Peter Singer
(04-15-2010, 08:56 PM)Antonius Block Wrote:
(04-15-2010, 07:42 PM)INPEFESS Wrote: Have you ever heard a consequentialist qualify "consequence"? I have not. To the consequentialist: "a morally right action is one that produces a good outcome, or consequence." But what is a "good outcome"? What is good for you might not be good for me. Say someone wanted to assassinate a powerful political leader. If the tyrant is exterminating the poor in your own country, then killing the tyrant would produce a "good outcome". But if that same tyrant is supporting the poor (by preventing them from being killed) in another nation, killing the tyrant would produce a "bad outcome". If it is relative according to one's own personal needs and wants, then it begins to sound a lot like ethical egoism, which, although holds some weight, is not without its various pitfalls.

Well, Mill appealed to what he called the Greatest Happiness principal, i.e., an action is good insofar as it tends to promote happiness and the absence of unhappiness. For him, happiness is simply "pleasure and the absence of pain," and unhappiness, "pain, and the privation of pleasure." For humans, this includes not only sensual but intellectual pleasures, which many thoughtful people would rate more highly than the merely physical.

Yes, which is absolutely ludicrous because a man can derive pleasure from providing another with pain. ("Jack the Ripper" comes to mind.) Without either a utilitarian or egoistic qualifier, the ethics of the Greatest Happiness principal (*cough*) is relative to each individual affected by the action, which wreaks of subjectivist ethics.

Quote:As far as the second part of your paragraph goes, utilitarian metrics quickly get quite complicated!
Absolutely. It is a maze of uncertainty, which is why it is still maintained today (I believe). Many theories have been refuted and sunk, but a theory that is so incomprehensibly complex cannot possibly be measured in reality.

Quote:A utilitarian (of the agent-neutral variety) wouldn't deny that there was an answer, they would just say it's complicated. How many poor people is the tyrant oppressing? How many poor people is the tyrant helping? How much is he oppressing/helping them, in absolute and relative terms? What about the non-poor members of each country? Can some people or groups of people inherently experience greater degrees of pleasure or pain than others? How much so? How much will it hurt my head to figure all this out? And so on.

I realized after I had posted that my example was going to lead to no conclusion, but perhaps that is the best way to represent the folly of the theory: there can never really be any objective way to determine the rightness or wrongness of the action. With each step of the equation comes the introduction of new variables that require one to start at the beginning again. It gets no where.

Quote:This doesn't have any bearing on the validity of utilitarian ethics, or consequentialism more generally. There is an answer, it'll just take a while to get there.

Right. I agree that it is a valid argument, but I don't think it's sound. Similarly, I would posit that Singer's arguments are valid, but not in the least bit sound. I must say that his "equal consideration of interests" principle is probably the closest I've seen a contemporary ethicist get to the notion of equality.

On this note, I'm actually going to be writing a paper (or article) attempting to refute some of his views of abortion using his own principle of equal consideration of interests (from now ...on... referred to as PECI) as a premise. Obviously, in order to do this, I must accept his premises (which means that I cannot appeal to the existence of God), so it will be a bit of a challenge, but I've seen other posters on here tap into the same objection (I think one of them was QuisUtDeus) that seems obvious: having the choice of (potential) life for any organism is the most fundamental "interest" of all organisms. The inclusion of the qualifier "choice" is not something I morally agree with (suicide, for example), but without it, Singer would argue that not all organisms desire life (and here, he would have but to document one act of suicide and my refutation would fall through).

"Choice" means that it is in the organism's best interest to have the ability to choice whether it wants to live or not. So each 'objective existence' within life, which is capable of receiving this faculty and is endowed, by nature, with the tendency to develop physical independence from the mother, should be able to choose for itself. The mother choosing for the organism indicates that her interests are greater than the would-be interests of the organism: the interest of freely deciding whether it wants to live or not. Therefore, Singer's view implies that not all life is equal. An organism with a more highly developed brain, acquired only by the exercise of the equal interest of choice (to live or not to live), is not equal to (is greater than) an organism which naturally would have, but has not received the choice to exercise, this faculty. Ethically speaking, it's in the best interest of every life form (those capable of receiving this power) to have the power to choose between one act and another, which is the power of choice. Denying an organism that right deprives them of the most fundamental interest: the power to choose. (Suicide is a completely different moral discussion.)

But if I'm going to go down that route, it seems logical that I would have to accept his view of animals being parallel to human in the hierarchy of consciousness. I would justify the killing of animals for consumption of meat, but he would say that, according to PECI, the animal should be able to chose for itself whether or not it wants to be killed.

It is interesting studying philosophy. The countless philosophers and theorists all are looking for something - striving for an answer to a question. They all seek a set ("set" has been left intentionally ambiguous) of morals which is to dictate their actions. They develop theory after theory in vain attempting to replace God's objective moral code. However, under close scrutiny, they almost all fall apart.

Messages In This Thread
Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-12-2010, 06:18 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-15-2010, 06:29 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by Antonius Block - 04-15-2010, 06:59 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-15-2010, 07:42 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by Anastasia - 04-15-2010, 08:47 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by Antonius Block - 04-15-2010, 08:56 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by Antonius Block - 04-15-2010, 08:58 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-15-2010, 10:55 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-16-2010, 12:26 AM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-16-2010, 12:59 AM
Re: Peter Singer - by Historian - 04-16-2010, 09:10 AM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-16-2010, 06:21 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by Benno - 04-23-2010, 05:20 AM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-23-2010, 11:25 AM

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