Making the World a Better Place Philosophy 1001, Dr. Cara Nine ‘Better Place’? ‘Making the world... ’? Making the world a better place There are two sets of philosophical questions: 1. What is ‘good’ or ‘better’? (That is, what does a ‘better world look like and why? ) 2. What kinds of actions are ‘right’? (What are we justified in doing to bring about the good? ) Ideas of the good life Hedonism Desire Satisfaction Theory Objective Goods Theory Theories of Right Action Utilitarian Deontological Feminist Virtue Theory Cases Protesting Unjust Government Aiding an impoverished community Torture Letter to Menoeceus
By Epicurus (341-270 BC) Epicurus ‘Hedonism’ in popular culture http://www. hedonism. com/ Hedonism: Different kinds of desires. Just to be clear... “It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of merrymaking, not sexual love, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table... ” For Hedonism: “For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear” Intrinsic vs. Instrumental goods Instrumental good Intrinsic Good For Epicurus, Happiness is secured by: A tranquil emotional state. Example: We should not fear death Evidence : Misery clearly hampers the good life; happiness clearly improves it.
But, is happiness what we want for our loved ones? I recall a talk by a doctor who described a patient of his (who had perhaps had a prefrontal lobotomy) as ‘perfectly happy all day long picking up leaves. ’ This impressed me because I thought, ‘Well, most of us are not happy all day long doing the things we do,’ and realized how strange it would be to think that the very kindest of fathers would arrange such an operation for his (perfectly normal) child. --Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness, p. 65 Desire Theory and Problems with Hedonism Hedonism Happiness is the only intrinsically valuable good. A happy life is a good life.
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The argument from evil pleasures Hedonism’s response: Happiness from evil actions IS as good as happiness from virtuous actions. The Paradox of Hedonism Happiness is like a butterfly—the more you pursue it, the more it eludes you. Be still and let it come to you. Paradox of Hedonism 1. If happiness is the only thing that directly makes us better off, then it is rational to single-mindedly pursue it. 2. It isn’t rational to do that. 3. Therefore, happiness isn’t the only thing that directly makes us better off. Argument from multiple harms: If hedonism is true, then you can be harmed by something only because it saddens you.
You can be harmed in other ways. Therefore, hedonism is false. False Happiness Nozick’s Experience Machine Experience Machine Nozick thinks that the real life is clearly better, despite equal levels of happiness. What makes the real life better? Desires and The good We desire for our lives to be based in reality. This desire matters. Other desires matter, too. Desire Satisfaction Theory The good life is getting what you want. Something is good for you if and only if it satisfies your desires. Good things about desire-satisfaction theory Allows for a variety of ‘good’ lives. Good things about desire-satisfaction theory
Prioritizes personal autonomy and avoids paternalism Avoids objective values “objective” = fixed independently of your desires and opinions “subjective” = refers to your desires and opinions Motivation? Problems with the Desire Satisfaction Theory Getting what you want may not promote your good Desires based on false beliefs Fix! The desire must be based on informed beliefs. More Problems Dis-interested or Other-regarding desires Problems, cont. Disappointment: I was playing great tennis... I’d finally taken my game to what felt like a notch above all my opponents’. It should have been great... But it wasn’t.
It felt hollow—It reminded me of the story of King Midas: My success wasn’t translating into happiness. --John McEnroe—(with James Kaplan, You Cannot be Serious) Impoverished Desires Objective Goods Theories of the Good Life Hedonism Desire Satisfaction Theory Objective Goods Theory Objective Goods Theory What is good is defined independent of your desires or opinions. Objective well-being concept: Income? The objective/universal approach defended Nussbaum’s approach http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=Qy3YTzYjut4 Appeals to ‘natural law theory’, that things are good when a thing fulfills its nature. Things are bad when they are unnatural.
Solves (? ) Hume’s argument We can know only two sorts of claims: conceptual truths or empirical truths. Moral claims are neither conceptual nor empirical truths. Therefore, we can have no moral knowledge. Natural law theory’s response: If you know the nature of ‘human’, and what it takes to fulfil our human nature, then we can know what is morally good. Options for objective goods: Happiness Options for objective goods: Autonomy Relationship with other objective goods. Essence of ‘human’ Possible problem with adding autonomy to the list: Cultural variations. But Do we have to be culturally relative? Options for objective goods:
A sense of self Having commitments, likes and dislikes, values and goals. Options for objective goods: Morality Aristotelian virtue Human flourishing– “If you concern yourself not at all with what you owe to others or with what they need from you, you live in profound isolation. .. Morality is good for us because it ... gives me a kind of friendship not just with my friends but with everyone. ” (Kazez 54) Martha Nussbaum: Basic capabilities. Life. Bodily health Bodily integrity. Senses, imagination, thought. Emotions. Practical reason. Affiliation. Other species. Play. Control over one's environment.
Possible problem with the objective theory... Utilitarianism Theories of Right Action What should I do or not do? Utilitarianism A brand of consequentialism An action is morally required just because it produces the best results. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) Utilitarianism (1861) The quest for ‘the good’ is identified with the question of what is right and wrong to do. Mill writes: "All action is for the sake of some end and rules of action, it seems natural to suppose, must take their whole character and color from the end to which they are subservient. “ (in other words... The ends justify the means! ) 1.
Rationality in choice of conduct is maximizing the satisfaction of one's chosen goal (or the goal that is best to pursue). 2. The rational goal of human striving is happiness, and happiness consists in pleasure and the absence of pain. I should do what maximizes happiness-for-me-over-my-entire-life. Acting effectively to achieve this goal is being prudent. Prudence requires a kind of impartiality. So... In merely individualistic terms: Ice cream NOW = 2 units of Happiness, and 3 units of Pain later. To maximize happiness over my entire life, I should not have ice cream now. But Mill’s utilitiarianism is universal project (not individualistic! 3. Human striving 4. The moral goal involves impartiality. One person's good counts the same, in the determination of what is to be done, as the same-sized good of any other person. 5. The moral goal equals the aggregate happiness of all persons. 6. So, moral rationality demands that we maximize aggregate human happiness. ... and animals? Problems... Utility monster: Trolley Problem Trolley Problem Trolley Problem Trolley Problem Deontology Kantian ethics Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) What matters with regard to whether an action is right or wrong is what kind of an action it is. (The end doesn’t justify the means! )
Kantian Deontology Person’s essence = autonomy Autonomy = self+rule Ethical principles follow logically. Consistency and Fairness Equal with regards to our autonomous rational personhood. What if everybody did that? How would you like it if I did that to you? Problem Case If disastrous results would occur if everyone did X, then X is immoral. Redescribe the act? But this makes the morality of an act merely a matter of its description. Kant’s answer: The Categorical Imperative (version 1): Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Is a maxim universalizable?
Formulate your maxim clearly. Imagine a world in which everyone supports and acts on on your maxim. Then ask: Can the goal of my action be achieved in such a world? Example: Lying The universalized maxim of lying generates a contradiction. Categorical Imperative (version 2): The Principle of Humanity Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only. Persons are rational agents The moral law is the law of reason So we rational beings are beyond value since we are the sources of value ‘Means’ only: Used as a means AND respected as rational agent at the same time: problems with the principle of humanity: The notion of treating someone as an end is vague. 2. The principle fails to give us good advice about how to determine what people deserve. - punishment and Lex Talionis (Law of Retaliation) 3. The principle assumes that we are genuinely autonomous, but that assumption may be false. Baron d’Holbach The Argument Against Autonomy 1. Either our choices are necessitated or they are not. 2. If they are necessitated, then they are out of our control, and so we lack autonomy. 3. If they are not necessitated, then they are random, and so we lack autonomy. 4.
Therefore, we lack autonomy. 4. The principle cannot explain why those who lack rationality and autonomy are deserving of respect. - What is the scope of the moral community? Argument against animals 1. If the principle of humanity is true, then animals have no rights. 2. If animals lack rights, then it is morally acceptable to torture them. 3. Therefore, if the principle of humanity is true, then it is morally acceptable to torture animals. 4. It isn’t. 5. Therefore, the principle of humanity is false. Feminist Ethics “The male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; the one rules, and the other is ruled. --Aristotle “As regards her individual nature, each woman is defective and mis-begotten. ” –Aquinas “[W]omen must be trained to bear the yoke from the first, so that they may not feel it, to master their own caprices and to submit themselves to the will of others. ” --Rousseau “... laborious learning or painful pondering, even if a woman should greatly succeed in it... They will weaken the charms with which she exercises her great power over the other sex.... Her philosophy is not to reason, but to sense. ” --Kant Feminist Ethics Previous (male-dominated) philosophy: Made false claims about women.
Identified female with nature/animals and male with reason/human. Ignored female experiences and perspectives. Un Chien Andalou , 1929 silent surrealist short film by the Spanish director Luis Bunuel and artist Salvador Dali General Approach: Women are the moral equals of men. “The right to life of women in Pakistan is conditional on their obeying social norms and traditions. ”–Hina Jilani, lawyer and human rights activist 2. Experiences of women deserve our respect and are vital to a full and accurate understanding of morality. Some statistics: Women’s nominal wages are 17 percent lower than men’s.
Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property. 3. Traits that have traditionally been associated with women are at least as morally important as traditionally masculine traits. 4. Cooperation, flexibility, openness to competing ideas, and a connectedness to family and friends, are often superior to ways of reasoning that emphasize impartiality, abstraction, and strict adherence to rules. Lawrence Kohlberg’s 6 stages of moral development: Moral Development: Gilligan Women fared poorly on Kohlberg’s model. Advancing to only around stage 3. ) Women tend to think and experience the world differently than men. Gilligan’s model or moral thinking: In A Different Voice Women’s Experience Justice is.... blind Dr. Denis Mukwege tries to restore dignity in Congo. Women’s Experience: Vulnerability to Rape Major-General Patrick Cammaert, former commander of UN peacekeeping forces in the eastern Congo: “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict. ” Perceptions of rape in war: From: something that is inevitable when men are deprived of female companionship for prolonged periods
To: an actual tactic in conflict. Effect on victim: Rape is always torture. Women’s Experience Increased dependence and diminished autonomy. Fewer choices and less control over important aspects of their lives (than men). Central fact of most women’s lives is their dependence. Consider a moral assumption: stand up for our rights and defend our honour against attacks: Does a woman stand up to an abusive husband, knowing she may be killed, have her children taken away from her, not know where her next meal will come from? Not just women We all are deeply connected with others.
Moral philosophy that pretends that we are fully autonomous beings without dependent relationships fail to take an important part of human life into account. Ethics of Care Importance of Emotions “Reason is a slave of the passions. ” –David Hume Motivates. Helps us Understand (Sympathy/Empathy) Care: combination of sympathy, empathy, sensitivity, and love. Particular vs. Universal Describes our obligations. Particular obligations = I have them only to particular people. Universal obligations = I have them to all persons. A strict version of Ethics of Care theory denies the existence of universal obligations.
Ethics of Care: Moral obligations come from RELATIONSHIPS. Relationship roles will sometimes require of you conflicting actions. There is no easy formula. Problems with the Ethics of Care: Must be supplemented by other theories. Or risk restricting the scope of the moral community too much. Role of emotions needs further exploration. Downgrading impartiality has its costs. Review Theories of ‘The Right’ Utilitarianism Theory Pleasure/freedom from pain is the only intrinsic good. An action is morally required just because it produces the best results. Rationality Impartiality Maximize human happiness Utilitarianism
Positives Intuitive Matches good with the right Equality Useful for social policy Utilitarianism Negatives Utility monster Animals? Conflicts with Justice Deontology Theory (Study of Duty) The end doesn’t justify the means Derived from Autonomy (self + rule) Deontology Categorical Imperative 1: Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Deontology Categorical Imperative 2, The Principle of Humanity: Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only. Deontology Positives
Explains duties of justice Clear rules Equality Intuitive Deontology Negatives Principles difficult to apply Problems with autonomy Scope? Feminism Theory Men and women are moral equals. All of human experience deserves our attention/respect. ‘Feminine traits’ are as morally relevant as ‘male traits’ Interpersonal ways of moral reasoning are often superior to abstract, universalized, rule-governed moral reasoning. Care/Relationships Feminism Positives Embraces full account of human experience Can account for interpersonal moral reasoning, dependence. Feminism Negatives Problems with accounts from emotion Downgrades impartiality
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