111

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 imply that becoming a doctor is the best career choice? Framed that way, this becomes an empirical question - is a career in medicine, in fact, the most effective ...


30

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 to longer lives for more people than any medical treatment. While better hygiene has been driven in part by medical discoveries, that hasn't been the primary ...


25

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 for 2-3 more days without any other food. The scraps and bits the lions don't want to eat get eaten by smaller animals (and so on until literally there's nothing ...


23

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 creatures. For him, to act morally is to act rationally. Practically, this happens by acting in accordance with duty. For Kant, there are perfect and imperfect duties ...


20

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 knows, and, therefore, can foresee.


19

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 (e.g. to grow meat in a lab or lock up all the tigers) in nature would lead to unnecessary exploitation and disturbance of the environment, where nature does a ...


18

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 Encyclopedia of Philosophy: To have a political obligation is to have a moral duty to obey the laws of one's country or state. On that point there is almost ...


14

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, and will apply it in future. An act utilitarian doesn't generalise the act, but regards it as a single action with a single outcome. She will have to weigh ...


12

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, Don’t commit murder,[a] and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister ...


12

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 morally right if and only if it produces the best possible results in that specific situation. Source: Wikipedia So the first thing that's important to ...


10

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 are the geography, position of ambulances and a function relating time to probability that a caller will die. If you do this properly you can save many lives. Or ...


9

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 addressing for your personal decision making, I will try to help from a personal perspective. As a young person, I looked at things in this way. What is the ...


8

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 thought emanates from the inner man as an immoral act. Hence, the penalty for pre-meditated murder is higher than murdering someone in a fit of rage: less evil ...


8

"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 logical approach would be to consider our ethics as that of a specific social species, a system which has evolved to promote our survival in our particular niche ...


8

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 presents a sort of hilarious tongue-in-cheek history or 'philosophy' -- of clothing. What I got from it essentially is that 'the naked truth' holds up the mirror ...


8

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 that you regard the IDF as necessary for the defence of Israel. However, your not serving will not put Israel at risk but it will very likely involve you in (what ...


7

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, consider Cicero: “Virtue may be defined as a habit of mind (animi) in harmony with reason and the order of nature. It has four parts: wisdom (prudentiam), justice,...


6

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 it is. John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism seeks to maximize happiness (something he inherits from Jeremy Bentham and his father). Contemporary versions are ...


6

Singer already addresses the issue, albeit indirectly: it follows that I and everyone else in similar circumstances ought to give as much as possible, that is, at least up to the point at which by giving more one would begin to cause serious suffering for oneself and one's dependents - perhaps even beyond this point to the point of marginal utility, at ...


6

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 need to think evil action-causing thoughts, in order to understand those committing evil actions. So perhaps there are ways to protect against those actually ...


6

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" using an instance of a fairly general argument template, regardless of what utility measure you prefer. The general idea is to argue that even if there were ...


6

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 - determines what one should do solely by reference to the foreseen consequences of actions. The distinction is well brought out in the following extract of ...


5

Utilitarianism is self evidently difficult to bring to bear on two person hypotheticals such as this: weighing one person's happiness against that of another is, especially without context, rather hard. Standard approaches to dispensing with such problems fall into two broad categories. Deontological rules of thumb Many utilitarian philosophers, such as ...


5

Easy. The Christmas Dilemma The rule "you must destroy remaining present" is absurd, just report to the Christmas authorities that you've destroyed a cheap one, but don't do it. The rule "siblings may not share their presents" is wicked and must be disobeyed if you're to raise the children well. The Extension Problem Split the food. You can't know that ...


5

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 somehow this feels illogical. Some things that come to mind: Chris' death did, at the very least, cause grief to his family and produced no utility for ...


5

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 all sorts of known pitfalls (such as quality of life arguments). A utilitarian would argue that ones metric must be more developed than that. The problem of ...


5

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 views (views that see the evaluation of actions in terms of some quantitative object and that see morality as about the maximization or minimization of this ...


5

Strictly utalitarian, you want to maximize the well-being of all. From this perspective, the misfortune of a few prey is easily outweighted by the advantages of the many. In addition to the predators, there are other advantages to the ecosystem that increase the well-being of many animals, including the (other) prey. In the wild, predators tend to kill weak,...


5

Excellent question. J.S. Mill regarded the Greatest Happiness Principle as the moral truth. The principle states that "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness." Mill then equated happiness with pleasure, following Benthamite tradition. After all, both Bentham and Mill are ...


5

A key question in ethics that came to the front in the 20th century is the distinction between metaethics and normative ethics. It's not a perfect distinction and tends to blur (constantly), but the basic idea seems sound: Metaethics looks at the principles behind deciding whether something is right or wrong. Normative ethics looks at how ethics can guide ...


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