Chapter 6 Outline – Ethical Insights - Birsch

Utilitarianism = “an action is morally bad if it harms someone, whereas it is morally good if it helps or benefits someone…As a utilitarian, I cannot merely act out of self interest; I must consider everyone who will be benefited or harmed.” (pg. 84-85)

Two thinkers popularized Utilitarianism – Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.
Two Types:
Act Utilitarianism = Jeremy Bentham
Rule Utilitarianism = John Stuart Mill

Act Utilitarianism:
Happiness is the source of moral goodness.
Instrumental Value = A means to an end.
ie. Get a good grade on a test to get a good grade in a class.
Intrinsic Value = what lies at the end of a line of instrumental values.
ie. Good: test-grade-GPA-job-money-life…..
“Happiness has intrinsic value…we should use whatever has intrinsic value to ethically evaluate our actions and beliefs.” (pg 87)
In order for utilitarianism to function three things must be present:
-1-content that can be either good or bad.
-2-a common denominator – usually happiness.
-3-everything must include intrinsic value.
Jeremy Bentham focuses on individual actions
- This means that we must define what an individual is exactly.
- Anything that feels pleasure and pain is morally significant – this includes mammals and other creatures that have a nervous system.
A Utilitarian considers the outcome of an event. If more people are benefited than not, the event is morally good. Example of the car manufacturer. (pg. 89)

Seven aspects of a Utilitarian evaluation:
Intensity, Duration, Certainty, Propinquity, Fecundity, Purity, and Extent.
Strengths of Act Utilitarian Theory:
A Clear Content for Ethics – it is clear, something is good or bad.
Responding to the Situation of the Agent – investigates actual situations.
Consistency with the Basic Objective of Human Beings – All people want happiness.
Correlation with Traditional Ethical Assumptions:
Rationality – Uses reason to reach theoretical and rational conclusions.
Moral Equality – All cases are considered equal, yet different.
Universal – if it is ethical for one person it is ethical for all. ie) CD story. (pg. 93)
Correlation with Basic Ethical Themes:
(This involves asking four questions)
-What kind of moral guidelines makes something good or bad?
Act Utilitarianism =benefit and harm
-What makes something good or evil?
Act Utilitarianism = defines by the result of something’s consequences.
-Should we follow general rules of behaviors?
Act Utilitarianism = each case is handled differently, but there are certain norms to always keep in mind.
-Should majorities be the focus or should individuals?
The greatest amount of harm or benefit should be considered, this is better understood with majorities.

Problems with Act Utilitarianism:
Calculations – difficult to identify all consequences of every action.
- hard to measure pleasure, pain, benefit, and harm.
- to accomplish these calculations is too time consuming.
Contrary to Moral Intuitions – ie) stealing is wrong, but in some cases can be good if the majority benefit.
Moral Luck – what is a person has bad luck? ie) mail a check to a charity, but it gets lost in the mail. This act is then morally bad. (pg. 98)
Mill’s Utilitarianism:
Mill and Bentham have similarities; however, to better understand Mill it is helpful to look at how his beliefs are different from Bentham.
-Good actions are determined by if the promote happiness and vice versa.
-Takes into account what people actually do, as apposed to what they should do.
-Looks more at the quality of pleasure, benefit and happiness vs. the quantity.
-Focuses on what is better for everyone, not any given individual.
-Highlights that Bentham’s theory allows for people to do nothing and maximize pleasure.

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