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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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13 answers
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Am I morally obligated to pursue a career in medicine?

I am a high school student who has no formal training in philosophy, so I apologize if this question seems naïve. However, it is one that I am currently facing in a life decision, and I would like a ...
David Zhang's user avatar
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29 votes
12 answers
11k views

Evil thoughts without actions?

Can a thought without a corresponding action be morally wrong? More fully, under which approaches to morality do thoughts, in and of themselves, carry moral significance? In particular I'm looking ...
Dave's user avatar
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27 votes
11 answers
7k views

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 ...
Mimikyu's user avatar
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22 votes
8 answers
8k views

Is it ethical to convince someone to get vaccinated?

I'm currently writing about the ethics of vaccinations, and I have two long-standing concerns about the matter. "Is refusing vaccination a morally justifiable position?" will be my question. ...
Ericleast992's user avatar
22 votes
9 answers
8k views

Do humans have an ethical obligation to prevent animal on animal violence?

Going by a purely utilitarian perspective with a goal to reduce pain, I would think humans should do that. What it would involve, maybe feeding lab grown meat to tigers, and separating habitats? And ...
user2277550's user avatar
16 votes
4 answers
5k views

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 ...
user avatar
13 votes
6 answers
254k views

What is the difference between Rule Utilitarianism and Act Utilitarianism?

Based on the definitions given by Wikipedia , Rule Utilitarianism and Act Utilitarianism both seems to imply the same meaning Rule Utilitarianism Action is right as it conforms to a rule that ...
Computernerd's user avatar
13 votes
1 answer
10k views

What is a straight-forward method for distinguishing pragmatic from utilitarian action or thought?

In common parlance, pragmatic and utilitarian are very similar ways of doing things. In philosophical traditions, Utilitarians and Pragmatists are very different. In terms of understanding an action ...
mfg's user avatar
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12 votes
2 answers
300 views

How has neuroscience characterized classic Benthamite utilitiarian reasoning in situations like the trolley problem?

With regards to the famous trolley problem, I know that neuroscientists have largely found people believe it is morally wrong to flip the switch to kill one man in order to save five strangers. I ...
Uticensis's user avatar
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11 votes
3 answers
378 views

What is the justification for averaging utility in utilitarianism?

Every time I have heard utilitarianism discussed, it is generally assumed that utility should be averaged. While this sounds reasonable, the reasoning isn't particularly strong. What justifications ...
Casebash's user avatar
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9 votes
3 answers
4k views

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 ...
Ariel's user avatar
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8 votes
4 answers
897 views

Multidimensional utility

I'm an outsider to the philosophy community (I'm a mathematics PhD student), and I'm curious of whether the following critique has been addressed. During some superficial discussions I had on ...
Uzu Lim's user avatar
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7 votes
4 answers
3k views

Which ethical philosophy is concerned with maximizing expected universal good?

Take this ethical belief: "People should act such that they, upon considering with a reasonable amount of effort related to the significance of the decision, believe that they will maximize the good ...
Jeremy's user avatar
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7 votes
3 answers
7k views

Argument against Singer's analogy of the pond

Peter Singer gave a famous argument in Famine, Affluence and Morality that made an analogy between saving a drowning child in a pond at the expense of getting your clothes wet, and donating the ...
user3076's user avatar
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7 votes
3 answers
345 views

How can one objectivley measure the nobility or value of a given pursuit?

John Stuart Mill famously said: It is quite compatible with the principle of utility to recognise the fact, that some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others. It would ...
Alexander S King's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
6k views

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 (...
yosimitsu kodanuri's user avatar
7 votes
3 answers
450 views

Resolving weighting conflicts in preference utilitarianism

Assuming we're dealing with the actions of two people based on the preferences of two non overlapping sets of affected people, other than the number of people, which methods are available to resolve ...
Stefano Palazzo's user avatar
7 votes
3 answers
665 views

Are all ethical systems consequentialist?

Quoting Milton Friedman here "If the end does not justify the means, what does? But this easy answer does not dispose of the objection; it simply shows that the objection is not well put. To ...
user avatar
7 votes
3 answers
1k views

Is property an absolute or utilitarian right?

It seems to me that property cannot be considered an intrinsic part of human nature, not in the way life is, for example. Property defines a relationship between two objects that only has a basis in ...
yuttadhammo's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
209 views

Temporally stable determination of value in consequentialism

If one is a consequentialist, one at least implicitly makes decisions based on how good or bad the consequences are. As such, you must implicitly have a function f that maps from the set of ...
Rex Kerr's user avatar
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6 votes
11 answers
6k views

What are valid rebuttals to utilitarianism?

From Britannica, utilitarianism is an ethics concept in which an action (or type of action) is right if it tends to promote happiness or pleasure and wrong if it tends to produce unhappiness or pain—...
megamonster68's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
210 views

Who came up with the terms "act utilitarianism" and "rule utilitarianism"?

I see plenty on the distinction itself, and plenty about the history of people developing views that seem to use the distinction (though they don't use these specific terms), but I can't find who ...
Cartesian Theater's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
239 views

Assessing the Ethics of Building Unsafe Structures

While doing a Ethics for Engineer's subunit (a few months ago), I came up with the follow problem, and have been wondering about it since. As an Engineer, you may be asked to build a water treatment ...
Frames Catherine White's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
2k views

Is it ethical to legalize psychedelic drug therapy for the terminally ill?

The ethics of relieving end of life anxiety with psychedelic drugs is in question. I would like a risk/ benefit analysis according to all the facts. If the benefits outweigh the risk of harm, then I ...
Stevie C. 's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
443 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 ...
LootHypothesis's user avatar
5 votes
3 answers
8k views

Why is Propinquity included in Bentham's Hedonic Calculus?

Jeremy Bentham, a pioneer of Utilitarianism, produced 7 criteria for ethical decision making, known as the Hedonic (or Felicific) Calculus, designed to provide the greatest total pleasure to the ...
CaptainRad's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
201 views

Harm Principle and the Trolley Case

My question concerns what someone following the Harm Principle does when confronted with a trolley-like situation: where causing a couple people to die would save many more lives. This specifically ...
Hokon's user avatar
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5 votes
3 answers
2k views

Can utilitiarianism require informed consent?

Background In 2014, it was revealed that Facebook had manipulated news feeds to study emotions. Facebook did not go through any sort of ethical review at the time and has been criticized for this and ...
Christian's user avatar
  • 315
5 votes
3 answers
3k views

Would Utilitarianism say that surveillance of the public is wrong?

If surveillance results in fear from the majority of the public, will Utilitarianism reject surveillance of the public for security reasons? I'm assuming this because Utilitarianism calls an action ...
stevetronix's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
1k views

Utilitarianism and Bertrand Russell

On an interview aired in 1959 Bertrand Russel, talking about religious beliefs said: "...it seems to me a fundamental dishonesty to hold a belief because is useful and not because is true." The open ...
PunkZebra's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers
885 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 ...
christo183's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers
1k views

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 ...
Chaerephon's user avatar
5 votes
6 answers
3k views

Is it self-evident that utilitarianism requires altruism?

I've seen this way too often. People who claim to be utilitarians use utilitarian arguments to support their own end. Then, they shy away for instances contributing to the common good. This partially ...
Matt's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
625 views

According to Mill, are the stand your ground laws ethical?

Quick definition to get on the same page: "stand-your-ground law states that a person may justifiably use force in self-defense without an obligation to retreat first" (wikipedia) This question is ...
wesman16's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
504 views

Is there an utilitarian stance on top-down utility maximization?

Frequently, utilitarian ethics are presented from the point of view of individual decision-making, that is, the maximization of the "pleasure less suffering" function which underlyies rational choice ...
Mono's user avatar
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5 votes
4 answers
406 views

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, ...
J Li's user avatar
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5 votes
3 answers
333 views

Does Mill make pain a necessary component of happiness?

In Utilitarianism, ch. 4, Mill's proof of utilitarianism, happiness is defined as: "Not a continuity of highly pleasurable excitement, but moments of such, in an existence made up of few but ...
D.Hawthorne's user avatar
4 votes
4 answers
3k views

How do utilitarians avoid ethical totalitarianism?

Utilitarianism, when dealing with the question of what is the best course of action for a whole group (community, country, society as whole, etc...), states that the maximum benefit for the maximum ...
Alexander S King's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
2k 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 ...
inspired_learner's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
3k views

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 ...
Scb's user avatar
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4 votes
6 answers
1k views

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 ...
Curtis's user avatar
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4 votes
2 answers
191 views

How do total utilitarians respond to the problem of future people?

If humanity survives for a long time, then people today could have an extremely large number of descendants. Imagine that there are 100 drowning people, all of which happen to be infertile and one ...
vukov's user avatar
  • 172
4 votes
3 answers
298 views

Moral dilemma: wellbeing vs autonomy

Imagine you are pregnant, or the husband of a mother-to-be. You live in a world which is brutal; relentlessly cruel. Prior to birth, an offer is submitted to you: "Bring your child into the ...
Futilitarian's user avatar
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4 votes
2 answers
370 views

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 ...
Ariel's user avatar
  • 289
4 votes
3 answers
432 views

Utilitarianism and happiness

Utilitarianism, as I understand it, builds on the concept of happiness. So it's basically an ethics machine which takes happiness as some sort of input that's already given to us. But where does ...
Jonah's user avatar
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4 votes
4 answers
5k views

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, ...
mbsq's user avatar
  • 156
4 votes
1 answer
371 views

How does utilitarianism deal with adding more people?

How does utilitarianism deal with adding more people? (Question updated to include total utilitarianism) Firstly, suppose we are using average utilitarianism. Suppose everyone in the world is super ...
Casebash's user avatar
  • 569
4 votes
3 answers
310 views

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 ...
harry_m's user avatar
  • 41
4 votes
2 answers
252 views

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, ...
machaerus's user avatar
  • 321
4 votes
1 answer
311 views

Did Easterlin paradox and Scitovsky joyless economy disprove utilitarianism?

Utilitarianism is defined as follows: Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the best moral action is the one that maximizes utility. Utility is defined in various ways, but is ...
Vitaly Olegovitch's user avatar

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