November 24, 2008

There are several ways in which those incapable of leaving the society are a party to the social contract even though it is not in their capacity to abandon it. They are a party to the social contract by reaping the benefits of it. They gain the right to all public services including education, transportation, welfare, social security and protections such as police and firefighters. In exchange for these benefits they abide by a set of rules that, when broken, are punishable by some party. It is true that they cannot help but reap these benefits as a part of society so the issue of disagreement with the contract seems to lead to a troublesome conclusion. If there is no financial or physical way that a citizen can leave the society then it appears that they are unable to change their contract. But an important part of the social contract is the ablity to work to change it to best suit the members of the society, and each individual has the right to actively participater in the changing of it. With this flexibility of the contract, it is easy for all competant citizens to choose the contract of their society according to what best suits its members.

every man for himself

November 17, 2008

In Ch. 13 Hobbes describes a world in which there is no civil society, in which there are no systems in place to prevent men from doing anything to each other, even killing each other. In this time which he refers to as the “state of nature” man is enveloped in a war, not only made up of individual battles, but of a persistent and ongoing state of humans in chaos. This is, in a sense, the worst of all possible kinds of war because there is nothing left at the end of the day except hostility and violence to each other. There is no time for any progress of man which is, perhaps, an even worse fate than death.

Hobbes suggests, in the next chapter, a solution to this problem. It includes the giving up of some rights as completely free, uninfluenced individuals to a power greater than themselves in order to create peace. From this the idea of a social contract is born.

who’s the boss?

November 17, 2008

When it comes to choosing between mill and kant it doesn’t seem very desirable to choose either. both have such strong contadictions that it is difficult to take a stance for either theory of morality. however, even though kant runs into similar problems to mill, kant has the benefit of coming first. mill has the opportunity to take the theories of kant and all other philosophers that have come before him in order to refine his own perspective. it seems as though mill doesn’t take all the opportunities available to perfect his theory and, although kant had somewhat less of a perspective on the theories of others, his theory holds up strong by not succumbing to all of the exceptions that mill is vulnerable. in the case of lying to a murderer who is trying to find your grandmother kant will say that we have a moral duty not to lie. despite the good intentions of the liar his kant’s theory would hold strong despite the facade of morality. and even though our gut would tell us to reconsider, kant plays by the rules. in this situation mill would allow for an exception, lying is wrong BUT lying for this reason is okay. he deals with individual situations and this makes his theory squishy. and i would rather give up my gut feelings to respect a rule of morality than have to question each action sometimes many times over.

all self-love, no mess

November 10, 2008

Rationality can be used to explain many instances of self-love which in turn determine our moral duties. According to Kant the duty not to committ suicide arises out of the idea of self-love. His argument is that the incentive to kill yourself comes from a desire to reduce pain, an example of self-love, and if a person has self-love then their wish would be to perpetuate their life. This contradiction is what prevents the maxim of sucide from becoming universal law. This idea is also what prevents laziness. Kant says that a person’s rationality prevents them from not cultivating their talents and this, again, contradicts self-love. Through Kant’s writings on these topics he describes how the categorical imperative, the idea of self-love, and moral duties are all derived from and dependant on the logical abilities of rational creatures.

Kant’s categorical imperative

November 2, 2008

Since I was not in class to discuss Kant’s theories in ethics I will deduce my own inferences on his categorical imperative in regards to cheating on an exam. “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” This becomes an equation in which cheating on an exam becomes the maxim and the possibility must be entertained that it would become a universal law. Realistically, if cheating were to become a standard way of doing things then a) there would be no one to cheat off of and b) there would be no exams. Using cheating as a universal law implies a contradiction because it is self defeating. This theory ultimately leads to morality because it is only through good will that any maxims may be positive enough for everyone to become universal.

The means to what end?

November 2, 2008

Regarding the issue of intrinsic value the reality is that in order to have intrinsic value a thing must be an end in itself. So if the question is whether or not happiness has intrinsic value then it has to be looked at as a means. But a means to what? It can be said that happiness is the only way to acheive balance. The assumption is made in utilitarianism that happiness ought to be the ultimate goal for all people. But it can be shown that many people (buddhists to point out an obvious example) is not to have the most happiness but to have a balance between good and bad, happy and sad.It can also be said that an end more favored than happiness is the ability to be at peace. Happiness in the events of your life can lead you to a peaceful place in your old age or even in your everyday life. Using this logic I would have to answer the question “does happiness have intrinsic value?” with no. However, it may also be said that based on point of view, it seems that nothing would have intrinsic value because someone somewhere will always use happiness, peace, balance, and a number of other very valuable things as means to different ends.

How utilitarian are you?

October 26, 2008

If John Stuart Mill were alive the question I would ask him would be, how utilitarian were you? As such a strict advocate for a utilitarian judgement system for moral truths did you turn out to be moral or immoral by utilitarian standards?

I think Mill would be forced to answer this question ambiguously. Although he addressed the objection that utilitarianism leaves man cold and unsympathetic sufficiently, there is a way in which he can’t possibly adhere to it indefinitely. There are situations that arise which turn out to produce unpleasant actions. These situations occur for everyone and to a certain extent these things are accepted generally. People are cut slack to a certain degree and I’m sure that Mill has been in the same types of situations as the rest of us. So were his actions “in the long run” morally right or wrong? I guess the real answer can’t be known, at least not to me. What I do know, however, is that if it was difficult for even Mill to live according to the standards of utilitarianism, how can it possibly be accepted as a means to moral truth?

Can you really call it a demand?

October 12, 2008

So the question is proposed, is utilitarianism too damanding? The thinking behind that question is geared toward the notion that people should go out of their way to increase overall happiness. This idea implies that it should be your life’s work to help those less fortunate than yourself. Where as this would be very nice and Mother Theresa would certainly approve, I don’t think this is where the utilitarian would suggest we go. Utilitarianism is, after all, a standard by which to judge moral truth. By this definition, the only instance in which it is required of a person to even consider overall happiness is when faced with a situation that is morally questionable. Utilitarianism would in fact be a bit too demanding if it suggested that everything right down to walking your dog were somehow affecting the world’s happiness all together but it has yet to expand itself past simple human decision making.

Quality v quantity

September 21, 2008

In reference to the idea of superiority of “higher pleasure” one thing mentioned by Mill is that the quality of a pleasure outweighs the frequency of pleasures that may not be quite as pleasurable. It may in fact be easier to achieve the “lower pleasures” like those animalistic simple pleasures like food and sex. Aristotle proposed that it is only through reason that a person can achieve more intellect and in turn happiness, real happiness. So it is true for Mill as it is for Aristotle that the “higher pleasures” are far superior to the “lower pleasures” but is this true for everyone? We spoke in class of those who decide not to indulge in the intellectual and stay at home in the comfort of their jobs as delivery boys and diner waitresses. But who is to say that this is the wrong way? And, although for me the higher pleasures are the best pleasures, I would never give up the simple pleasure of delicious food and intense sexual pleasure for all the philosophical explorations this world has to offer. So for this I can only respond that balance is necessary for any kind of happiness, higher or lower.

Combining the personal and the utilitarian

September 21, 2008

Utilitarianism offers the “end to justify the means” attitude about morality. In this line of thinking the outcome of an event is the most morally important aspect. If overall happiness is achieved then the rest is basically inconsequential. However, the individual scope of moral responsibility is what is in question. This seems to me to be basically clear cut. If the outcome of an action or situation seems as though it might cause harm or unhappiness, or if it is outside of your personal idea of moral acceptability, then it would be irresponsible of a person to proceed. However, sometimes what is moral and what produces happiness are not always the same. Admitting to a loved one that you have lied, cheated, or stolen from them may not produce happiness for anyone involved, but many can agree it is the morally responsible thing to do. In the end, the extent to which a person is morally responsible for their actions far surpasses the expectations of utilitarianism.