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In the present work, R. Hare has fashioned, out of the logical and linguistic theses of his earlier books, a full-scale but readily intelligible account of moral argument. Excerpt I offer this book to the public now rather than later, not because I think it needs no improvement, but because of a sense of urgency -- a feeling that if these ideas were understood, philosophers might do more to help resolve important practical issues.

Read preview Overview. Sims Praeger, Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts. Journal of Information Ethics, Vol. Ethics in Accounting: An Indispensable Course? Hare has fashioned, out of the logical and linguistic theses of his earlier books, a full-scale but readily intelligible account of moral argument. In this work, the author has fashioned out of the logical and linguistic theses of his earlier books a full-scale but readily intelligible account of moral argument.


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Visit Seller's Storefront. Detailed Seller Information. List this Seller's Books. Payment Methods accepted by seller. AbeBooks Bookseller Since: 04 December Being healthy or honest or having knowledge, for example, are thought by some people to be intrinsic goods that are not types of feelings. Other thinkers see desires or preferences as the basis of value; whatever a person desires is valuable to that person.

If desires conflict, then the things most strongly preferred are identified as good. This debate will not be further discussed in this article. Utilitarian reasoning can be used for many different purposes. It can be used both for moral reasoning and for any type of rational decision-making.

PHILOSOPHY - David Hume

In addition to applying in different contexts, it can also be used for deliberations about the interests of different persons and groups. When individuals are deciding what to do for themselves alone, they consider only their own utility. For example, if you are choosing ice cream for yourself, the utilitarian view is that you should choose the flavor that will give you the most pleasure. If you enjoy chocolate but hate vanilla, you should choose chocolate for the pleasure it will bring and avoid vanilla because it will bring displeasure.


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In addition, if you enjoy both chocolate and strawberry, you should predict which flavor will bring you more pleasure and choose whichever one will do that. Because Bentham and other utilitarians were interested in political groups and public policies, they often focused on discovering which actions and policies would maximize the well-being of the relevant group. Their method for determining the well-being of a group involved adding up the benefits and losses that members of the group would experience as a result of adopting one action or policy.

Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point by R. M. Hare - quirenboyfor.tk

The well-being of the group is simply the sum total of the interests of the all of its members. To illustrate this method, suppose that you are buying ice cream for a party that ten people will attend. Your only flavor options are chocolate and vanilla, and some of the people attending like chocolate while others like vanilla. As a utilitarian, you should choose the flavor that will result in the most pleasure for the group as a whole.

If seven like chocolate and three like vanilla and if all of them get the same amount of pleasure from the flavor they like, then you should choose chocolate. An important point in this case is that you should choose chocolate even if you are one of the three people who enjoy vanilla more than chocolate. Similarly, if a government is choosing a policy, it should give equal consideration to the well-being of all members of the society. If this impartial perspective is seen as necessary for a utilitarian morality, then both self-interest and partiality to specific groups will be rejected as deviations from utilitarian morality.

Utilitarians disagree about whether judgments of right and wrong should be based on the actual consequences of actions or their foreseeable consequences. This issue arises when the actual effects of actions differ from what we expected. Smart 49 explains this difference by imagining the action of a person who, in ,saves someone from drowning. Had Hitler drowned, millions of other people might have been saved from suffering and death between and One reason for adopting foreseeable consequence utilitarianism is that it seems unfair to say that the rescuer acted wrongly because the rescuer could not foresee the future bad effects of saving the drowning person.

In response, actual consequence utilitarians reply that there is a difference between evaluating an action and evaluating the person who did the action. They stress the difference between evaluating actions and evaluating the people who perform them. Foreseeable consequence utilitarians accept the distinction between evaluating actions and evaluating the people who carry them out, but they see no reason to make the moral rightness or wrongness of actions depend on facts that might be unknowable.

For them, what is right or wrong for a person to do depends on what is knowable by a person at a time. For this reason, they claim that the person who rescued Hitler did the right thing, even though the actual consequences were unfortunate. Another way to describe the actual vs. One the actual consequence view says that to act rightly is to do whatever produces the best consequences.

In the case of the rescuer, the expected positive utility is high because the probability that saving a drowning person will lead to the deaths of millions of other people is extremely low, and thus can be ignored in deliberations about whether to save the drowning person.

Act and Rule Utilitarianism

What this shows is that actual consequence and foreseeable consequence utilitarians have different views about the nature of utilitarian theory. Foreseeable consequence utilitarians understand the theory as a decision-making procedure while actual consequence utilitarians understand it as a criterion of right and wrong. Foreseeable consequence utilitarians claim that the action with the highest expected utility is both the best thing to do based on current evidence and the right action.

Actual consequence utilitarians might agree that the option with the highest expected utility is the best thing to do but they claim that it could still turn out to be the wrong action. This would occur if unforeseen bad consequences reveal that the option chosen did not have the best results and thus was the wrong thing to do.

Both act utilitarians and rule utilitarians agree that our overall aim in evaluating actions should be to create the best results possible, but they differ about how to do that. Act utilitarians believe that whenever we are deciding what to do, we should perform the action that will create the greatest net utility. In their view, the principle of utility—do whatever will produce the best overall results—should be applied on a case by case basis. The right action in any situation is the one that yields more utility i.

Rule utilitarians adopt a two part view that stresses the importance of moral rules. According to rule utilitarians, a a specific action is morally justified if it conforms to a justified moral rule; and b a moral rule is justified if its inclusion into our moral code would create more utility than other possible rules or no rule at all. According to this perspective, we should judge the morality of individual actions by reference to general moral rules, and we should judge particular moral rules by seeing whether their acceptance into our moral code would produce more well-being than other possible rules.

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The key difference between act and rule utilitarianism is that act utilitarians apply the utilitarian principle directly to the evaluation of individual actions while rule utilitarians apply the utilitarian principle directly to the evaluation of rules and then evaluate individual actions by seeing if they obey or disobey those rules whose acceptance will produce the most utility.

The contrast between act and rule utilitarianism, though previously noted by some philosophers, was not sharply drawn until the late s when Richard Brandt introduced this terminology. Because the contrast had not been sharply drawn, earlier utilitarians like Bentham and Mill sometimes apply the principle of utility to actions and sometimes apply it to the choice of rules for evaluating actions. This has led to scholarly debates about whether the classical utilitarians supported act utilitarians or rule utilitarians or some combination of these views. Act utilitarianism is often seen as the most natural interpretation of the utilitarian ideal.

If our aim is always to produce the best results, it seems plausible to think that in each case of deciding what is the right thing to do, we should consider the available options i. If every action that we carry out yields more utility than any other action available to us, then the total utility of all our actions will be the highest possible level of utility that we could bring about. In other words, we can maximize the overall utility that is within our power to bring about by maximizing the utility of each individual action that we perform.

If we sometimes choose actions that produce less utility than is possible, the total utility of our actions will be less than the amount of goodness that we could have produced. For that reason, act utilitarians argue, we should apply the utilitarian principle to individual acts and not to classes of similar actions. Traditional moral codes often consist of sets of rules regarding types of actions. The Ten Commandments, for example, focus on types of actions, telling us not to kill, steal, bear false witness, commit adultery, or covet the things that belong to others. Although the Biblical sources permit exceptions to these rules such as killing in self-defense and punishing people for their sins , the form of the commandments is absolute.

In fact, both customary and philosophical moral codes often seem to consist of absolute rules. The philosopher Immanuel Kant is famous for the view that lying is always wrong, even in cases where one might save a life by lying. Act utilitarians reject rigid rule-based moralities that identify whole classes of actions as right or wrong. They argue that it is a mistake to treat whole classes of actions as right or wrong because the effects of actions differ when they are done in different contexts and morality must focus on the likely effects of individual actions.

It is these effects that determine whether they are right or wrong in specific cases.


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They see no reason to obey a rule when more well-being can be achieved by violating it. One advantage of act utilitarianism is that it shows how moral questions can have objectively true answers. Act utilitarianism, however, provides a method for showing which moral beliefs are true and which are false.

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Once we embrace the act utilitarian perspective, then every decision about how we should act will depend on the actual or foreseeable consequences of the available options. Although some people doubt that we can measure amounts of well-being, we in fact do this all the time. If two people are suffering and we have enough medication for only one, we can often tell that one person is experiencing mild discomfort while the other is in severe pain. Based on this judgment, we will be confident that we can do more good by giving the medication to the person suffering extreme pain.

Although this case is very simple, it shows that we can have objectively true answers to questions about what actions are morally right or wrong. Using this information, Bentham thought, would allow for making correct judgments both in individual cases and in choices about government actions and policies. The most common argument against act utilitarianism is that it gives the wrong answers to moral questions.