Questions tagged [utilitarianism]

The ethical theory that answers all questions of what to do, what to admire, or how to live, in terms of maximizing *utility* or happiness.

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How much censorship is justified for a free society's survival? [closed]

JFK discusses self-censorship in the interests of "the common good" in the linked speech "that killed him", and it is key to the reasons I have asked this question. What are the positions in ethics ...
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The needs of many (in 'ok' circumstances) vs. the needs of few (in 'extreme' circumstances)

I am writing about decision making when allocating charity resources, and I need a bit of background on deciding between improving lots of lives for animals with, let's say, average welfare (that ...
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Death in utilitaranism

Define utilitarian: Utilitarianism is a family of consequentialist ethical theories that promotes actions that maximize happiness and well-being for the majority of a population. (Wikipedia) Is ...
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Reconciling Utilitarianism and Rawls's Theory of Justice as Fairness

I will argue that John Stuart Mill's greatest happiness principle (GHP) should be revised to avoid problematic implications and to better fit humans' intuitive sense of morality. Furthermore, the ...
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Preference Utilitarianism with regards to humans and animals

I am not in depth familiar with the theory of preference utilitarianism, so this might be a complete misunderstanding of the principle. But nonetheless there are a few things that I can not gasp under ...
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Categorical Imperative vs. Utilitarianism

I'm watching philosophy crash course, and the narrator claimed that Utilitarianism is the antithesis of the of Kant's categorical imperative. However, on the surface, I can't see a major difference. ...
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How does utilitarianism deal with probabilities?

This is the most frustrating problem I encountered in understanding utilitarianism. If we've chosen the best possible alternative according to the expected value of 'happiness' it brought. Could our ...
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Utilitarianism revisited

I assume utilitarianism to be the doctrine that one should act to maximize the overall amount of "happiness". Next to the fact that it's not quite clear what happiness is supposed to be and how it ...
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Is there a quantitative model of Bentham's Hedonic Calculus?

Jeremy Bentham, in Chapter 4 of his 1781 An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, defines what has become known as the Hedonic Calculus. He states, Pleasures then, and the ...
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What are the disadvantages of utilitarianism? [closed]

For a philosophy that is founded on usefulness I don't see much of a disadvantage. But, I'd love know more about it.
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In what way is everyone not a utilitarian

I am having troubles understanding utilitarianism a little bit, and have posed this question to a number of people and been met mostly with bafflement about how I cannot see the error in my proposed ...
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417 views

A typology of ethical theories for beginners?

Ethical theories can doubtless be classified, cross-connected and contrasted in many ways. I am not looking for a definitive classification, only a useful typology to get me started. Refinements and ...
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Does history provide support for moral objectivism?

I must say this was thoroughly entertaining: The Lizard People Of Alpha Draconis 1 Decided To Build An Ansible - Scott Alexander https://www.lesswrong.com/s/zfXAcwLnGocsCsriG/p/...
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317 views

Philosophical views on nudity

Some might argue that our attitudes towards nudity are simply cultural trappings. I believe they actually have a deeper biological origin. But I'm curious to know what philosophers have said on the ...
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Is there anything in epistemology beyond exploration+reinforcement learning (RL)? [closed]

I am trying to build consciousness in artificial intelligence. The general mechanism is that agent (randomly or based on some preexisting knowledge) performs some actions (gets some knowledge, makes ...
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Is unhappiness a principle of utility for any moral philosopher?

G. E. M. Anscombe criticizes the following happiness principle of utility in Modern Moral Philosophy as an adequate judgement for moral behavior (midway, page 7 of the link): "The greatest ...
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Is there a non-arbitrary way to choose rules in rule utilitarianism

In act utilitarianism you choose the action that most increases utility, there is no ambiguity (assuming utility can be calculated, etc.). Conversely, in rule utilitarianism rules are chosen that ...
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Does utilitarianism distinguish between pain/suffering and pleasure/happiness?

I consider myself a utilitarian and in my conception of it, happiness and suffering are distinct from pleasure and pain. I came to this conclusion by noting that I could be in pain but happy, or ...
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How do utilitarians defend their moral philosophy against the impracticality objection?

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11098-005-3021-y This paper made me think what there's left for Utilitarianism when "utilitarians are worried about the impracticality objection, they ...
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Kant and Utilitarians vs War

A soldier is about to execute 20 prisoners. He tells you that if you kill one of them, he'll let the other 19 go. This classic standoff between Kantian ethics and utilitarianism is discussed @ "...
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For a utilitarian, is a lie morally equivalent to a mistake?

As far as I know, utilitarians consider that only the consequences should be considered as the calculation of the morality of an action. Since a mistake and a lie differ only in their intent, are ...
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Moral nihilism & teleology

Can one be a moral nihilist and hold teleological beliefs at the same time? More specifically, can I be a moral nihilist, whilst also being a utilitarian? And further, is teleology a branch of moral ...
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Is there a difference between utilitarianism and consequentialism?

In the Wikipedia entry about Anscombe, there is a quote where she juxtaposes traditional utilitarianism to 'consequentialism'. In what sense are they different and what are some points of divergence (...
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910 views

Why might one prefer rule utilitarianism over act utilitarianism?

I understand the difference between both schools of thought but why is rule utilitarianism thought to be better? With context to this question. What is the difference between Rule Utilitarianism and ...
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Does antinatalism carry the seeds of its own destruction?

Antinatalists claim that it is immoral to procreate. For instance: David Benatar argues there is an asymmetry between pleasure and pain, which means it would be better for humans not to have ...
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Why is Utilitarianism called an unfalsifiable ethic?

Is it true that Utilitarianism is not falsifiable in principle? What would be an example of falsifiable ethics?
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Can utilitarianism make anything moral if someone profits enough from it?

Ever since I first heard about utilitarian system of ethics, there is one thing that has been on my mind. Since utilitarianism is about creating the greater amount of total good (and, the smaller ...
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Does utilitarianism justify racism in some circumstances?

Utilitarianism says that we should maximize aggregate utility. Greatest happiness for the greatest number is the usual catchphrase. Suppose there is a wealthy country A with lots of extra resources, ...
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Utilitarian Morality vs Kantian Morality

Does Utilitarian or Kantian Morality Approve : 1) Capital Punishment 2) Use of torture in interrogation of known terrorists
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Does the possible existence of infinity prove that Utilitarianism is ill-defined?

Utilitarianists judge actions based on their utility value for all people involved. This utility value, or function, is based on mathematics: we are summing numbers. Mathematics involve the ...
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Do objective improvements to descriptive ethics always improve normative ethics?

Robert Nozick provided an argument against Utilitarianism called Experience Machine. The argument involves only the "Is" part: "We have reason not to plug into the experience machine." But this makes ...
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Does this argument prove the uselessness of Utilitarianism?

Utilitarianism, if it is to be a proper paradigm of ethical reasoning, must apply in an abstract sense. It cannot be that there exist certain cases, certain states of the world, where the paradigm ...
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What would Utilitarian and Kantian say or react to this case?

Delores Heston, age 22 and unmarried, was severely injured in an automobile accident. She was taken to the plaintiff hospital where it was determined that she would expire unless operated upon for a ...
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476 views

Is Epicureanism more like egoism or utilitarianism

Epicureans put a focus on pleasure, but it is unclear from any material I've seen whether this the goal is one's own pleasure, the pleasure of everyone equally, or some more complicated interaction. ...
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Why does utilitarianism presuppose that objective utility can exist and is to the benefit of a society?

Utilitarianism asserts that a society can operate according to the benefit of the most members of the population, and that actions on behalf of a society should maximize utility. Why does it assert ...
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Is there an academic consensus in modern philosophy for how to answer moral philosophy in general, and how to deal with novel problems?

What does modern academic moral philosophy have to say (i.e. what is the academic consensus as per today) about novel moral problems? In particular, if deontological reasoning is what modern academia ...
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Which philosophy claims that our moral decisions should be based upon a universal algorithm?

Recently, I advocated here the idea that moral rules should be universal, based upon clear axioms? It should make the opposite for moral imperative. The idea could encompass both hedonism formulated ...
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How would a preference utilitarian decide about cheating on something or lying about something?

I cannot find a reliable example of either. I really just want a practical everyday example of the choice of a preference utilitarian. Do preferences have weight? Is there some sort of "preference ...
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Do utilitarians believe that depressed people should be killed?

Utilitarians believe that the most ethical action is the one which maximizes happiness. Depressed people are often so sad and unhappy that one might say that their very existence offers the world a ...
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Is there any openly pro-mortalist philosopher?

Pro-mortalism is the rather unpopular view that it would be ethical to kill all humanity instantly and painlessly to prevent further suffering if that was feasible. Sam Harris and David Benatar reject ...
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According to utilitarianism, do temporary conditions affect utility?

I know that utilitarianism does not take time into account when determining which course of action provides the most utility. Going to a classic utilitarian example, if I kill one person now to save ...
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How would a Utilitarian and a Kantian solve this thought experiment?

In this thought experiment, you are a doctor, and you work on a roadside hospital. Only you and another doctor are working in the hospital, and a woman who tried to commit suicide arrives at the ...
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Utilitarianism or Kantianism

Which of these two theories is more accepted or has more support in the field of ethics? It seems that Kantian ethics holds too stringent of rules and the the Universal Law of Formulation is ...
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Is it philosophically tenable to refuse a universal moral system?

Recently, I advocated utilitarianism based on consciousness on Change my View subreddit and I was quite suprised by the opposition against the bare idea of a universal moral system. From my limited ...
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Trolley problem and utilitarianism: which philosophy is which?

My high school debate captain and I were having a discussion. For our purposes, utilitarianism is defined as striving to maximize the "greater good", that is, the best for all of society. Our scenario ...
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Do intentions play part in objective morality?

This question has been asked similarly a few times, but I don't really understand the answers, and maybe I won't this time. And they don't seem to relate to objective morality. If we take the stance ...
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Aggregate utility and the sadistic theatre

Situation A: 12-year-old Emma leads a happy life and gains U > 0 utility. Situation B: Emma is continually raped and tortured for an online audience of consumers of sadistic child pornography. She ...
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Is This System of Utility A Significant Improvement For Utilitarianism?

I'll post it here: NOTE: This post contains LaTeX; it is recommended that you install “TeX the World” (for chromium users), “TeX All the Things” or other TeX/LaTeX extensions to view the post ...
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What is the value of Justice in Utilitarianism?

I've been reading about utilitarianism and am trying to understand the following thought experiment. A group of hostages are captured by a group of terrorist. One of terrorists, wanting to "have ...
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What are the arguments for maximising total utility as opposed to average utility?

I was reading the Wikipedia page on utilitarianism. I couldn't actually understand that it says that some people argue that attempting to maximise total utility (here utility=happiness) of the human ...