Learning Goal: I’m working on a humanities question and need an explanation and

Learning Goal: I’m working on a humanities question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.Discipline:EthicsType of assignment:CourseworkType of service:WritingSpacing:Double spacingPaper format:MLANumber of pages:1 pageNumber of sources:0 sourcePaper detalis:In this week’s module we saw that because motives are not all that relevant according to Consequentialism, it wouldn’t matter who is doing the calculation of benefits and burdens in the assessment of utility. The calculation is purely objective. Indeed, to the utilitarian’s mind, the objectivity of the principle was intended to counterbalance the weight of archaic social customs and religious influences on social polices. Do you agree with the utilitarians that social and religious customs stand in the way of happiness? Briefly explain and defend your view.We also saw this week that Mill’s justification for distinguishing higher and lower pleasures relies upon an empirical method of surveying those who have experienced a variety of pleasures, both high and low, and that Mill believed that those with the most varied experiences will agree that higher quality pleasures are well worth the effort (the pleasures of intellectual stimulation, friendship, and civic engagement, etc. were mentioned, as opposed to the satisfaction of only immediate physical pleasures). Mill thought that the weight of human experience allows us to predict that it is “better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.” My question for you is, do you see any problems or shortcomings that might arise with Mill’s preferred method of justification? In this week’s module you were asked whether or not you wanted to step up in order to argue in defense of the fool? Provide your answer to that question here, along with your reasons for holding itThe Patriot ActThe primary function of the USA Patriot Act is stated in its full title: “Uniting and StrengtheningAmerica by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.” To thisend, it has expanded “law enforcement investigatory tools,” including surveillance of individuals.Those in support of the Act often argue that the loss of privacy brought about by the collection ofinformation on individuals that the Act allows is far preferable to even one terrorist attack on USsoil. It is what best promotes the general welfare or well-being of the population affected by theAct. Do you agree?For your convenience, here are some links where you can find additional information on thePatriot Act:FinCEN USA PATRIOT ActNational security versus individual freedom: Surveillance and the Patriot ActThe Patriot Act and ConsequencesFor both those who argue in favor of the Patriot Act and those against it, a key matter is: Whatare the consequences of implementing the policy? Does this Act lead to better outcomes thanalternative policies? If so, it is the right policy. If not, it is the wrong policy. That is a moralevaluation. It is dependent on the assessment of outcomes or consequences. Thinking about therightness of actions in terms of the desirability or undesirability of their consequences for thosewhose lives are affected is characteristic of utilitarianism.Many of you are familiar with the phrases “outcomes assessment” and “process and outcomesassessment.” They or their synonyms are used broadly today in education, business, government,engineering, health care, and the military, to name just a few areas. Whenever you hear ofmeasurement of outcomes, you know that an issue is being approached in terms of the theory ofutility, an extraordinarily influential theory of ethics. The point of the interaction section below isto bring to your attention important elements in how the two most significant proponents of thetheory, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, framed the theory and how it could be useful forcase discussion.Utilitarianism and Social ProgressWe begin, with this module, our examination of the major approaches to ethical reflection,approaches that you will be expected to apply to cases. The module contents focus on providingyou with commentary that is based on primary sources; that is, on the writings of the thinkerswho articulated and developed the various moral theories we apply in cases. This is intended tocomplement the textbook presentation of major approaches to ethical reflection.Welfare, well-being, the good, benefit, happiness are all going to be treated as near synonyms.They are what utility is. In line with 18th-century Enlightenment thinking, the utilitariansbelieved in the power of reason to overcome the dead weight of customs and prejudices. Theirgoal was not disruption for its own sake, but the improvement of the lot of humanity. JeremyBentham was a utilitarian who was particularly concerned with reforming the legal system inBritain. Utilitarians believed the greater good of humanity was being held down by laws thatbenefit social and religious elites. Social reform would allow society to unleash the humanpotential that was held back by prejudicial laws.Mill, John Stuart. Utilitarianism. London, 1863, Print. The Principle of UtilityTo this end, Bentham took what appeared to him to be the most common-sense approach to whatis the good or happiness that people pursue and the evil or misery they avoid: it is pleasure andpain. It was in terms of pleasure and pain that he framed the principle of utility. Here is one ofthe ways he formulated it in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789).”An action then may be said to be conformable to the principle of utility…when the tendency ithas to augment the happiness of the community is greater than any it has to diminish it.”This principle applies both to individual action and government policy (chap.1, pars. 6 and 7).Neither Bentham nor his most famous follower, John Stuart Mill, thought that the principle wascapable of proof. Rather, it was assumed to be true, as was the idea that people seek happiness.Utilitarian Is IndividualisticA view typical of the British and American approach to society is to think of it as a collection ofindividuals rather than as an organic whole. In an organic entity like a biological body, the wholeis greater than the parts. For the utilitarians, on the contrary, the whole of society as a body is thesum of its parts: the individuals that compose it. So the utility of a community, for the utilitarian,is the sum of the utility of the individuals affected by an action or policy.The principle of utility is entirely forward-looking. All that matters is the goodness or badness ofthe consequences. It wouldn’t matter what the motive for acting is. If the consequences are onbalance good, and better than alternatives, then the act is right no matter what motives the agenthad. John Stuart Mill, who is probably the most influential utilitarian thinker, thought that it isusually very helpful if agents are motivated by sympathy, benevolence, or regard for otherpeople’s good opinion. But ultimately, the moral rightness of an action is not a matter of themotive for acting, but only the consequence of the action. If I hurt more people than I help, thenmy action is morally wrong, even if I acted with the best of intentions. Do you agree?Principle of Utility Is ObjectiveBecause motives are not relevant, it wouldn’t matter who is doing the calculation of benefits andburdens in the assessment of utility. The calculation is purely objective. Indeed, in theutilitarian’s mind, the objectivity of the principle was intended to counterbalance the weight ofarchaic social customs and religious influences on social polices. Do you agree with theutilitarians that social and religious customs stand in the way of happiness?The forward-looking utilitarian seeks to bring about what people desire as a good for themselves.Note that the utilitarian is not supposed to be judgmental and impose on others what she thinks isgood for them. The utilitarian is expected to allow people to decide for themselves where theirhappiness lies and to impartially promote that, to the extent that it is feasible. The theory is thusintended, at the outset, to be vague about what constitutes the good. Its general policy encouragespeople to make a decision for themselves. John Stuart Mill argued that the utilitarian is expectedto rely on what past experience has taught humanity about what tends to make people happy. Inany case, what constitutes utility should always be based on experience, not on reasoningdivorced from experience. Do you agree that experience is the source of our knowledge of whatis good or bad?Actions and Policies Have Instrumental Value OnlyThe principle of utility draws on two levels of evaluation. Consequences of actions and policiesare pursued for their own sake. They have intrinsic value. Their intrinsic value is what the theoryaims at realizing and is what is called utility, welfare, the good, etc. Actions and policies do nothave intrinsic value. They are like tools that one uses to bring about desired consequences; thusthey have only instrumental value.Actions or policies are judged to be right if they bring about more good than bad consequences;otherwise they are wrong. Thus, the value of being right or wrong as said of an action or policyis only instrumental. This point is important to remember. It implies that actions such as tellingthe truth or keeping promises are not intrinsically right actions. Do you agree?n the process of calculating utility, the following are the “dimensions of value” of utility,understood as pleasure or pain, that Bentham identified:1. Intensity2. Duration3. Probability of occurrence4. Closeness or remoteness in time in comparison to the present (people tend todiscount events the farther away in the future they are)5. Likelihood of a good consequence being followed by more good consequences or of badconsequences being followed by more bad consequences (Bentham called this fecundity)6. Likelihood of a good consequence being followed by bad consequences or of a badconsequence being followed by good consequences (Bentham called this purity)7. Extent. By this, Bentham meant the number of individuals affected by an action orpolicy. This would include animals.Do you agree that the happiness, in the sense of pleasure of pain, of animals counts in moraldecision making?Some Issues with Bentham’s Approach to UtilityPerhaps oddly, Bentham included the “pleasures of malevolence” among the pleasures theobjective utilitarian calculation ought to incorporate. These are things such as people’s feelingsof ill-will towards others, or the pleasure they take in the misfortune of others.Do you think it is sensible to promote people’s feelings of ill-will or their enjoyment in themisfortunes of others? How is that conducive to human progress?Bentham also did not discriminate between higher and lower pleasures. It is really up toindividuals to pursue the pleasures they see fit.What do you think about this: Is the pleasure derived from binge drinking, for instance, as goodas the pleasure of mastering golf or calculus?How might Bentham answer this question? (Perhaps some of the dimensions of utility hedistinguished, such as purity and fecundity, might help provide an answer.)Mill Comes to the RescueBentham’s follower, John Stuart Mill, adapted aspects of the theory of utility in order to save itfrom some of its apparent oddities. In On Liberty, Mill clearly rejected “cruelty of disposition;malice and ill-nature” as “properly immoral.” It appeared obvious to him that such things areincompatible with human progress, which is the ideal that stands behind advocating forutilitarianism.Mill saw humanity as progressing to a society of equals in which individuals can freely developtheir talents. With proper education, Mill thought we would all come to see that some kinds ofpleasure are more valuable and have greater quality than others. Among these, he included thepleasures of pursuing knowledge, or employing the “higher faculties,” the pleasures ofcultivating friendship, and the pleasures of civic involvement.Mill’s Empirical Justification for Distinguishing Higher and Lower PleasuresHow would we know some pleasures are indeed superior? Mill’s answer is that we would findthis out by surveying those who have experienced a variety of pleasures, both high and low. As amatter of fact, Mill believed that those with the most varied experiences will agree that higherquality pleasures are well worth the effort. Mill enjoins us to ask people of wide experiencewhether they would consent to give up the pleasures of intellectual stimulation, friendship, andcivic engagement for a life in which only immediate physical pleasures are satisfied. Millthought the weight of human experience allows us to predict that the answer is no, sayingfamously that it is “better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.”Do you want to step up to argue in defense of the fool?Mill stated the ideal of human progress in the most eloquent of terms. Aside from physical ills,which might be remedied by social improvement, he thought that one of the chief barriers tohappiness was the restriction of liberty by which individuals are subjected to the whims of others(On Liberty). Again, this is a matter discoverable through experience: being subjected toarbitrary treatment by others leads to misery.Mill on Following RulesMill allows that performing a utilitarian calculation is not always required. In most cases, onecan resort to rules of thumb, drawn from “the experience of human life” (Mill chap. 2). Millimplicitly accepted something that was to be called, by 20th-century ethicists, rule utilitarianism.The collective experience of humanity instructs us, for instance, that we ought not resort todeception to achieve our ends, because deception generally leads to poor consequences.But rules of action are but “rules of morality for the multitudes.” Mill clearly stated that,ultimately, these rules are like “landmarks and direction-posts on the way” to a fully developedethical reflection. A fully developed ethical reflection requires the application of the principle ofutility to the particular case at hand. This position has been called act utilitarianism. Ultimately,in complex cases, rules are not good enough. Do you agree with Mill?The Theory of Utility Both Influential and DisturbingThe theory of utility has strong points and it is extraordinarily influential in most aspects ofcontemporary life. It might present aspects that you find disturbing, such as the fact that noaction is intrinsically right or wrong, so that the theory may advocate that resorting to deceptionin a particular case is, objectively, the right thing to do. For all that, it is appropriate to rememberthat the utilitarian has great faith in human improvement.The role of the principle of utility is to serve human progress, including justice. Nevertheless noone theory of morality can address the entire complexity of moral life. This and the next fewmodules will give us a glimpse of alternative approaches to the issue of the right and the good.Together, they should give us a fuller picture of the varieties of moral reflection, all tending toprovide us a better understanding of our moral life.
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