PHL 204-07

Plato: main question
Can we meet the amoralist challenge?
Why should I be moral?

Socrates/Plato’s answer: because it will be better for you.

Mill: writes assuming that people already accept that they should do the morally right thing.
Will propose a moral code/theory. Mill’s question: why accept this code over other codes?

Bentham Auto-Icon

J.S. Mill 1806-1873

motivating idea behind the theory:

  • morality is about making the world better
  • in particular, it is about making the people in the world happier
  • Structure of Action
    Character: patterns of thought, feeling & action
    Character gives rise to motive & intention, which in turn give rise to action (or deliberate inaction)
    intention = what you aim to do, motive = why you have that intention

    Three Main Types of Moral Theory

    1. Consequentialism (Mill): the moral evaluation of anything depends on the relation of the thing being evaluated to the production of good consequences. Good actions are those which produce good consequences; good motives produce good consequences, etc. (global theory focused on consequences)
    2. Deontology/Non-Consequentialism (Nagel): moral evaluation is not limited to evaluation by consequences. Your reasons for acting can influence the morality of an act. (focused on motives & intentions)
    3. Virtue Ethics (Plato/Socrates): main question of ethics is not “what should I do now,” but “what kind of person should I be?” (egocentric theory, focused on Character)

    Utilitarianism — a type of consequentialist theory (3 parts)

    1. Right action (act consequentialism: the right action in any situation is the action you can perform which will lead to the greatest amount possible of overall value)
    2. Theory of Value (hedonism)
    3. Theory of who counts morally (Impartialism/altruism: everyone’s pleasure counts equally)
    4. Read Chapter 2 pp. 1-10 in Utilitarianism

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