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Group 3 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)

Sept.18th assigned reading: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy on consequentialism: section 1 only (1a through 1f) Author: William Haines link:

Consequentialism: belief that morality is all about producing the right kinds of overall consequences.

“Overall Consequences” : everything the action brings out, including that action itself.

Ex. If you think that the whole point of morality is

a. to spread happiness and relieve suffering, or

b. to create as much freedom as possible in the world, or

c. to promote the survival of our species,

Then, in conclusion, (d) you accept consequentialism because: although these three views disagree with what kinds of consequences matter, they agree that consequences are all that matter.

=== 1. Basic Issues and Simple Versions === a. Introduction to Plain Consequentialism

Various versions of consequentialism, most standard precise version is Plain Consequentialism:

a. if there is no one best action because,

b. several actions are tied for best consequences

then, (c ) of course, any of those several actions would be right.

• Other versions of consequentialism may be generated by making small changes to this theory, as long as the new theory stays true to the general idea that morality is all about producing the right kids of overall consequences.

• Consequentialism does not say what kinds of consequences are good therefore people can agree on consequentialism while disagreeing about what kind of out come is good or bad.

Ex. If in charge of setting speed limits, you might think that a bad result is a death: the fewer the deaths, the better.

a. the people who die in accidents were all going to die anyway, so a fatal accident does not mean there are more deaths than there otherwise would have been.

b. Perhaps, what counts as a good result is the amount of life that the action adds or subtracts in the world.

c. That would explain why fatal accidents are bad, since an early death means less life.

But, if quantity if life were the only kind of good result, then a long happy life would be no better than a long unhappy life.

• Traditional view among consequentialists: only kind of result that is good is happiness.


(a) Suppose you are just as happy as I am, but you live twice as long, then

(b) you will have had twice as much happiness as I had so,

(c) the total happiness we had is three times the happiness I had.

• To find the goodness of consequences of an action, take the total amount of happiness in those consequences. The more happiness, the better.

• If what matters is the total amount, then it does not matter whether the happiness belongs to you or to your friend or even a stranger AND it does not matter if the happiness will happen today or the next year.

• If we plug the above example into consequentialism we get that view that: the right action is the one that causes the most happiness—more than would have been caused by any of the other alternative actions.

• Problem with setting a very high speed limit: it causes early deaths → which reduces the amount of life → thus reduce the amount of happiness there will be.

But.. problem with setting a very slow speed limit → driving very slow takes up time. If people can get where they are going more quickly → they will probably use the time they saved to do things that will add happiness to their lives or lives of others.

Consequentialism suggests: to set the correct speed limit, you must balance considerations like such.

b. What is a “Consequence”?

In consequentialism, the “consequences” of an action include (a) the action itself, and (b) everything the action causes.

• (Both A itself and the things A causes are things that happen if you do A rather than the alternatives to A).

• the actual “consequences” of an action, beyond the action itself, need not be actual outcomes.

• “actions: should normally be understood to mean “intentional actions.”

Ex. I will bake a cake if you win a coin toss, and you are deciding whether to toss the coin or walk away. Eventually you toss coin, you win, and I bake the cake.

a. Was cake consequence of your action of tossing the coin?

b. No, because you could have tossed the coin in multiple different positions and different manners.

i. Intentional action: toss the coin, not to toss coin in that manner/position that it was tossed.

ii. But precise manner made you win

Therefore, intentional action of tossing did not make you win.

The usual consequentialist view: 50% chance of a certain good outcome is half as good as that good outcome itself, and a 10% chance is one tenth as good.

c. Plain Scalar Consequentialism

definition: of any two things a person might do at any given moment, one is better than another to the extent that the overall consequence are better than the other’s overall consequences.


c. if A’s consequences are a little better than B’s → then A is morally a little better than B; and

d. if A’s consequences are much better than C’s, than A is morally much better than C.

e. theory implies: actions with the best consequences are morally best, but it does not say that if you do the second-best you are doing something morally wrong. It says nothing about right or wrong.

d. Expectable Consequentialism and Reasonable Consequentialism

Expectable Consequentialism: the morally right action is the action whose reasonably expectable consequences are the best. (An action can be right even if I do no think reasonably about it at all, so long as it is the action I would have estimated to have the best consequences if I had done a reasonable job of making an estimate).

• Ex. Someone from Cancer agency come to my door and only says, “Would you give to the Cancer agency?” and hands me a pamphlet, which discusses their evil plan on page 2.

a. Reasonable way to estimate consequences would involve at lest looking through pamphlet, but I am not interested.

b. I simply assume the group fights cancer

c. I do not look at the pamphlet because I do not care

d. I do not donate

• Thus, without reasonable though, I have done what it would have been reasonable to estimate to estimate would have the best results. So Expectable Consequentialism says my thoughtless selfish action was morally right.

Reasonable Consequentialism: an action is morally right if and only if it have the best reasonably expected consequences. (An action of mine to be right, I must actually come to a reasonable conclusion beforehand abut the consequences).

e. Dual Consequentialism

Ex. I am sick and you are a doctor.

a. You do a great job of diagnosis and end up prescribing me the pill any responsible doctor would have to choose for the symptoms I displayed.

b. But pill prescribed turns out to harm me, because I have a rare and previously unknown virus.

c. In one sense your prescription was wrong,

d. In another sense it was morally right.

Dual consequentialism can say both those things.

Dual Consequentialism: the word “right” is ambiguous. It has a moral sense and objective sense. (i) the objectively right action is the action with the best consequences, and (ii) the morally right action is any action with the best reasonably expected consequences.

f. Rule Consequentialism

definition: an action is morally right if and only if it does not violate the set of rules of behavior whose general acceptance in the community would have the best consequences—that is, at least as good as any rival set of rules or no rules at all.

Ex. “Throwing the garbage in the dump and not the river.”

Even if nobody else is going to the dump, and going to the dump causes inconvenience and no benefit, Rule Consequentialism says to take your garbage to the dump because that is what the best set of community rules would require.

My Questions:

(1.) How does Expectable Consequentialism even concern the process of making moral actions or decisions if those moral action(s), such as “thinking about whether something is moral or immoral” don’t even matter so long as you come out with the best consequence? Wouldn’t the concept of morality eliminate itself from this category of consequentialism?

(2.) Couldn’t rule consequentialism potentially backfire if a community had a negative/evil set of rules? In that case you would have to go against the general community to make the right and more humane decision? Ex. In some parts of the world certain bodily parts are removed to eliminate sexually pleasure and to prevent pre-marital sex for religious reasons, and this rule is thought of as positive or good by the entire community. I feel that rule consequentialism would discourage people from disagreeing with rules they found to be inacceptable just because they are a minority, preventing change from ever taking place.

By: PS

Mill, Utilitarianism (Sept. 23)

Joshua Adrian


Utilitarianism as argued by John Stuart Mill in 1863 is a moral theory that emphasised on the Greatest Happiness Principle. This principle holds that actions that are right and ought to be done are those that would bring happiness and pleasure. Happiness, according to Mill is an intended pleasure and an absence of pain. (Mill, 4) Actions that would promote dissatisfaction and the reverse of happiness are wrong and should not be done. (Mill, 4) For utilitarians, the theory of utility is intercorrelated with the idea of pleasure and pain and an action should be made based on the maximum net welfare or utility. Mill believes that “all desirable things are desirable either for pleasure inherent in themselves or as means to the promotion of pleasure and prevention of pain” (Mill, 4) and people are ultimately seeking for freedom from pain.

Superiority of Pleasures

While the idea of pleasure if intercorrelated with the theory of Greatest Happiness Principle, Mill distinguishes different types of pleasures and argues that “some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than other.” (Mill, 4) and the quality pleasure of more superior than quantity pleasure (Mill, 5)

Premise 1. It would be absurd that in estimating all other things, the estimation of pleasures should be supposed to depend on quantity alone.

Premise 2. If of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a deceived preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the more desirable pleasure.

Premise 3. If one of the two is, by those who are competently acquainted with both, placed so far above the other that they prefer it, even though knowing it to be attended with a greater amount of discontent and would not reign it for any quantity of the other pleasure which their nature is capable of, we are justified in ascribing to the preferred enjoyment a superiority in quality.

Conclusion 1. Therefore we should distinguish between quality pleasure and quantity pleasure in estimating pleasures.

Premise 4. Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animal.

Premise 5. No intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus even though they should be persuaded that the fool, dunce and rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they are with theirs.

Premise 6. It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.

Conclusion 2. The quality pleasure of more superior than the quantity of pleasure.

Explanation of the Premises

As seen in the premises above, the first three premises are supporting the sub conclusion (conclusion 1), which later supports the main conclusion (conclusion 2). The first three premises distinguishes the difference in pleasures based on people’s decision when choosing two types of actions that might bring different outcome. Premise 4-6 are describes Mill’s analogy of a man and a pig and socrates and a fool. Mill argues that no human would ultimately degrade themselves even if they would have less satisfaction than those who are lower than them. He concludes with a punch line of it is better to be human being and Socrates being dissatisfied than a pig and a fool being satisfied. Through the analogy, Mill believes that the quality of human’s value is higher and more superior than the possible pleasures gained as someone with a lower value of life, therefore quality is higher than quantity.

Comments and Questions

From the argument of superiority of pleasures, we could ponder on few application issues. An argument would be flawless if the premises and reasonings are flawless. Firstly, Mill presupposes that human beings are rational and have a certain degree of self-esteem to not lower themselves in exchange for quantity pleasures, as seen in premise 5. For instance, prostitution and pornography could be argued as an act of degrading a person’s life. Yet many people still indulge in those kind of actions in return for money or even fame. Secondly, in discussing quantity and quality of pleasure, we assume that some pleasures are quanitfiable and measurable, but can we actually do that with such an intricate and abstract idea?

Another issue that might come up Mill’s argument and his analogy of Socrates and a fool, Mill presuppose that Socrates’ value as a human being is higher than the value of fool and people would choose to be Socrates than a fool at any given circumstances. However Mill does not tackle the issue of is it better to kill one Socrates or 100 fools. In dealing abstract idea such as the quality of pleasure, I think quality intertwines with values. Is a person’s value higher than others? for example parents or relatives. If so using Mill’s conclusion that quality pleasure is higher than quantity pleasure, would it be righteous to kill 100 strangers in exchange for one relative because the relative’s value and quality is higher than the 100 strangers.

Mill, Utilitarianism (Sept. 25)

Joshua Adrian

Proof of the Susceptibility of Principle of Utility

As discussed previously regarding Utilitarianism developed by Bentham and Mill, utilitarianism focuses on welfare and utility. An action is right only if it maximise net welfare which is presented by pleasures as discussed by Mill. Happiness and the absence of pain is the ultimate utility aimed by those who holds a utilitarian perspective. However, an ideology will remain as a sole idea if it is not susceptible or applicable in the real world. In Chapter 4 of Mill’s writing on Utilitarianism, he argues few reasons and proof on why utilitarianism is not only produce the best framework of morality but it is also very plausible to be applied in the real world.

Argument of Happiness as A Framework of Morality. (Page 17)

One of the arguments developed by Mill to prove the liabilities of utilitarianism is the concept of happiness. Mill argues that happiness play a crucial factor in proofing the susceptibility of the Principle of Utility. (Mill, 17) Below is the argument illustrated by Mill:

Premise 1. The only proof capable of being given an object is visible is that people can actually see it.

Premise 2. The only proof capable of being given a sound is audible is that people can actually hear it.

Conclusion 1. The only proof given that something is real is that people can experience it.

Premise 3. The sole evidence that it is possible to produce that anything is desirable is that people actually do desire it.

Premise 4. General happiness is desirable when each person believes it to be attainable and desires his own happiness.

Premise 5. Happiness is good and each person’s happiness is good to that person and the general happiness.

Conclusion 2. Happiness is one of the ends of conduct and become one of the criteria of morality.

Explanation of the Premises

Mill believes that “happiness is desirable, and the only thing desirable, as and end; all other things being only desirable as means to that end.” (Mill, 17) The argument above proves that not only happiness is considered to be the ultimate end, but also proves that it is actually attainable when people actually desire it. Premise 1 and 2 shows that important of human’s experience and human’s contribution in proving that something is real and achievable. Premise 3-5 shows the importance of people longing for happiness and act based on what would ultimately make them happy, which therefore makes the idea of happiness as one of the frameworks for morality.

Comments and Questions on the Arguments

Mill uses selective and careful words in making the arguments. For example, he purports that happiness is good and will bring a positive impact to the general impact to the general happiness, but he does not explicitely state that people will always desire happiness. He does mention that is is attainable when people long for their own happiness and desire it, but he does not say that they will always desire it. This rises a question of what people actually desire when they do not desire own’s happiness. Do you think our action always revolves around what makes us happy ultimately consciously and unconsciously?

“Happiness is desirable, and the only thing desirable, as and end; all other things being only desirable as means to that end.” (Mill, 17). Through that quote, Mill believes that an action would be righteous is if it creates a maximum general happiness since happiness act an end. This surely becomes an issue when it comes to majority vs minority. What do you think a utilitarian would say when vast majorities are doing inhuman and immoral actions while the righteous are the minorities? How should utilitarians view and objectivize the idea of happiness since everyone’s definition of happiness might vary.

A comment from Christina

I just wanted to point out, so no one gets things wrong on the exam: Mill actually does say that each person desires their own happiness and nothing else. He starts making this argument on p. 17 when he says, “…it would seem, by the same rule, necessary to show, not only that people desire happiness, but that they never desire anything else.” Then this argument keeps going, basically, throughout the rest of the chapter. But he returns to it pretty clearly on p. 19, in the second and third paragraphs.

Mill, Utilitarianism (Sept. 30)

Chapter 5 - On the Connection Between Justice and Utility

The main argument supporting the opposition of Utilitarianism is the idea of Justice. People don’t agree with how the criterion of what is right or wrong has been derived from the idea of justice. It is best to define justice by examining what is unjust, “For justice, like many other moral attributes, is best defined by its opposite.” (Mill 20):

1) It is unjust to take or deprive anyone of their personal liberty, property, or any other thing which by law belongs to them. Therefore it is just to respect the and unjust to violate the legal rights of anyone. (Mill 21)

2) There exist laws which are actually bad laws. Since it is universally agreed that law has the capability of being wrong, then everyone can also agree that law is not the ultimate criterion of justice. Since following these laws seem to be equally as unjust as the breach of a good law, one can say that this is because the bad laws infringe on somebody’s rights; which, since it cannot be a legal right must make it a moral right. Therefore, it is just to preserve and unjust to withhold moral rights from anyone. (Mill 21)

3) It is universally considered that every person should receive what he deserves. If a man does right then he should deserve good. If a man does wrong then he should deserve evil. To deserve good from those man does or has done good, and evil from those to whom he does or has done evil. It is just to treat a person as he deserves to be treated. (Mill 21)

4) It is seen as unjust to break faith with anyone: to violate an engagement or to disappoint expectations raised by ones conduct. This concept is seen as capable of being overruled by stronger obligations to justice or by such conduct by the person you have entered into agreement with which absolves obligation. (Mill 21)

5) It is unjust to be partial in matters which favour and preference do not properly apply. Impartiality in itself is not duty however, but as an instrument to hold other duty. (Mill 21)

==== Comment from Christina ====
Just FYI re: these five things: Note that when he’s listing out the five kinds of things that are considered just, he is not necessarily giving his own view of justice: “Let us therefore advert successively to the various modes of action, and arrangements of human affairs, which are classed, by universal or widely spread opinion, as Just or as Unjust” (p. 20, bottom). If you look at the way he writes in some of these, it’s fairly clear that he’s talking about what most people think, or what some think but others disagree, etc. He may very well agree that all of these are instances of justice, given how he defines it, but in this section of the text he’s not actually giving his own view, just going over what people have thought justice means, in order to try to find what is common amongst all of them (which, he says, is the idea of a right residing in someone and a corresponding sense that society ought to protect that right and offenders against it be punished). ==== End comment ====

(Pertaining to the 1st and 2nd instances of justice) What exactly is a right?

“When we call anything a person’s right, we mean that he has a valid claim on society to protect him in possession of it, either by the force of law [Legal Rights], or by that of education and opinion [Moral Rights].” (Mill 23)

What Is the Purpose of Justice?

“While I dispute the pretensions of any theory which sets up an imaginary standard of justice not grounded on utility, I account the justice which is grounded on utility to be the chief part, and incomparably the most sacred and binding part, of all morality…which concern the essentials of human well-being more nearly, and are therefore of more absolute obligation, than any other rules for the guidance of life.” (Mill 24) “Justice is a name for certain moral requirements which regarded collectively, stand higher in the scale of social utility, and are therefore of more paramount obligation, than any others” (Mill 25) Mill states that if humanity follows the basic laws of justice, then it will achieve a great amount of happiness and utility.

The Exceptions to Obligation of Justice:

- While Mill says that justice is heavily valued on the scale of utility he does also say that in some cases social duty overrules duty to justice, “Particular cases may occur in which some other social duty is so important, as to overrule any one of the general maxims of justice. Thus, to save a life, it may not only be allowable, but a duty, to steal, or take by force, the necessary food or medicine, or to kidnap, and compel to officiate the only medical practitioner.

Ethical writers divide moral duties into two classes:

1) Duties of Perfect Obligation: “Are duties in virtue of which a correlative [moral] right resides in some person or persons” (Mill 22)

2) Duties of Imperfect Obligation: “Though the act is obligatory, the particular occasions of performing it are left to our choice, as in the case of charity of beneficence, which we are indeed bound to practice, but not towards any definite person, nor at any prescribed time.” (Mill 22) No one has a moral right to our charity or beneficence, and while we are called to practice this, it does not state on a specific individual or issue.


Justice is based on five maxims which in general advocate for human happiness. Justice is a highly respected virtue along the scale of social utility however it is not the only thing utilitarians are obligated to follow.

Questions and Concerns:

Wouldn’t there be some sort of conflict between the first and second cases of justice? If some people believe a certain law is a legal right and others that it is impeding on a moral right, or vice versa, then how would one decide what is just?

For the third definition of justice if a person were to repay someone who has done bad with something that they deserve, as the definition states, would that act be considered a justice or injustice?

Wouldn’t the duties of imperfect obligation still derive from a moral right? Is it right to distinguish between the two just because of how one is more specific?

Later consequentialism (Oct. 2)

Rule utilitarianism (Oct. 7)

Kant, Groundwork (Oct. 28)

Geetika Bhasin:

Premise 1: A human being is not a means, in all actions a human being should be considered as an end itself. (p.88)

Premise 2: You mustn’t use other human beings as a means, as if there is no end. (i.e. don’t make half-baked promises for your own self-gain). Transgressing their rights → using them as a means. (p.89)

Premise 3: Duties to one self should not just not violate humanity, it must also harmonize with it. This only maintains humanity, it does not advance it.

Premise 4: Meritorious duties → natural end which all humans have is their own happiness, if we constantly try to take on endeavors that positively influence all. Otherwise there would be negative harmony.

Conclusion: - Humans are an end, not a means

- Work to be positive, positively influence others and harmonize humanity

- Kingdom of Ends → Following the same concept of humans as means and harmonizing humanity, leads to a common objective goal that creates a kingdom of systematic positivity, known as the Kingdom of Ends. (p. 92)

Kingdom of Ends → Consider yourself a member always if you abide by the common goals

→ You may consider yourself a sovereign, if you are no subject to your own will and is a completely independent being.

=== A comment from Christina ===

One can still, actually, be sovereign in the kingdom of ends even if subject to one's own will; in fact, that’s what our situation is in the kingdom of ends—we are both subject to the moral law and also sovereigns because we give that moral law to ourselves, command it to ourselves.

===end comment===

Premise 1: Everything in the Kingdom of Ends has a price or dignity.

Premise 2: A price can be replaced by something that is equivalent.

Premise 3: A market price can be a “fancy price”, but the inner worth is its dignity that cannot be changed.

Conclusion: Everything in terms of wants of humankind has a market price, some have a greater market price, which is a fancy price, but its dignity is intrinsic.


1: Maxims must be consistent with the will itself being a universal legislator.

2: Universal legislation = not based on any interest, can be unconditional

3: Law of Interest: Need a law of interest to also restrict the interest of self-love, for it to be valid as a universal law. You can’t follow interests blindly, ultimately.

4: Categorical Imperative: Only commands something can be done from one’s will if it is align with UNIVERSAL LAW. (p. 90)

Premise 1: Humans are bound to laws by duty

Premise 2: Laws that one is subject to are those of his own giving, because while the laws are universal, one acts in conformity to his own will, despite this being contradictory to universal legislation. → Law needs to bring some interest, as his will did not come immediately from the law.

Conclusion → The principle of autonomy: One follows duty out of their interest, the imperative is conditional. (p. 91)

=== A comment from Christina ===
In premise 2, I don't think we should say that acting in conformity with one's own will contradicts universal legislation, b/c Kant thinks we can and should act according to our own wills when we determine the moral law through reason and will to act on it. Then in the conclusion, it's true that if one follows duty out of interest, then the imperative is conditional, but this is not itself the principle of autonomy. The principle of autonomy is that one should regard the will of every rational being as one that can give universal law to itself (i.e., can be autonomous in commanding the moral law to itself).
=== end comment ===


1. What makes a market price a fancy price?

2. How do we retain interest in duties, when universal legislation itself can be considered to be separate from interests?

3. Is it plausible to believe in the Kingdom of Ends? That we can all share one common way of thought and a common ideal?

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

Introduction to the Issue at Hand:

Due to Immanuel Kant’s rigidly objective moral theory it seems to imply that our moral obligations leave us powerless in the face of evil. (Korsgaard 325) The best known example of this is his take on the duty of telling the truth.

Kant seems to endorse two claims about telling the truth. The first is that no one is permitted under any circumstance to tell a lie. The second is that if one does tell a lie one is responsible for the consequence that ensue. (Korsgaard 326) These claims are made clear through the following situations of Kant’s:

In this situation a servant tells a visitor his master isn’t home under instruction. His master then commits a crime which would have been prevented by the watchman. Kant then says: “Upon whom…does the blame fall? To be sure, also upon the servant, who here violated a duty to himself by lying, the consequences of which will now be imputed to him by his own conscience.” (MMV, 431/93) In this situation a murder has arrived at your door looking for your friend with the intention of killing him. Kant says that it would be against duty to lie and in some situations one should be held ethically and legally responsible for doing so.

Korsgaard continues to try to prove that Kant was wrong in making these claims based off of his own categorical imperatives. Korsaard attempts to prove that Kant’s conclusions in lying can be blocked by his own procedures. (Korsgaard 327)

Premise 1: The Formula of Universal Law) This premise states that lying in some specific cases is justified based on the first categorical imperative (the formula of universal law). Since there is already some sort of deception in the scenario of the murderer at the door (he assumes you are not aware of his intentions) and so there will not be a contradiction. Because the murderer assumes you to not know his intentions he cannot conclude from the fact that people in this situation will always lie that you will lie. The maxim of lying to a deceiver can be universalized. (Korsgaard 330)

Premise 2: The Formula of Humanity) This premise states that lying is never justified based on the second categorical imperative (the formula of humanity). The formula of humanity holds that any action which depends for its nature and efficacy on the other’s ignorance or powerlessness goes against perfect duty. Lying clearly falls in this category of action since it is only effective when others do not know it is a lie, therefore using humanity as merely a means to an end. (Korsgaard 333)

Premise 3: the kingdom of ends) This premise states that lying is never justified based on the third categorical imperative (the kingdom of ends). Since Kant determines the will to be a kind of causality, lying is seen as being so inherently wrong to Kant because it treats your reason as a mediate cause instead. It is in direct violation of autonomy. (Korsgaard 334) Since the kingdom of ends is a democratic ideal, and no reasonable being can be denied citizenship, there is no reason for taking a decision out of someone else's hands through deceit. This is another way Kant views lying as using a human as a mere means to an end. The only way you can change someone’s mind is through persuasion.

Premise 4: Lying as a Form of Self Defence) Because they are trying to take advantage of you, it could be said it is justified to lie in self defence. As Kant says a lie can be used in self defence of someone using you as merely a means to an end. In this situation Kant says, “if I cannot save myself by maintaining silence, then my lie is a weapon of defence.” (LE, 228)

Conclusion) It could be said that Kant’s ethical theory may be a double level theory. The formula of humanity and the vision of a kingdom of ends provides the ideal society and moral goal of humanity. But it is not feasible to live up to this in everyday life and in some cases could make you a tool of evil. The formula of universal law provides a much more practical application of morality. (Korsgaard 349)

Questions and concerns:

Kant says that all categorical imperatives should hold true since they are all based on the same thing. If this is so, how can the first categorical imperative support lying to a deceiver but the others do not?

Korsgaard set out to prove that lying is morally permissible in some situations, which directly opposes what Kant says on the matter. Are her claims using Kant’s categorical imperatives valid since he himself disagrees?

Would it be allowed to tell the murderer at the door a misleading truth instead of the lie?

Intro to Virtue Ethics (Nov. 4)

Nicomachean Ethics, by Aristotle Book I (Section 1-4)

Section 1

Premise 1: Every art, inquiry, and like wise every action and pursuit is thought to aim at some good; thus it have been rightly declared the aim of all things.

Premise 2: However, a particular difference is found among ends, as some are activities, others are products aside from the actions that produce them.

“Where there are ends apart from their activities, it is the nature of the products to be better than the activities.”

Premise 3: Like there are many actions, arts, and sciences, there are numerous ends.

Ex. the end of medical art is health, the end of the art of ship building is a vessel, etc.

Argument: But where these arts begin to fall under a certain volume/capacity—(harness manufacturing and anything concerned with the equipment of horses would fall under the art of riding, military action under the art of strategy)—in all these examples, the principle/chief arts are favored to all their secondary ends; it’s for the sake of the pervious that the latter are followed.

Section 2

Conclusion: If there are ends of things we do, that we desire for their own good, and if we don’t choose everything for the sake of something else, “clearly this must be the good and the chief good.”

Questions by Aristotle that beg the question: “Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what is right?”

→ Aristotle thinks that if this is the case, we have to at least determine what this good is and under what capacity or branch it falls under; it would look to belong to most powerful art, the one that is the true master art.

Ex. Politics is a master art in the sense that it commands which sciences should be learned, what the students of each class study and to what extent they should study those (sciences/arts).

Section 3

Premise One: A man judges well the things he understands, & of these things he’s a good judge.

Premise Two: A man who has studied that subject is a good judge of that subject, and a man who have received an all-inclusive education is a good judge in general.

Conclusion: So, a man is not a good listener of lectures on political science; for he is inexperienced in the movements that transpire during life, but its conversations begin from these, and are about these; additionally, because he is inclined to follow his passions, his education will be conceited and running at loss.

→ it does not matter if he’s young in age or nature, the flaw is not dependent on time, but on his living, and following each successive thing, as the passion guides.

→ to the incontinent, knowledge is worthless; but to those who want and act in agreement with a rational principle of knowledge about such topics will be of countless gain.

Section 4

“.. all knowledge and every pursuit aims at some good, what it is that we say political science aims at and what is the highest of all goods achievable by action.”

→ generally man identifies living well & being well with being happy, but they differ in defining what happiness actually is; their account also differ from those provided by a wise man.

→ some people think happiness is something plain & obvious like pleasure, prosperity and integrity; they, vary however, from one another—and frequently the same man associates it with different things.

Ex. Health when he is ill, wealth when he is poor

→ the unwise, conscious of they’re ignorance, admire those who state some great ideal that be above their scope of mind.


(1) When Aristotle says: “Hence any one who is to listen intelligently to lectures about what is noble and just, and generally, about the subjects of political science must have been brought up in good habits,” it’s claiming the wisdom or knowledge can only sprout when you’re surrounded by an environment that immolates good habits. However, is it not possible that intelligence/insightfulness can blossom from simply questioning bad habits, examining them and going on to shape them to be positive in the future? And usually aren’t the strongest and most capable of humans doing exactly this? Escaping adversity through the use of their own intelligence?

(2) Isn’t it a contradictory statement to say the some people are aware of their ignorance, and admire others who proclaim to follow some great idea beyond their comprehension, because wouldn’t those people have to understand that statement in order to know its about them and aren’t those people actually wise since they are aware of what counts as ignorance? Is Aristotle implying those who has established what ignorance is, that they are being ignorant and choose to do it anyway more ignorant than those unaware of their ignorance to begin with?

  • ALL quotes in the reading notes can be found under the particular section they’re listed under in the notes.*

Later virtue theory (Nov. 18)

Geetika Kaur Bhasin

What make a virtuous person?

→ It is a person who acts with virtue, who holds virtues and thusly fashions all his actions around them.

  • page 227: A virtue generates positive instruction (like kindness)

Premise 1: A virtuous person would believe that an act is right if it is in accordance with a moral rule or principle

Page 223: A moral rule/principle?

→ Historically considered to be “laid on by God”, that is a moral rule/principle

→ May be required by natural law?

→ Is defined by reason

→ Required by rationality

→ Would command universal rational acceptance

→ Could be considered by all rational beings

Premise 2: Moral rule and Rationality are LINKED.

Premise 3: One needs virtue in order to live a proper, well and flourishing life or eudaimonia

Page 226 – Hursthouse agrees the concept of flourishing is as obscure as rationality and happiness, but is crucial for virtue theory. This is where virtue theory fears that it’s concept is ‘hopelessly obscure’).

Premise 4: You don’t need to consider what others would do necessarily, virtues-based thinking is all about considering whether or not you are acting justly, fairly and kindly.

Premise 5: Virtue theory focuses on conventions of virtue, such as benevolence. It does not follow a relativist framework, for the most part.

^^^ Sometimes criticized as it is based on familiar versions of deontology (page 228)

→ Doesn’t really advise you what is the most virtuous action as it allows for interpretation of virtue due to its focus on conventions and deontology, can be tricky


Premise 1 → Consider the woman’s rights. The morality of abortion is also linked to the woman’s body and the morality that it is her body and right to have an influence on the matter. (235)

^ You must consider her eudemonia

Premise 2 →Virtue theories may focus on a specific situation at hand in which abortion would be considered virtuous or wrong.

^ You would look at the context ^ How it effects the eudemonia

Premise 3 → It is a metaphysical question to consider the fetus’s role

Premise 4 → Virtue theory believes men have a role as well in the majority of situations and so they must also be considered in this process

Conclusion would be that a virtue theorist would make a decision relative to the situation, but strictly with the focus on her eudemonia.


→ I really have a criticism about the deontology-based approach I would say I find it too obscure

→ Can’t eudemonia also be contradictory to virtues-based thinking in that focus on oneself may not always be charitable?

→ How can one situation change the approach or virtues-based thinking? Give an example.