First Position Utilitarianism, a branch of moral realism, is a doctrine that attempts to explain the abstract idea of morality. Consequentialism, a broader basis of utilitarianism, defines an action as being right or wrong by saying that the right act in any moral dilemma is that which leads to the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It focuses in on the consequence of an action and declares that this result is the true basis for judgment about the morality of a decision.
Utilitarianism takes these ideas a step urther and defines the quality of the consequence of an action as its "utility'. The only way to fundamentally ensure that our actions are good is to prove that the results of the chosen action were really better than the results of the other possible choice. (2) Second Position Moral relativism is a philosophy that defines morality in a way that directly depends on the individual or group of people involved. One prominent division within moral relativism is the meta-ethical position.
The basic proposition behind this argument is that moral Judgment cannot be universalized and in this way morality is relative to he parties involved. This permits any culture to practice anything they see as right, and this belief within the culture makes it the right thing to do. In the mindset of a meta-ethical relativist, we must reserve our Judgment if we see people committing what we feel are morally wrong actions and understand that they may be doing the right thing in the context of their culture. (3) Major Objection A moral relativist would see many flaws in the ideology of utilitarianism.
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One major objection is that utilitarianism is too intense of a doctrine as it suggests there is always a way to act that would benefit more people. There is inherently too much pressure put on humankind if utilitarianism were to be followed because it requires us to constantly act like "moral heroes," claiming anything less would make us bad people. Due to the fact that there could be a greater good in every decision we make, we would barely be able to live our own lives, develop our own relationships with family and friends, and make our own decisions if we strictly adhered to the doctrine of utilitarianism.
This flaw of utilitarianism is exposed in The Ballad of Narayama because the action of killing the elderly when they reach 70 would be deemed orally wrong and incorrect. However, the moral relativist realizes that this contradicts the societal tradition and is therefore the right thing to do. To the naive eye of the utilitarian, killing the elderly immediately seems like a morally corrupt tradition that could never be acceptable. However, the moral relativist understands this practice in the context of the Japanese village and renders it acceptable.
Keeping Orin alive would be morally wrong to the relativist because it takes the pressure off of Kesakichi and even Tatsuhei to develop as men of the household. They still have Orin providing food and working for them and as a result Kesakichi remains naive and immature. The young people in the Japanese village need develop on their own, and so the tradition of the village should be honored regardless of specific cases, like that ot Orin. In ad dition, the elderly Just become another mouth to t cases in the impoverished village. 4) First Rebuttal in most The utilitarian would answer this objection by saying that it would not be for the best to take Orin and all the 70-year-old citizens to the top of Narayama. They would argue that societal tradition should not be followed in this case and it is morally ncorrect to leave the elderly to die in this way. Even if they are a burden to society, the greatest good for the greatest number of people comes when they are kept alive. Our deepest inclinations also seem to tell us that killing any person who lives to be 70 is morally wrong.
If they were allowed to live, family units would become stronger, wisdom would be passed through the generations, and the elderly could find new ways to contribute to society regardless of their age. Additionally, the utilitarian would disagree with the idea of hoarding food while others go hungry, as they do in the Japanese village. The morally correct action that would lead to the greatest good for the greatest number of people would be to share food and services, never placing your own familys needs above the needs of the society as a whole.
To the utilitarian, any acts that can be conceived as selfish are morally wrong and every decision should be made with the community in mind. (4) Second Rebuttal The meta-ethical relativist would respond to this rebuttal by sticking to their convictions and arguing that in the context of this Japanese village, it is best to follow tradition and take the elderly to the top of Narayama. The utilitarian lacks the foresight into the future of the society and naively acts with only immediate benefits in mind; "To suppose that life has no higher end than pleasure" is "a doctrine worthy of swine" (RR 600).
Although the immediate affects of leaving the elderly atop the mountain to die peacefully may not provide the greatest good for the greatest amount of people, in the long run it pays off and does, in fact, result in the greatest good for society. As for the claim that it is morally wrong if you place your familys need at a higher priority, the meta-ethical relativist would say that this type of elfishness drives society. The providers for a family want to supply as much as they can to their children and this motivates them to work harder.
Although the utilitarian would think that it would be best if the Japanese villagers openly shared their food, the moral relativist would understand how the society functions and disagree. If an individual donated any excess they had to the society as a whole, the motivation of individuals within the society would disappear and the Japanese village would no longer function properly. The lives of the villagers depend on their planning for the future and hard work in the farms.
The competition between workers and the desire to provide for their families is the reason this Japanese village has survived for generations. If a villager knew that any extra work he did or any extra food he grew would be taken away from him, then the villager would not work as hard and would not be as worried about securing his own crops and farming his own land. The moral relativist understands this as the basis for the tradition in the village, as killing the elderly puts responsibility on the other members of society to produce while reducing the number of mouths they have to feed.
This tradition should be upheld because it allows for them to make their own decisions and look out for their families. The moral relativist position realizes that the action of killing the elderly once they reach age 70 is morally permissible in the Japanese society depicted in The Ballad of Narayama. This moral Judgment is not universal, as in most societies this action would be deemed morally incorrect and unacceptable. However, given the economic situation of the village along with the dependence on manual labor, the tradition should be upheld as it is morally best for the society at hand.
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