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Category Archives: 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.