PHI 208 Ethics and Moral Reasoning
In your own words, describe the ethical theory of utilitarianism. Using at least one quote from one of the required readings, discuss and explain the utilitarian principle that the best actions are those which generate the greatest good for the greatest number. Discuss how this goal of utilitarianism is related to the utilitarian principle that “the ends justify the means.” Finally, evaluate these two ideas by discussing their strengths and weaknesses.
If you had to create an ethical theory from scratch, discuss whether you would include one or both of these principles as part of your theory and explain why you would or would not include them.
(Note: Please remember to start a new thread with your inital post by hitting the “Respond” button an inch or two above the maroon-colored line (you might have to scroll up a bit.)
For your second discussion board this week, use at least one quote from the text to discuss a core principle of utilitarianism, then discuss the different approaches on animal ethics held by Tom Regan and Peter Singer by answering the following questions:
What basic things do they agree about?
What do they disagree about?
How would their different views result in different utilitarian conclusions about how animals should be treated?
Which of the two do you think presents the best approach to discussing animal ethics and why? Note that in order to answer this last question, you will have to define what you mean by “best.” As an example, someone who says that Singer presents the best approach to discussing animal ethics might mean that Singer presents the most rational and justifiable position on animal ethics. Another person might mean that Singer presents the most practical approach.
When faced with the complaint that utilitarianism is a doctrine worthy of pigs, Mill responds that pleasures differ in:
What does Peter Singer say about the history of liberation movements?
They tend to become narrower in scope … zeroing in on the exact class that deserves moral consideration.
They tend to become wider in scope … with people learning to apply moral principles to groups previously not considered.
They tend to become more discriminatory … giving fewer and fewer rights to the less privileged.
They tend to discover that the original concepts in the past were superior and it is a mistake to veer from traditional wisdom.
Which of the following does not describe how egg-laying hens are treated in factory farms?
They are allowed to scratch through dirt and grass looking for seeds and bugs in the fresh open air.
They are kept in such tight confinement that they cannot lift their wings
They are starved into a period of ‘forced molting’
They have their beaks painfully seared off
What moral theory does Jeremy Bentham (with whom Singer seems to agree) endorse?
Social Contract Theory
Which of the following statements is the strongest evidence that the person saying it is a utilitarian?
Ginny: “Violations of rights are very serious, from the moral point of view.”
Helen: “I agree. It is always immoral to violate someone’s rights.”
Ginny: “Well, I wouldn’t say ‘always’. It’s o.k. to violate rights whenever the good you can produce by doing so outweighs the harm you do by violating the person’s rights.”
Kate: “I disagree with both of you. The notion of rights is just a mechanism for the lesser members of society to maintain control over those capable of greatness.”
According to Tom Regan, which of the following should compel us to accept the equal rights of animals?
Sentiment – our feelings for the welfare of animals
Law – legal regulations requiring us to respect the rights of animals
Reason – this theory has the best reasons on its side
Religion – the laws of God mandate human compassion
The philosopher John Stuart Mill recognized the following as a potential problem for utilitarianism
It holds people to standards that are too high.
It may lead to increased liberty and justice.
It may result in a tyranny of the majority
It may lead people to think independently of religious authority.
According to John Stuart Mill, utilitarianism takes into account the happiness of:
only the agent.
only the agent and those the agent cares about.
everyone, but weights the happiness of the agent more heavily.
everyone, and weights everyone’s happiness equally.
Which of the following does Peter Singer assert about the principle of equality?
People should have equal rights because they are factually equal.
People with higher abilities, it stands to reason, should have greater rights.
Different groups of humans should have equal rights if scientific investigation proves that there are no genetic differences in their abilities.
It is a prescription that we should treat people equally regardless of their differing abilities.
According to Mill, utilitarian morality holds that:
If each individual strives to maximize their own happiness, the happiness of all will follow.
Each individual is required to sacrifice their own individual happiness for the happiness of all.
With the right social arrangements and education, individuals can come to associate their own individual happiness with the happiness of all.
Neither the happiness of the individual nor the happiness of all is worth pursuing, since neither is attainable in this life.
What does Singer say about other philosophers’ attempts to argue that only humans have moral worth?
That they give a good way to determine who has rights in a way that includes all humans and no animals
That they all say that animals should have rights too
That they come up with unjustified methods to include all humans while excluding all animals from moral consideration
That animals do not have rights because they are not as smart as humans are
Which of the following makes it difficult to calculate the utility of an act
the time frame of the consequences
disagreements about the meaning of pleasure or happiness
determining what constitutes the greatest good
all of the above
Which of the following does Tom Regan say about the utilitarian approach to animal ethics?
It is inadequate because it does not give value to individuals but only to their feelings
It is perfect because it does not allow for discrimination based upon morally irrelevant attributes like race or species
It is wrong because it treats human suffering as more important than animal suffering
It ignores everything that does not have enough ‘utility’ and therefore does not take into account important things that it does not consider ‘useful’
According to Jeremy Bentham (as described by Singer) what should determine whether a being’s interests should be taken into account?
Whether they have the faculty of discourse
Whether they can reason
Whether they can suffer
Whether they are capable of love
What is Peter Singer’s point about performing vivisection on mentally disabled human infants?
That if we say that it would be wrong to perform experiments on such humans but not on non-humans then we are showing bias based upon species alone
That a good speciesist would not perform experiments on any being
That we should test upon mentally disabled human infants because the results would be more reliable than tests on animals
That anyone who would consider testing on a human infant is a monster
Tom Regan’s view of animals is that
They are important but not quite as important as human beings
They have rights, which means that they should never be used for human purposes
They may be ethically used because they were bred and raised for that purpose
That they may be eaten because do not have souls like we do and are lower on the food chain
How do we determine the difference between higher and lower pleasures, according to Mill?
The relative duration and intensity.
The preference of those who are acquainted with both.
The amount of happiness they produce on average.
We can’t, since there is no difference between pleasures.
What does Singer say about finding the basis for moral duties in the “intrinsic dignity” of humanity?
That God ordained humanity to be the top of the “great chain of being”
That mankind is the most important species because it is the most intelligent
That dolphins have actually been shown to be more intelligent than humans in many respects
That such fine phrases are a last resort for philosophers who cannot find a distinction that gives humans worth while denying it to all other species
What is Tom Regan’s position about the use of animals in research and agriculture?
Animals should be used whenever it can be proven that the human benefits outweigh the harms caused to the animals
Animals should never be used for medical research or commercial agriculture
Animals should only be used for medical research shown to be beneficial to humanity, never for agriculture
Animals should be used in both medical research and agriculture but should be treated as humanely as possible
What is Tom Regan’s main criticism of the contractarian approach to ethical duties?
It works fine for humans without problems, but it has not yet been applied to animals
It ignores the importance of pain and suffering when it comes to ethics
It would allow all kinds of human injustice if a stronger group is able to oppress the members of a weaker group of people
He does not criticize it; he things that contractarianism, if properly understood, represents the most rational approach to ethical problems
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