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Jeremy Bentham argued that when we think about whether

Jeremy Bentham argued that when we think about whether someone/something ought to count morally that ” The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” a.) Why would it make sense for a utilitarian like Bentham to make such a statement? b.) Do you think that he’s right about the ability to suffer as what we ought to look at when we’re thinking about whether someone/something counts morally? c.) If we took this seriously what would it mean for our treatment of non-human animals?
Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy is extremely strict about what we ought and ought not do. So strict that he argued that it is always and everywhere wrong to lie. a.) Explain why Kant thought that lying was always wrong using the categorical imperative as a guide. b.) Explain whether you think Kant was right or wrong about this lying business and make sure to use clear examples to help your explanation along. If he was wrong, what’s an example of when it’s morally ok to lie, and if he was right, what’s an example where it looks ok to lie but it really isn’t ok?
Both phenomenology and existentialism sought to respond to the impasse created by the debate between deontology and utilitarianism by offering a new account or a ‘third way’ between the two. Compare and contrast the existentialist and phenomenological attempts to produce a new moral theory beyond utilitarianism and beyond Kant. Do any of these theories represent plausible alternatives? Why or why not?

Jeremy Bentham argued that when we think about whether someone/something ought to count morally that ” The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” (Bentham, 1789).
a.) Why would it make sense for a utilitarian like Bentham to make such a statement?
As a classical utilitarian philosopher, Bentham focused on maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering for the greatest number of individuals (Bentham, 1789). For Bentham, the ability to experience pleasure and pain, or to suffer, is the most important factor in determining an individual’s moral status and right to be considered in utilitarian calculations. Rather than capacities like reason or speech, which exclude some humans and non-human animals, the capacity for suffering provides the most inclusive and objective standard.
b.) Do you think that he’s right about the ability to suffer as what we ought to look at when we’re thinking about whether someone/something counts morally?
I agree that the ability to suffer is a compelling consideration from a consequentialist perspective like utilitarianism. Suffering should not be inflicted needlessly, regardless of other attributes. However, some argue that reasoning ability also matters morally as it relates to an individual’s autonomy, dignity, and right to determine their own interests (Cochrane, 2012). A balanced view is that both suffering and reasoning ability are highly relevant, though suffering provides a more inclusive starting point.
c.) If we took this seriously what would it mean for our treatment of non-human animals?
If the ability to suffer formed the primary basis for moral status, it would require significant changes to how we treat many non-human animals. Animals reared for food experience confinement conditions that would be considered inhumane if inflicted on humans (Rollin, 2006). Medical testing on animals that causes pain or distress would also require stricter justification. At minimum, efforts should be made to minimize suffering for animals in agriculture, research, entertainment and other industries through measures like humane slaughter methods, reduced confinement, and alternative research models (Fraser et al., 1997).
Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy is extremely strict about what we ought and ought not do. So strict that he argued that it is always and everywhere wrong to lie.
a.) Explain why Kant thought that lying was always wrong using the categorical imperative as a guide.
For Kant, the categorical imperative was the supreme principle of morality which states one should “act only according to the maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law” (Kant, 1785). Regarding lies, Kant believed if it was universally acceptable to lie as a means to an end, then the institution of truthful communication would cease to exist – which is required for rational interaction between moral agents. Therefore, lying contradicts the categorical imperative as it relies on a maxim that could not be universalized. For Kant, duty and respect for others’ autonomy is more important than any consequences that may result from telling the truth (Kant, 1785).
b.) Explain whether you think Kant was right or wrong about this lying business and make sure to use clear examples to help your explanation along. If he was wrong, what’s an example of when it’s morally ok to lie, and if he was right, what’s an example where it looks ok to lie but it really isn’t ok?
While I agree with Kant’s general emphasis on autonomy and trust in relationships, I believe his prohibition on lying is too absolute. In some cases, lying may be necessary to prevent serious harm or protect privacy without violating anyone’s rights or interests. For example, if asked, lying about hiding refugees to protect them from harm would be justified (Govier, 2002). However, Kant may be right that lying for mere self-interest like avoiding punishment or gaining unfair advantage over others by violating trust is not morally justified. Overall, a rule-based approach needs flexibility to account for nuances and exceptions that maximize well-being and moral priorities in practice.
Both phenomenology and existentialism sought to respond to the impasse created by the debate between deontology and utilitarianism by offering a new account or a ‘third way’ between the two. Compare and contrast the existentialist and phenomenological attempts to produce a new moral theory beyond utilitarianism and beyond Kant. Do any of these theories represent plausible alternatives? Why or why not?
Existentialism emphasized individual freedom and responsibility over rules or consequences in determining morality (Sartre, 1943). One has full responsibility in choosing and justifying their own actions and values. In contrast, phenomenology focused on describing pre-reflective human experiences and intentionality to develop an intersubjective or empathetic foundation for ethics (Husserl, 1900). Both sought to move beyond abstract moral theories toward incorporating lived human experiences, contexts, and the complexities of real situations.
While providing valuable insights, these approaches may lack the guidance or objectivity of deontology or utilitarianism when applied to complex real-world dilemmas (Pojman, 2006). Pure existentialism could justify almost any action, and phenomenology’s intuitions could still conflict or prove insufficient. However, incorporating phenomenological and existential perspectives into a pluralistic or virtue theory may help address some limitations of other theories while capturing important aspects of human morality that transcend rules or consequences alone. Overall, these “third ways” represent a step toward more nuanced and holistic moral philosophies.
Bentham, J. (1789). An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation.
Cochrane, A. (2012). Animal pain: Why it matters. The Journal of Ethics, 16(4), 437-459.
Fraser, D., Weary, D. M., Pajor, E. A., & Milligan, B. N. (1997). A scientific conception of animal welfare that reflects ethical concerns. Animal welfare, 6(3), 187-205.
Govier, T. (2002). Should feminists be vegetarians?. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 32(2), 127-155.
Husserl, E. (1900). Logical investigations.
Kant, I. (1785). Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals.
Pojman, L. P. (2006). Terrorism, torture, and morality. Rowman & Littlefield.
Rollin, B. E. (2006). Animal agriculture and emerging social ethics for animals. Journal of animal science, 84(11), 967-974.
Sartre, J. P. (1943). Being and nothingness.

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