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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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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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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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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 our moral decisions should be based upon a universal algorhitm?

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 ...
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Trolley problem: preference utilitarians vs. classical utilitarians vs. Kant

I wonder what exactly are the differences and if I am correct with my assumptions. The trolley problem: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem Now: For the utilitarian, the only morally ...
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Mill's Proof and Nozick's Experience Machine

I'm trying to grasp how Mill's claim that the only good is happiness/pleasure is able to respond to Nozick's though experiment. Humans strive for virtue and other goods only if they are associated ...
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Is negative utilitarianism wrong by supporting antinatalism?

The negative utilitarianism states that reduction of suffering is more important than increasing of the happiness. Namely: "reducing negative well-being is the only thing that ultimately matters ...
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Physicalistic alternatives to utilitarianism?

In one episode, Doctor Who finds out he's trapped on a horror-like island and he finds out his time machine he could escape with is frozen in the hardest rock on earth. He also finds out that every ...
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Is it ethical to confess?

Suppose I have been cheating on my spouse, and I realized that it was wrong from an utilitarian PoV, considering that there is large possibility of the total good being reduced if I'm exposed. So, I ...
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Act Utilitarianism = Rule Utilitarianism?

I have the following two definitions: (i) Act Utilitarianism: an act is right iff it produces at least as much total happiness as would any alternative act open to the actor. (ii) Rule ...
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Is it ethical to save tigers?

From a utilitarian point of view, is it ethical to save tigers by creating sanctuaries and criminalizing poaching, when such tigers are known to violently attack humans? Also, one strain of response ...
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What are good arguments against the moral case for vegetarianism?

There is a strong utilitarian case for a pragmatic type of vegetarianism, based on the idea that eating meat usually causes suffering and that it is wrong to needlessly make something suffer. See this ...
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Animal behavior considered morally neutral?

I have been thinking about utilitarianism a lot lately and am trying to find at what point an action goes from being morally good to morally wrong. For example, if it is morally better (according to ...
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Can we separate ideas (utilitarianism, social contract) from their primary associated philosophers (Mill, Rousseau)?

I've run into some difficulty discussing utilitarianism and the social contract because the typical response is something specific to Mill or Rousseau. It's not quite ad hominem argument -- they're ...
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On the ethicality of “inventing” a product you've heard of by travelling back in time and launching it there

Say Alice invents a new product and launches it. Bob has a time machine. Let's assume he can go to the past and his actions change the course of events after this moment in the past. (Very ...
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Mill's proof of utilitarianism: moving from the individual to the aggregate

OK, so: In Utilitarianism, specifically Chapter IV, Mill claims that ...each person’s happiness is a good to that person, and the general happiness, therefore, a good to the aggregate of all ...
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Is John Stuart Mill's quality/quantity of pleasure distinction consistent with utilitarian hedonism?

Source: p 82 Middle, Ethics: A Very Short Introduction (2001) by Simon Blackburn. There is something a bit deflating about Bentham’s picture. It suggests a life of monotonous hedonism, fit only ...
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When two wrongs do make a utilitarian right

I'm trying to discuss the ethics of someone lying on their CV to get a job. The company does not have the legal right to ask a certain question but the applicant is forced to answer. He decides to ...
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Why do we sum utilities, instead of aggregating in some other way?

Utilitarianism, as I understand it, works roughly as follows: Every person has a utility function, which describes how strongly they prefer any given scenario, sometimes informally described as the "...
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according to utilitarianism, can it ever be right to get temporary gain, but long-term loss?

Throughout life there are many choices: do we eat something fast, or do we cook our own food? Do we skimp (or totally skip) healthcare/ dental coverage, or get regular checkups? Do we hookup with ...
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Within a utilitarian framework, how should I handle research where I don't know whether it is ethical?

Let me start with an example. Let's assume I'm a computer scientist working on autonomous, human-like (at least in some aspects) artificial intelligence, which is expected to interact with humans, ...
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What is the best example of a morally doubtful utilitarianistic choice?

Surely this seems like a subjective question but it seems to me that all the counterexamples against utilitarianism are just designed to move the problem when we can't really judge it. For example ...
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Would an Utilitarianist consider accidents with bad consequences as ethically wrong?

Let us say that I am driving a car, look for a short second at my phone as I've done multiple times before, and then BAM, I ram my car into a pedestrian. Blood, horror, brains, murder. If you are an ...
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Does utilitarianism worry about duration of happiness in a person?

I know how J. S. Mill defines happiness and unhappiness. This criterion is based primarily on consequences so that the goal is to maximize the number of happy people of those affected by the action. ...