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Group 5 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)

Thierry Bahuch - Phil 230

Reading Notes on Consequentialism

Argument for Dual Consequentialism:

Premise 1: In dual consequentialism an objectively right action is the action with the best consequences; i.e.: healing the sick. (1e)

Premise 2: In dual consequentialism a morally right action is any action with the best reasonably expected consequences; i.e.: intending to heal the sick (even without success). (1e)

Premise 3: In dual consequentialism a reasonably expected consequence is the expected consequence of an action after reasonably thinking about the consequences of that action before doing said action; i.e.: reading a charity pamphlet before deciding whether or not to donate. (1d)

Conclusion: Therefore, in dual consequentialism, the word “right” is ambiguous and can thus prescribe what is right in a moral sense and an objective sense. (1e)

Comments/Questions: - What is prioritized within dual consequentialism, that which is morally right, or that which is objectively right? - Why is dual consequentialism an adaptation of reasonable consequentialism as opposed to expectable consequentialism?

Mill, Utilitarianism (Sept. 23)

Thierry Bahuch – Phil 230

Reading Notes on Mill’s Utilitarianism

Argument for Utilitarianism

Premise 1: For utilitarianism, the foundations of morality are rooted in the Greatest Happiness Principle (GHP). (p.4)

Premise 2: The GHP holds that actions are morally right as they tend to promote happiness, while actions are morally wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. (p.4)

Premise 3: Happiness is defined by intended pleasure, and the absence of pain. (p.4)

Premise 4: Unhappiness is defined by pain and the privation of pleasure. (p.4)

Premise 5: Actions are morally desirable either for the pleasure inherent in those actions themselves, or also desirable as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain in the future. (p.4)

Premise 6: Some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others; i.e.: mental pleasures are often placed with superiority to bodily pleasures. (p.4)

Premise 7: Pleasures should [not] depend on quantity alone but also on quality and type. i.e.: one book may be more pleasurable than 10 meals. (p.5)

Premise 8: The rightness of morality is not based on the individuals own greatest happiness, but rather on the greatest amount of happiness for all relevant individuals affected by the action(s) in question. (p.6)

Conclusion: Therefore, the philosophy of utilitarianism holds that happiness is not limited to animalistic pleasures, but more importantly that an action is morally right as it tends to produce the greatest amount of happiness for all those involved, and wrong if it tends to promote the opposite.


- How does a utilitarian philosopher deal with the concept and practice of war and violence?

- How would a utilitarian society function with respect to an interaction with a none-western, masochistic and self-deprecating culture whose philosophical aim is to avoid happiness? Where and how would tolerance fit in to this context?

Mill, Utilitarianism (Sept. 25)

Ashley Hoekstra

Chapter 2:

Premis 1: Even those who argue for Utilitarianism agree that it is too much to ask for people to always do what is best for the world rather than themselves. Mill claims that these people are mistaken because it is the job of ethic to tell us our duty, some people's duty is not to serve the entire world (only an exceptional person can do that) but to serve the people around him (if everyone did this it would make for a virtuous world). (pg 9)

Premis 2: Another argument against is that people can be bad people and be guided by Utilitarianism at the same time (just because one participates in right action does not mean they have are completely virtuous). Mill argues that Utilitarians are conscious of this, but actions are the best predictor of a good character. (pg 9)

Premis 3: A third argument against Utilitarianism is that is can be seen as Expedient (convenient or practical but also immoral). Mill responds to this by saying that it is okay to do in some situations, it is okay to lie to protect oneself or others from evil. It is noted that there should be a limit on this, to not lie out of weakness. (pg 10)

Premis 4: A fourth argument against Utilitarianism is that people cannot possibly know how their actions will pan out, good or bad. Mill says that people are slowly learning how their actions will turn out as time goes on. (pg 11)

Premis 5: The final argument against utilitarianism that people may be self-deceptive, they convince themselves they are doing the right thing for everyone but are actually doing the wrong thing because there are no rigid rules. This is one of the true problems, it dependant on the level of virtue of the individual and is hard to manage and regulate (must use secondary principles) (pg 12)

Mill, Utilitarianism (Sept. 30)

Ashley Hoekstra

Chapter V: On the connection between utility and justice

All ideas of happiness/ right and wrong are rooted from Justice (which is absolute).

Premis 1: It is unjust to take away or withhold someones personal liberty/property/belongings/legal rights

Premis 2: Not all legal rights are just (there are bad laws) , which may deprive an individual of a right they deserve, this is then called a moral right.

Premis 3: An individual should be able to obtain what they deserve (good or bad) --> if the person is bad they should be able to obtain bad and vice versa

Premis 4: It is unjust to break an engagement with someone that you willingly agreed to (there are exceptions)

Premis 5: Being biased is inconstant with justice (being unbiased is not a duty) but it is unjust to keep a stranger from their rights in order to give a less deserving acquaintance something.

Premis 6: Equality is a key part of justice. Mill suggests that those who think that social inequality is okay are unjust, could be depriving others of their rights.

Premis 7: We only call something wrong if the person need be punished in some way (by law, being condemned by others, or results of his actions)

Later consequentialism (Oct. 2)

Anjouli Suryakumar

In "an introduction to moral theory", Mark Timmons explores the different forms of utilitarianism as well as objections against it. Utilitarianism can be described as the theory that maximises all benefits whilst reducing negatives. This approach is formed by looking at the consequence of an action.

The first objection against this is that Timmons states that utilitarianism can conflict with our moral beliefs therefore it fails to correct moral criterion. The reading then talks about the different scenarios in which this objection can be applied such as punishment and medical sacrifice and gave this example:

- a doctor who follows a utilitarian principle has a patient who is an alcohol abuser and is homeless. This patient needs a new liver but so do 2 other patients. So the physician concludes that she can kill the homeless one in order to save the others. However, this goes against our moral beliefs by killing one person in order to save others so it leads to an incorrect moral conclusion.

The next objection and premise against utilitarianism is that it is criticised for being extremely over demanding as the concept of morality itself is demanding. Firstly, we have value for our personal projects and plans but being an imperialist would cause you a lot of conflict as your personal agenda may not be the best way to spend your time if you consider the well being of everyone around you. This can be examined by the example given about being a baseball fan and having to be patriotic and go the the games but you could be sing that time to be doing volunteer work instead.

The reading then goes into other forms of utilitarianism

Rule Utilitarianism:

This version of utilitarianism was formed in counterpart to act utilitarianism in order to work against the objections made. It does so by stating two rules:

1) The rightness or wrongness of some individual action depends upon whether it is mentioned in a correct moral rule that applies to the situation in question.

2) A moral rule applying to a situation is correct if and only if the utility associated with the rule is at least as great as the utility associated with any other alternative rule.

Non-hedonistic Versions of utilitarianism:

An action is only right if it would result in as much general desire fulfilment as any alternative action that the agent could perform instead.

A good thing about this theory is that it avoids the main objection to hedonism. However this desire fulfilment theory has its problems as well. Firstly, for this to work, some desires need restrictions as it may not have an fulfilment. Secondly, it seems that desire fulfilment doesn't take into account anyone else's welfare.

Pluralistic Utilitarianism:

Here, utility is defined when an action has non-moral (intrinsic) value, not just pleasure or pain, but love, friendship, health and other states of consciousness.

An overall evaluation of utilitarianism is hard as there are so many different versions. However there are 3 general plausible ideas about morality.

1) there is a commitment to welfarism that accommodates our morality

2) The fact that we have to bring as much good to something as possible is and idea that is irresistible

3)it captures the idea that impartiality is the heart of morality.

Rule utilitarianism (Oct. 7)

Kant, Groundwork (Oct. 28)

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

Intro to Virtue Ethics (Nov. 4)

Reading note: Virtue Ethics
Misheel Gantulga

2a to 2d
Premise 1:Virtue ethics concerns a person’s whole life, not only one action. (2a)
Premise 2:Virtue is a person’s character. (2b)
-A person can be virtuous and can always act upon virtue if he is a virtuous man with a moral character.
Although it takes time to develop such character, once it is developed, it is stable
and one can always make his decision based on it with the right reason and the right desire, just for the sake of it.
Premise 3: Consequentialism and deontological theories rely on rules or principles.(2c)
Premise 3.5: Those rules and principles may or may not accountable for every single situation one might encounter.(2c)
Premise 4: Moral response should be based on one's experience and the other personal ability.(2c)
Premise 5: Virtue ethics is able to provide more moral response because it is not confined to rules and principles.(2c)
-"Uncodifiability of ethics thesis" states that we must approach morality with a theory that is as flexible and as situation-responsive as possible.(2c)

Conclusion: Virtue ethics is more accurate source of moral judgment in real life because it is flexible enough to accommodate to various situations that might occur.

Questions: As it says, anything can happen in life that requires moral judgement. Is it true that virtue ethics can provide answer to any problems ?
What if the standard of what is good life differs between one culture to another ? Since there is no rules or principles that clearly defines what the good life is, wouldn't it be that anything can be "good life" ?

Later virtue theory (Nov. 18)

Reading note: Virtue Theory and Abortion by Hursthouse, Rosalind
Misheel Gantulga

Premise 1: Just as deontology and utilitarianism, virtue theory has premises that give no guide as to what to do in real life situation. (226)

Premise 2: Virtue theory tells what to do based on one’s virtuous trait. (226)

Premise 3: Inability to specify absolute virtuous trait is common to the other theories, not only for virtue theory. (228)

Premise 4: All three theories have conflicts within themselves. (229)

Premise 5: Most of the criticisms toward virtue theory can also be applied to deontology and utilitarianism.(230)

Premise 6: Real life decision should be made based on if that is “worthwhile” or not.(232)
Here, Rosalind notes that those criticism are made by people who have no idea what virtue theory can do when it’s applied to real life situations.

Premise 7: Whether women have a moral right to terminate their pregnancies is irrelevant when it concerns virtue theory.(235) Status of the fetus is not relevant as well. (236) This is because virtue theory requires that the discussion must go beyond the claims concerning biological facts, such as “fetus has rights” or something similar to that because those claims are just attempts to answer the question in a general rule that one should not kill somebody with rights to live. (236)

Premise 8: Virtue theory asks “How do these facts figure in the practical reasoning, actions and passions, thought and reactions, of the virtuous and nonvirtuous?”(237)
By asking this, virtue theory makes it clear that pregnancy is not just a usual bodily condition, but is a very special one, which concerns human life, deaths, parenthood, family relation ships and so on.(237)

Premise 9: Depending on the situation of the mother, pregnancy can be considered both good and bad.(239-240)
A mother who are forced to work in harsh physical condition may have no choice but to choose abortion, and in such cases, there is no lack of serious respect for human life or a shallow attitude to motherhood.(240)

Conclusion: Virtue theory claims that real life problems, such as abortion should take into account of variety of contexts, whether it is worthwhile to do so or not, and what one’s life is like.

Questions: could there be any other response to those criticisms in the article ?
is there any way that other people can exactly understand one’s reason for making a decision to have an abortion ?