South West

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Contemporary Moral Problems
Steven DeCecco

Utilitarianism is an ethical theory which explains that the morality of an act is dependent on the amount of utility that an action can produce. It states that one should act so as to maximize the amount of happiness in the world.
The most clear criticism I believe against the Utilitarian principle is that it only looks on the consequences that an action can inflict to the majority of the people. By this, we can gather that Utilitarianism lacks concern on the part of the minority. Plus, it’s not always the case that what is good for the majority is the right thing to do. For example, while Kant argues that we should never tell a lie no matter what the consequences, utilitarian’s would first calculate the positive and negative effects from either telling the truth or telling a lie. But, if telling a lie will maximize more happiness or pleasure for the number of people involved, then telling a lie is the morally right thing to do.
Another objection I find interesting is Robert Nozick’s experience machine. Nozick’s example of the experience machine is meant to be a counter-example to hedonism. He asks, if it were possible to put you in a virtual reality machine, where you could live out the rest of your life in a practical, computer-generated reality, would you do so? My answer would be no and I think most people would pick the same. Although certainly they would be much happier in the machine, a life in the machine just wouldn’t be as valuable as a life outside of the machine. Nozick argues, if happiness were the only thing of value, then a life in the machine wouldn’t be “missing something” at all. The fact that we think it would be implies that we value more for its own sake than just happiness.
The utilitarian replies to this objection by saying that we are mistaken in thinking that these other things are…...

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