. moral

1. In what respects is virtue ethics better than that which it contrasts; utilitarianism and deontology? In what respects may it be worse?
2. How would a virtue ethicist feel about lying or cheating? (as opposed to the aforementioned philosophies)

Later virtue theory (Nov. 18)

Distinguishing Virtue Ethnics With Relativism Tom Guo

1. Contemporary virtue ethnics seems to be leaning towards a sort of relativism compared to Aristotle's virtue theory. (33)

2. This is because the criteria for good life central to virtue ethics are seen by contemporary philosopher not as one single set of norms, but rather shaped by individual/group beliefs and traditions as to what criteria constitutes as human flourishing.(p33)

3. Aristotle on the other hand believes there is a single objective set of criteria to what is human flourishing or good life.This is justifiable based on the common human ability to reason that transcend any particular set of traditions. In fact, Aristotle would consider some traditions harmful to the flourishing of life because it hinders the development of virtues.(p33)

4. A relativist would oppose Aristotle's view because they would suggest that any list of virtues is formulated by a particular society or individual's view of what is good. Thus, there is no single universal account of virtue as Aristotle suggests. In fact, Aristotle's view of virtue is simply a reflection of what is virtuous based on Greek culture.(p34)

5. However, Aristotle in his writing tries to give various name and description to some otherwise nameless virtues and vices, which does not make sense if he simply tries to capture what is virtuous or bad in his own society.(p34-35)

6. Aristotle in fact tries to explain virtues by splitting human life into various sphere. Each sphere includes some human experience that any human will encounter and have to make decision on. Virtue then, is what lead people to be disposed to act in an appropriate manner based on the specific circumstance.(p35-36)

7. Thus its not the case as relativist suggest that virtues are simply formulated uniquely by a given society or individual's view. Instead, it is what facilitate us to behave in a correct way in dealing with specific experiences that all individuals, regardless of society or background, will deal with.(p36)

8. Aristotle thus gives an objective account of what is morally right. Since everyone will have to make decisions within the various sphere Aristotle specified(eg, everyone at some point makes a decision whether to tell the truth.), and they would either behave correctly or incorrectly (one either tell the truth or lie or stay silent, and these decision are either right or wrong). Therefore Aristotle's virtue does not represent the view of one particular society, but rather what makes all man behave well in face of a particular decision. Furthermore, there are certain rights and wrongs based on the particular circumstance.(p36)

Conclusion: Therefore, Aristotle's virtue ethnics is distinctly different from relativism unlike some contemporary philosopher felt. Virtue ethnics is thus able to provide an objective and definite justification in dealing with issues based on the traditional beliefs of certain society(such as status of woman in some part of the world).


1, However, when defining what actions are appropriate, or how the sphere of human experiences, is Aristotle truly free from bias based on his own cultural background and traditions?

2, Would "pursue virtues that allow you to act appropriately in different circumstances", as suggested by Aristotle, constitutes a form of utilitarianism? That is, build your character in way such that your action brings human flourishing? Ultimately it is still the need to produce the appropriate result that determines the correctness of an action?