121 votes

Am I morally obligated to pursue a career in medicine?

Since you explicitly referenced utilitarianism, I'm going to take a utilitarian framework for granted, and answer in terms of that framework*. So I'm answering the question of do utilitarian ethics ...
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  • 1,341
34 votes

Is it ethical to convince someone to get vaccinated?

You approach the problem from the position that everyone knows & agrees on the safety & efficacy of the vaccine. But people don't refuse it because they wish to declare that they are selfish &...
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  • 9,595
33 votes

Am I morally obligated to pursue a career in medicine?

A self driving car is likely to save more lives than almost any practicing physician. You still have time to be one of the primary developers for a self driving car. Better hygiene has contributed ...
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  • 587
29 votes

Is it ethical to convince someone to get vaccinated?

When something has a label on it, it will influence how we think about it, even if the thing isn't what the label says. So I think it's important to define the terms in depth. Suppose a pharmaceutical ...
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  • 469
26 votes
Accepted

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

Not a terribly philosophical answer here... Animals in the wild are actually quite efficient at resource utilisation. For example, a lion kills a zebra, the pride eats enough food for them to last ...
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25 votes

Am I morally obligated to pursue a career in medicine?

I am going to suggest three different routes through which you can look at this question. The first is a Kantian route. Kant develops a moral theory around the idea that we are rational free ...
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19 votes

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

I'll attempt to work within the lens of utilitarianism and against the idea that we hold any obligation: The possible implementations of such a plan to suppress the occurrence of hunting and violence ...
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19 votes

I'm being drafted to the military but I have the option to refuse (legally), would it be immoral for me to serve?

Your question is a revival of the classic debate between Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Should we obey even corrupt governments, or should we revolt and create a new government? From the Stanford ...
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18 votes

For a utilitarian, is a lie morally equivalent to a mistake?

Since utilitarianism is meant for people who are not all-knowing, only the foreseeable consequences count. And a mistake and a lie do not differ only in intent, they also differ in what the person ...
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15 votes
Accepted

What is the difference between Rule Utilitarianism and Act Utilitarianism?

A rule utilitarian thinks, before acting, about the consequences of people following that rule. If the outcome is regarded as positive, she might decide that it's good to follow that rule in general, ...
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  • 2,437
13 votes
Accepted

For a utilitarian, is a lie morally equivalent to a mistake?

The evaluation of such a thing looks different under different utilitarian approaches. Act utilitarianism Act utilitarianism is a utilitarian theory of ethics which states that a person's act is ...
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13 votes

Multidimensional utility

It turns out that if a rational agent has a complete and consistent preference relation among possible outcomes, and uses this relation to choose between probabilistic outcomes, then the agent must ...
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  • 5,759
12 votes

Evil thoughts without actions?

There's a famous passage from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus seems to establish mental purity as a moral standard: Matthew 5:21-28 21 “You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago,...
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10 votes

Am I morally obligated to pursue a career in medicine?

You need to broaden your thinking. You could become a mathematician and work on optimising ambulance response. Your objective function is to minimise something such as deaths, and your constraints ...
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9 votes

Am I morally obligated to pursue a career in medicine?

If this were simply an academic exercise, then a formal analysis based on a utilitarian analysis or other moral theory would suffice. However, as I read this as an ethical issue that you are seriously ...
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  • 304
8 votes

Evil thoughts without actions?

Yes. Jesus said: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man;" Matthew 15:19,20 An evil ...
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  • 89
8 votes

Evil thoughts without actions?

Today, it seems that religious traditions more often hold the position that thoughts in themselves can be immoral. However, the idea originally came from the Pagan philosophers. For one example, ...
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8 votes

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

"Animals do not participate in ethics" is simply wrong. See the work of Franz DeWaal on primates, they show an understanding of fairness, justice, care for others, all ethical considerations. A more ...
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  • 1,878
8 votes

I'm being drafted to the military but I have the option to refuse (legally), would it be immoral for me to serve?

Welcome, Mimikyu Your second and third paragraphs concern only a remote contingency, as you acknowledge. They are, I think it's safe to say, practically discountable. The position appears to be ...
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8 votes

Is it ethical to convince someone to get vaccinated?

John Rawls discusses this subject, albeit briefly, in A Theory of Justice. The context is the issue of public goods, for example in light of the free-rider problem. The section is #42 (pg. 237 of the ...
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8 votes
Accepted

Are emotional aspects considered in the utilitarian standard of morality?

According to Wikipedia: For instance, Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, described utility as "that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, ...
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  • 1,398
7 votes

What is the difference between Rule Utilitarianism and Act Utilitarianism?

Originally, I was going to comment on iphigenie's answer, but I decided there were enough parts I wanted to comment on that it's worth supplying a second answer -- even though the other one is good as ...
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  • 24.3k
7 votes

Philosophical views on nudity

Scottish philosopher, Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), authored Sartor Resartus (the tailor re-tailored), published in 1836, which roughly begins with a discussion of the 'naked savage' and subsequently ...
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  • 2,306
6 votes
Accepted

Evil thoughts without actions?

If thoughts have a statistical tendency to lead to actions the more they are thought about, then how does one prevent evil action-causing thoughts from leading to actions? There does seem to be some ...
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  • 2,929
6 votes

Do utilitarians believe that depressed people should be killed?

I'll assume you want to analyse this within a rule-utilitarian framework [*]. On that assumption, I think you can refute the proposition "rule utilitarianism implies depressed people should be killed" ...
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  • 61
6 votes
Accepted

Is there a difference between utilitarianism and consequentialism?

In a nutshell, Anscombe considers utilitarianism to take account, in respect of consequences, solely of the actual consequences of actions. In contrast, consequentialism - a term which she introduced ...
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6 votes
Accepted

In what way is everyone not a utilitarian

The difference is that a utilitarian who endorses inalienable rights can conceive of a world in which that endorsement ends up morally wrong, even if our actual world endorses inalienable rights. By ...
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5 votes
Accepted

Utilitarian ethics: are consequences for yourself relevant?

Utilitarianism ethics aim for the most possible positive consequences, but do consequences like your own death count? Rationally thinking, this is a 'bad' consequence, thus making it less ethical, but ...
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5 votes

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

The problems you see are typical issues that one arrives at when using too simple of a utility function. For example, it is well recognized that life-years is a terrible metric for utilitarians, with ...
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  • 17.2k
5 votes
Accepted

As a Utilitarian why should I not kill myself to donate my organs and save a few other lives?

A lot is hidden in the claim that it improves the overall utility assuming we are all equal. There's several variants of Utilitarianism and these all fall within a larger family of consequentalist ...
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