CREATED ON 11th March 2017
COMPLETED ON 11th March 2017
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This is a graded discussion Are we consequentialists in our everyday activities? In the following weeks you will begin reading selections from ethical and moral philosophy. To start this process the first selections will concern consequentialism. Consequentialist ethical theories are those theories that evaluate actions based on their consequences. How these ethical perspectives function and what they value as fundamental moral principles vary. The prevalent version of consequentialism is utilitarianism as it was first formulated by Jeremy Bentham, and then J. S. Mill in the latter half of the 19th century. The brand of utilitarianism of encountered today originates from Mill’s formulation. Consequentialism and utilitarianism are often used synonymously, but it should be noted that the latter picks out a specific line of reasoning in moral philosophy. With regards to what Mill has explained in the selection from his work Utilitarianism, consider the question of whether or not people are utilitarians in this sense of term. Not so much that they want to increase pleasure (whether only for themselves or others), but rather do persons act in such a manner that promotes utility (or, efficiency and expediency) for the largest possible amount of people? For instance, consider the firefighter who has a choice to save one child or to save three children. The firefighter does not know any of the children, nor does he know anything about them. But it is reasonable to assume that they would choose to save the three children over the one child. Why? Because that is simply what it would be to fulfill the role of an effective firefighter! However, this is only one instance; overall, do we have reason to believe that happiness for the greatest amount of people over the longest amount of time is in fact the sole criterion of morality as Mill suggests? Give an exposition of the argument that Mill provides in the assigned selection. This should include his formulation of the Principle of Utility, on which his argument relies. Then, answer the following question: Why should moral actions just result in maximizing happiness? Relying on this exposition, and your answer to the previous question, explain how people act, in both day to day and extraordinary circumstances, considering only the consequences of actions. Required Reading: J.S. Mill "Utilitarianism" (Selection) Recommended Reading: “Mill’s Moral and Political Philosophy” – Section 2.0, 2.3, 2.6, 2.7 & 2.11 < (Links to an external site.) >
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