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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What is an utilitarianism answer to the conflict between self-interest and the common good?

As far as I understand, if we accept utilitarianism ethics, then the right thing to do is to maximize the happiness of everyone, including all sentient beings. But this does not leave any space for ...
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Maximizing expected value - “triple or nothing” on a fair bet

The "triple-or-nothing paradox" is that a game where I expect to increase my money (on average) at each stage ends up bankrupting me with probability 1 if I play long enough. However, the ...
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Is there any consequentialist moral theory aside from utilitarianism?

I've noticed that when I read about ethics, "consequentialism" is sometimes described as a broader category of which utilitarianism is only an example, but sometimes the word seems to be ...
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Is corruption always morally wrong?

The question is whether corruption is always morally/ethically wrong. To set up the premise, let me start with some examples. In third world countries (I'm from one myself, so I can speak from ...
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Are happiness and sadness opposites or complements?

Good and evil seem like opposites. This could be as simple as evil reducing to "destroys the good," but if happiness is good, then if happiness has a formal opposite... Now, maybe sadness ...
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What's the meaning of “Intermediate Generalizations”?

The phrase is from John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism. The context is: "The corollaries from the principle of utility, like the precepts of every practical art, admit of indefinite improvement, ...
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What motivated Kant to focus on a relatively small set of principles when discussing morality?

Let’s use the famous example. Kant argues that lying is categorically bad because, even though lying can be good in narrow circumstances, one cannot will lying to be okay in a universal way. However, ...
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Why isn’t the Kantian categorical imperative equal to utilitarian principles with additional constraints?

This is how I understood the categorical imperative: an action is moral if it, when universalized (the constraint), is good (utilitarian). The need to universalize can be seen as a constraint: that is,...
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Gaïa utilitarianism?

What is the name of the branch of utilitarianism that place nature, biodiversity, life on earth, maybe intelligence, at the center, like classical utilitarianism do with human ?
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Is cheating mandatory according to a utilitarian?

Let's consider a game with a large number of players for which I discovered an undetectable cheating technique that makes me win (i.e. top the leaderboard) every time I use it (while my real skill is ...
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What are the most important responses to the claim that utilitarianism is compatible with extreme injustices?

Utilitarianism is often accused of being compatible with extreme injustices. If by tormenting a minority, a great amount of happiness is generated for a large majority, this situation would be ...
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What does utilitarianism say on the topic of abortion and timescales?

So, a bit of a forewarning here: this is going to delve into a controversial topic. I hope we can keep this civil, but this is the internet so who knows. Ideally, this also won't take a political tack,...
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Does utilitarianism demand a 5 mph speed limit?

Ok, so a bit of forewarning: this is going to delve into current events a little bit (not too much though). I was having a discussion with someone about the response to the recent pandemic and I said ...
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Are Life and Intelligence analogous?

Let me explain what I mean. From the standpoint of biology, life is often defined by having a metabolism, the ability to reproduce, evolve, etc. (There is no single definition so far as I can tell.) ...
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Is self-interest ethical even when it means not helping others?

I'm having trouble reconciling common sense self-interest with the mainstream systems in ethics. Say I'm taking a life-changing exam, and I've studied and am super prepared; yet, the guy behind me ...
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How do you apply utilitarian concepts to answer this?

You are the prime minister of a state being threatened by an insurgent group of 1000 men. You received the news that the insurgents are hiding in the hills with a community of innocent civilians of ...
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Harm Principle and the eventual harm of creating needs

A necessity or a need is a necessary condition for something else. A need in Economics and particularly a consumer need is something needed to be consumed, a necessary condition for achieving higher ...
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In utilitarianism, is it better to give 1000 units of happiness to 1 person, or 100 units each to 10 people?

Assume that we have a way of quantifying happiness, and assume that all the people mentioned are equally well-off (not that the second point matters, I don't think). I know what the answer would be if ...
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Should we pursue knowledge for the sake of knowledge without considering the possible consequences? [closed]

For example, should Alfred Noble be blamed for suicide bombers as he created dynamite?
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What is the meaning of “Philistine utilitarianism”?

I was wondering what is the meaning of "Philistine utilitarianism"? I saw this in a couple of articles and I wanna know that Is it a term or Should I read it literally; that is, anti-intellectual ...
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What should you do in this situation?

You've been on a cruise for two days when there's an accident that forces everyone on board to abandon ship. During the evacuation, one of the boats is damaged, leaving it with a hole that fills it ...
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How could I possibly apply rule-utilitarianism in real life?

If I believe in rule-utilitarianism as the best moral system we have to judge what actions are right and wrong, how would I go about applying this system pratically in real life decisions? For ...
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Problem with a practical application of rule-utilitarianism

I sort of accepted rule-utilitarianism as my system for evaluating morals as there are many problems with strict utilitarianism but at the same time utility still seems to be the most logical factor ...
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Where does this utility equation come from, and what does the zero or uppercase “o” mean?

(1/n)(B + g/n) + ([n–1]/n)(0 + g/n) What is zero or uppercase O mean? Page 16: http://www.stafforini.com/library/kagan-2011.pdf#page=16 My best guess is that it's found somewhere in Reasons and ...
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I'm being drafted to the military but I have the option to refuse (legally), would it be immoral for me to serve? [closed]

I’m set to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces but I have the option to exempt from the military if I wish to. So I’m in a big moral dilemma on whether I should serve or not, I’m currently leaning ...
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Alternative to utilitarianism that only looks at negative consequences of actions

If I understand correctly, according to utilitarianism, in the trolley problem, the ethical action is to pull the lever, causing one person to die and saving five. Is there a variant of ...
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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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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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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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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 ...