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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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2answers
85 views

Should we pursue knowledge for the sake of knowledge without considering the possible consequences? [on hold]

For example, should Alfred Noble be blamed for suicide bombers as he created dynamite?
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31 views

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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1answer
32 views

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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1answer
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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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12answers
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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 of 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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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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47 views

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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3answers
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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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1answer
122 views

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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141 views

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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1answer
102 views

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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60 views

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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1answer
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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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2answers
187 views

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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2answers
447 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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1answer
378 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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1answer
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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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1answer
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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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4answers
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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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1answer
112 views

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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1answer
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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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1answer
322 views

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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396 views

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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4answers
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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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172 views

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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1answer
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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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1answer
247 views

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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557 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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1answer
216 views

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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1answer
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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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108 views

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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1answer
388 views

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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3answers
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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 ...