PHL 204-07

For Wed, READ:

Nagel, Death pp 1-10
Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus pp 28-31

Two possible responses to objections to Mill’s Utilitarianism

  • Rule Utilitarianism
    • distingction between act types and act tokens
    • examples of act types: punching people in the face, telling the truth, helping others in need
    • examples of act tokens: A punches B in face, 14:00 May 23, telling truth about X at specific time, donating $ to Oxfam in response to specific appeal
    • the right thing for you to do in any situation is the action you can perform that is in accord with the best rules
    • the best rules are those which, if generally followed by all, would lead to the greatest amount of overlal pleasure
    • Question: how specific do the rules have to be?

    • General rules: do not lie, do not steal, do not kill, etc.if we opt for general rules, this theory has counterintuitive results
    • it is inconsistent with the main utilitarian idea
    • this is a form of rule-worship
    • “do not lie unless…”
    • if we opt for specific rules, then this theory collapses into act-utilitarianism: we have not avoided the plm
  • Multiple-Strategy Utilitarianism
    • distinction between the criterion of morality and a decision procedure
    • target-shooting example: “hit the target.” Criterion of success: shoot a bullet thru middle of the circle
    • strategy to achieve goal: aim beyond the target, then shoot
    • Lost in the woods example:
    • criterion of success = find the nearest town
    • strategy for success: walk consistently downhill = epic fail in board example
    • Andre Agassi example: criterion of success = win the point, strategy = get into position and hit the ball

      Maybe we can say something similar about morality

    • criterion of success: most overall pleasure possible
    • strategy for achieving success:
      • rely on certain rules of thumb
      • when these rules conflict with each other, then you should ask what would make things best
      • develop certain character traits: kindness, generosity, truthfulness, selff-preservation, etc.
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