I. Calculating or Quantifying Happiness or Pleasure

A.. Problem:

1. Variability of Human Experience - Differences between people.

2. Number of Variables in Any Situation

3. Consequences - ability to discern what they are, what counts and the limit to causality (How far into the future does one look?).

4. No Time to Calculate

B. Response:

1. These problems (1-4) are the same for any ethical theory. The situation must always be analyzed. (However, not all systems are teleological, based on consequences.)

2. Only rough estimation limited to direct situation at hand necessary.

3. We actually do calculate in a rough way the desirability of ends. For example, a person does measure freedom versus security in deciding whether or not to marry.

4. Concerning time to calculate. In ordinary situations not necessary to calculate. Assume traditional moral principles such as do not lie, do not murder satisfy utility unless you have reason to suspect the situation is unusual or problematic.

C. Your evaluation of the adequacy of the response.


II. Quantity Versus Quality: Is a dissatisfied Socrates better off than a satisfied fool? Is a dissatisfied human better off than a satisfied pig?

A. Problem:

1. Bentham's insistence that the quality of pleasure in reading poetry is the same as the quality of pleasure in playing pushpin ignores the difference between higher and lower pleasures which wise people do identify and which is based on human nature.

2. Mill's insistence that pleasures do differ in quality gives rise to difficulty in calculating. Even with his panel of experts are we comparing apples and oranges? Mill's view complicates Bentham's simple calculus of summing up quantity of pleasure. By emphasizing the "higher" pleasures of the intellect , Mill is adding other criteria to the criterion of pleasure. Morality is proportionate to the happiness in being truly human and not to the sum of units of pleasure. Further, is the intellect alone what is essentially human? Even if it is, it is not the intellect alone that gives humans pleasure.

B. Response:

1. Bentham's notion allows you to distinguish between pleasures in terms of quantity even though you do not admit differences in quality. Poetry reading provides a greater quantity of pleasure due to fecundity. You will recall the subsequent occasions. It allows simple straightforward calculation. It keeps pleasure as the sole standard of morality.

2. Mill would argue that with proper opportunity and training, people, do, in fact, easily distinguish between and assign differing values to mental and physical pleasures. A Beethoven symphony is evaluated as providing a higher quality pleasure than a belch by people experienced in both. Such judgments are made all the time. People are not animals. Their unique function of reason leads them to value the higher pleasures.

C. Your evaluation of the adequacy of the response.


III. Problem of Distributive Justice or Unjust Consequences

A1. Gladiator and Innocent Hobo Counter-Examples

A2. Problem: In utilitarianism one considers only the sum total of pains and pleasures, not their distribution. Even though the sum total of units of happiness might be the same, it might be distributed "unfairly" in various societies. A slave society might produce the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number. Compare for example, these three societies with 60-61 units of utility:

Society A    Society B Society C
10 15 15
10 15 15
10 15 15
10 5 5
10 5 5
10 5 6
Total 60 net units of pleasure Total 60 net units of pleasure Total 61 net units of pleasure

The total amount and the average units of value are the same in Societies A + B but distributed unevenly. The total amount of value in Society C is greater than that in Society A where the distribution is even. Even rule utilitarianism must approve this distribution --even slavery, if this is what is involved. (Example slightly modified from B. Rosen, Strategies of Ethics [Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1978] 101-03)

B. Responses:

1. Death of one for pleasure of others problem may be solved by use of rule rather than act utilitarianism. However, act utilitarians have arguments against rule utilitarians. These include an abandonment of maximizing happiness if following a generally beneficial rule does not maximize happiness in a given case.

2a. Some utilitarians argue that a principle of distributive justice must be added to the principle of utility (Frankena). This principle could be equality, according to merit, etc.

2b. Mill and others basically argue that a slave society would never in actual practice produce more utility than a society where goods are fairly distributed. Whatever distribution of the benefits and burdens of society produces overall utility is just. Justice is defined in terms of utility.

C. Your evaluation of the adequacy of the response.

IV. Motives

A. Problem: Consider the following two cases:

1. Elderly Aunt Molly is ill. Nephew Tom visits her and helps her because he loves her. Nephew Bob visits her and helps her because he hopes to be rewarded in her will. Nephew Dave visits her and helps her not because he desires to help but because he believes it is his duty. (Modified Version of case by Bowie and Beauchamp, Ethical Theory in Business (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1979) 16-17.

2. A two-year-old is drowning. Ruth flings caution aside because she desires to save the child and jumps in, but she cannot swim. Thus, she fails to save the child. Sue can swim, but is afraid that the child will pull her under. She does not save the child.

The consequences were the same in each case, but the motives of the agents were different. According to utilitarianism, each person's action was of the same value. Shouldn't other features such as an act being motivated by obedience to a law of the state, a religious obligation of loving the neighbor, or a natural love of and concern for others count?

B. Response:

(1) "...the motive has nothing to do with the morality of the action, though much with the worth of the agent (Mill, "Utilitarianism," Chapter 2 in Solomon and Martin, 322)." Consideration of motives is relevant to judging the worth of persons, but not actions. Utilitarians are "aware that a right action does not necessarily indicate a virtuous character, and that actions which are blameable often proceed from qualities entitled to praise (Mill in Solomon and Martin, 333)." "...in the long run the best proof of a good character is good actions; (Mill in Solomon and Martin, 333)."

(2) Often when motives are used as a standard, what is really involved are emotional reactions of approval of disapproval that vary from person to person or obedience to different understandings of what God or conscience requires. Thus, the same action, when motives are considered, might be judged to be right and wrong at the same place and time as with helping Aunt Molly.

(3) Another problem exists when we transfer our approval of consequences to motives. The same motive in another case, however, might lead to negative consequences as in the example below.

(4) A counter example to the case of Aunt Molly is when the motive is the same, but the consequences differ. Bentham invites us to consider the motive of self-preservation. It leads to bad consequences, if it leads you to kill the only witness to your crime. Good consequences, if it leads you to fight heroically in defense of your country in a noble cause, etc.

C. Your evaluation of the adequacy of the response.


V. Definition of Happiness and Other People's Happiness as the Supreme End and Standard of Morality

A. Problem:

1a. Happiness is unobtainable. One cannot exist constantly in rapture. Besides poverty, disease, death and other evils prevent total happiness.

1b. People can do without happiness.

2. Why should other people's happiness be the standard of morality?

3. What about other values such as freedom, love? Are they not at least as important as happiness?

B. Response:

1a. Happiness is obtainable if not defined as rapture. People do, in fact, live happy lives containing moments of rapture: "The happiness which they [philosophers] meant was not a life of rapture; but moments of such, in an existence made up of few and transitory pains, many and various pleasures, with a decided predominance of the active over the passive, and having as the foundation of the whole, not to expect more from life than it is capable of bestowing (Mill, "Utilitarianism", Chapter Two, in Solomon and Martin, 328)."

1b. Mill: People do without happiness involuntarily or sometimes to bring about the happiness of others or occasionally due to selfishness or lack of mental cultivation. Bentham: Asceticism is not a real alternative to utilitarianism. Asceticism is sometimes practiced when done for good of whole as in Sparta or because people have forgotten an original program of foregoing immediate pleasures for long-term greater pleasures. Religious asceticism and philosophical asceticism actually seek rewards which are but different forms of seeking utility.

2. Conscience is the ultimate sanction of the principle of utility. Although no one is born with a utilitarian system of morality, each person possesses a natural sentiment which is concerned with the welfare of others. When this natural sentiment is encouraged, the happiness of others becomes our standard of judgment. (Mill, "Utilitarianism," Chapter Three, in Solomon and Martin, 339-45 ).

3. Other values such as freedom and love are means to the end of happiness.

C. Your evaluation of whether the responses adequately answer the critics

VI. Utilitarianism’s universalism does not account for particular moral obligations to family, friends, employers/employees, etc.

A. Problem: Examples: Mother at one end of the island about to blow up with ten average people on the other. Spending more of one’s income on family than on strangers. Donating a kidney to a family member. Saving one’s child over others from a burning building. A lawyer’s obligations to a client.

B. . Response:

1. A rule utilitarian might reply that a rule that requires family members to take special responsibility for one another, or lawyer’s for clients, etc. actually produces more overall utility for society. However, this result is not necessary to utilitarianism as a theory.

2. Response: The universalism of utilitarianism helps us to treat each human as counting for one and only one. It eliminates problems of special favoritism, such as nepotism. It ends the negative results of an "us" versus "them" mentality. It extends the rejection of consequentialist approaches that focus on simply oneself to consequentialist approaches which extend to those who are bound to oneself–merely an extended circle around oneself.

C. Your evaluation of whether the responses adequately answer the critics

VII. Proof of the Principle of Utility (Mill, "Utilitarianism" - Chapter 4; See R. Solomon and C. Martin, Morality and the Good Life. 4th ed.(New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004) 346-52 for further discussion)

A. Problem - Bentham and Mill simply assume the principle of utility as their starting point. Simply because people desire pleasure or seek happiness does not necessarily mean that they ought to do so. Mill says: "the only proof capable of being given that an object is visible, is that people actually see it. The only proof that a sound is audible is that people hear it; and so of the other sources of our experience. In like manner, I apprehend, the sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything is desirable, is that people do actually desire it...."(Mill, "Utilitarianism," Chapter 4 in Solomon and Martin, 347). However, visible means capable of being seen and audible means capable of being heard not ought to be seen or heard. What does desirable mean? Capable of being desired or should be desired? Mill also argues that the general happiness is desired because each person desires his or her own happiness. This is the "fallacy of composition" (all individuals desire their own happiness versus all individuals desire the happiness of everyone, see Solomon and Martin, 352).

B. Response: Questions of ultimate ends eventually are based on an end admitted to be good without proof. Although there is no proof of the basic premise, Bentham argues that all other systems either reduce to utility, have no clear meaning or cannot consistently be followed. Mill argues that although there is no proof, "considerations may be presented capable of determining the intellect either to give or withhold its assent to the doctrine; and this is equivalent to proof" (Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapter One in Solomon and Martin, 321). There is an appeal to any theory that bases what we ought to desire on what we actually desire and which can explain such a wide variety of views as instances of its own most basic principle, the principle of utility. Our observed character as social beings lends credence to the idea that we can be encouraged to pursue the happiness of others as Mill argues in Chapter Three.

C. Your evaluation of whether the responses adequately answer the critics