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Archives de Catégorie: Utilitarianism

In the blogs, 10/27/08

In the blogs today, October 27, 2008:

  • At 4:30,
    • Becca wonders to what extent we are really responsible for the outcomes of our actions
    • Gordon asks how it could possible seem reasonable to divorce examination of someone’s motives from the judgment of their actions
    • Tyler wants to know how Mill can reconcile himself to such an inexact theory.
  • At 6:30,
    • Neha wants to know how Mill can separate motives from morality.
    • Jeffersson points out that we still haven’t been told how we’re supposed to divine the consequences of our actions
    • Jon T. asks to what extent we should consider the repercussions of an action when determining its moral worth

In the blogs, 10/16/08

In the blogs today, October 16, 2008:

  • At 4:30, Becca makes it crystal clear how utiltiarianism could still be a useful theory even in a terrible world. At the same time, Lance argues that is no such thing as a moral lie.
  • At 6:30, Chris gives some very convincing examples to support a particular kind of objection to utilitarianism.

Homework for 10/16

Here’s your homework for Thursday, October 16:

Blog about one of the two objections discussed in Tuesday’s class.

  • At 4:30, this means either section (7) (objection: utilitarianism equates morality with expediency, allowing for too many little white lies to count as moral) or section (2) (objection: morality can’t be all about increasing overall happiness because happiness is unattainable).
  • At 6:30, this means either section (4) (objection: utilitarianism is too demanding) or section (2) (objection: morality can’t be all about increasing overall happiness because happiness is unattainable).

If you weren’t in class, or if you would just like an electronic version of the paper assignment, you can download it here.

Audio files are available.

In the blogs, 10/13/08

In the blogs today, Octover 13, 2008:

  • At 4:30, Sara talks about the distinction between what makes an action moral (in retrospect, as it were) and how we make moral decisions. Meanwhile, Liz defends Mill’s argument that utilitarianism is not in fact too demanding.
  • At 6:30, Mike gives a nice summary of the utilitarian position regarding when self-sacrifice is a good thing.

Homework for 10/14

Here’s the homework for Tuesday, October 14. (No class Thursday 10/9 because of the Jewish holiday.)

Read the section of Mill’s chapter II that was discussed in tonight’s class. At 4:30, it was section 4; at 6:30, it was section 3. You can get page numbers from the handout, which can be downloaded in the previous blog post.

Blog about the objection discussed in class. At 4:30, the question is whether utilitarianism really does demand too much of moral agents. At 6:30, the question is whether and to what extent self-sacrifice (i.e. the denial of one’s own pleasure) has moral value. This blog entry is due Sunday at midnight.

Homework for 10/7

Tonight in class we divided into groups – corresponding for the most part to the blog groups at the right – to work on a section from Chapter II of Mill’s Utilitarianism. Your blog assignment is to write about the objection and response that your group discussed: sum up the objection and Mill’s response, if you’d like, or dig right in and critique Mill directly.

If you weren’t in class, you should read extremely carefully the section that was assigned to your group and blog about it. Download this file and find the passage in the reading that corresponds to the number of your blog group (as listed at the right) plus one. Thus members of blog group 3 will work on passage number 4, etc.

Homework for 10/2

Remember, no class on Thursday 9/25 and no class on Tuesday 9/31.

For Thursday, 10/2, read all of Chapter II in Mill’s Utilitarianism. No blog assignment.

Audio files can be downloaded here.

In the blogs, 9/22/08

In the blogs today, September 22, 2008: I asked you to think about Mill’s position that some pleasures – the "higher" pleasures – are intrinsically better than others – the "lower" ones.

  • At 4:30,
    • Tom sums up the anti-Mill position quite clearly
    • Matt P., on the other hand, gives an example supporting the intuitive nature of Mill’s position
    • Gordon gives one independent reason for thinking that higher pleasures are better
    • Hannah has another, related reason
  • At 6:30,
    • Jeffersson gives a clear statement of why Mill sounds a bit stuffy
    • Justin has a novel reason for preferring the higher pleasures
    • David questions the coherence of separating the two kinds of pleasure – and the two kinds of pleasure-havers
    • Eric gestures in the direction of an argument against Mill

Homework for 9/23

For Tuesday,

  • Blog about Mill’s claim that some pleasures – the "higher", mostly mental pleasures that are unique to humans – are better than others – the "lower", physical, animal pleasures. Is he right about this? I urge you here to look at the argument that Mill gives for this, found mostly on pages 321 and 322. Post this blog entry by Sunday midnight.
  • No new reading assignment, but you should constantly be going back over the first half of the Mill. Each time you read it, you’ll understand twice as much.
  • Tuesday the 23rd marks the end of the first grading period for the blogs. What you need to know:
    1. You should have a total of five blog entries, including the one due Sunday midnight. You should make up those entries that you are missing in order to earn at least some credit for them; you can find all blog assignments by scrolling down my blog and looking for the "Homework for…" entries. (You might need to click "Previous Entries" at the bottom to see the older assignments.)
    2. You should have a total of five comments on other people’s blogs. Both these comments and the makeup blog entries are due Tuesday at class time.
    3. Grades for this blogging period will be emailed to you on Wednesday.

Audio files are up.

In the blogs, 9/18/08

In the blogs today, September 18, 2008:

The question was this: To what extent are we morally responsible for the consequences of our actions, and what does this tell us about utilitarianism?

  • At 4:30,
    • Liz states the problem with utiltiarianism and intentions quite clearly in her second paragraph
    • Nicole says that our responsibility stops when another person steps in
    • Ethan generalizes somewhat on this idea
    • Rich maintains that responsibility is very limited
  • At 6:30,
    • Aja holds a strongly utilitarian position
    • Jeff focuses on immediate consequences
    • Jeffersson makes a nice analogy with kitchen appliances

Homework for 9/18

Here’s what you’ll need to do for Thursday’s class:

  • Read the first half of Chapter II of Mill’s Utilitarianism, from the beginning of the chapter on 320 up to (but not including) the paragraph beginning "The objectors to utilitarianism cannot always be charged…" on page 326. If you did your homework over the weekend, that means you’ve only got another three pages or so for Thursday.
  • Blog: To what extent are we morally responsible for the outcome of our actions? What does your answer to this question tell us about utilitarianism?
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