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Naturalists say

that moral
behaviour can be
examined in the
same way as other
features of the

Moral facts are not
like scientific
they are not facts
at all

This is a starving child

I ought to do something
to help
Basic Insights
The purpose of morality is to make
the world a better place.

Morality is about producing good
consequences, not having good

We should do whatever will bring the
most benefit (i.e., intrinsic value) to
all of humanity.
The Purpose of Morality
The utilitarian has a very simple
answer to the question of why
morality exists at all:
The purpose of morality is to guide
peoples actions in such a way as to
produce a better world.
Consequently, the emphasis in
utilitarianism is on consequences,
not intentions.

Fundamental Imperative
The fundamental imperative of
utilitarianism is:

Always act in the way that will
produce the greatest overall amount
of good in the world.

The emphasis is clearly on
consequences, not intentions!
The Emphasis on the Overall Good
Utilitarianism is a morally demanding
position for two reasons:

It always asks us to do the most, to
maximize utility, not to do the

It asks us to set aside personal
The Dream of Utilitarianism:
Bringing Scientific Certainty to Ethics
If we can agree that the purpose of
morality is to make the world a better
place; and

If we can scientifically assess various
possible courses of action to determine
which will have the greatest positive effect
on the world; then

We can provide a scientific answer to the
question of what we ought to do.
Standards of Utility:

A History of
Intrinsic Value
Many things have instrumental
value, that is, they have value as
means to an end.

However, there must be some
things which are not merely
instrumental, but have value in

This is what we call intrinsic value.
Four principal candidates:
Jeremy Bentham
John Stuart Mill
G. E. Moore
Kenneth Arrow

Intrinsic Value
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham believed that we
should try to increase the
overall amount of pleasure in
the world.
Pleasure is the enjoyable
feeling we experience when a
state of deprivation is replaced
by fulfillment.
John Stuart Mill
Believed that happiness, not
pleasure, should be the
standard of utility.

More difficult to measure
G. E. Moore
G. E. Moore suggested that we should
strive to maximize ideal values such as
freedom, knowledge, justice, and

The world may not be a better place
with more pleasure in it, but it certainly
will be a better place with more
freedom, more knowledge, more
justice, and more beauty.

Kenneth Arrow
Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel Prize
winning Stanford economist, argued
that what has intrinsic value is
preference satisfaction.
The advantage of Arrows approach
is that, in effect, it lets people
choose for themselves what has
intrinsic value.
It simply defines intrinsic value as
whatever satisfies an agents
preferences. It is elegant and
Utilitarianism suggests that we are responsible for
all the consequences of our choices.
The problem is that sometimes we can foresee
consequences of other peoples actions that are
taken in response to our own acts. Are we
responsible for those actions, even though we
dont choose them or approve of them?

Imagine a terrorist situation where the terrorists
say that they will kill their hostages if we do not
meet their demands. We refuse to meet their
demands. Are we responsible for what happens
to the hostages?

Utilitarianism often demands that
we put aside self-interest.
Sometimes this means putting
aside our own moral convictions.
Integrity may involve certain
identity-conferring commitments,
such that the violation of those
commitments entails a violation of
who we are at our core.

Utilitarianism is concerned almost
exclusively about consequences, not
Intentions may matter is morally
assessing an agent, even if they
dont matter in terms of guiding

Moral Luck
By concentrating exclusively on consequences,
utilitarianism makes the moral worth of our actions a
matter of luck. We must await the final
consequences before we find out if our action was
good or bad.

This seems to make the moral life a matter of chance,
which runs counter to our basic moral intuitions.
We can imagine actions with good intentions that
have unforeseeable and unintended bad
We can also imagine actions with bad intentions that
have unforeseeable and unintended good
Who is calculating and who is
The count differs depending on who does
the counting

When we consider the issue of
consequences, we must ask who is included
within that circle.
Those in our own group (group egoism)
Those in our own country (nationalism)
Those who share our skin color (racism)
All human beings (humanism or speciesism?)
All sentient beings
Classical utilitarianism has often claimed
that we should acknowledge the pain and
suffering of animals and not restrict the
calculus just to human beings.

David Hume (1711-1776)
Sentiment or feeling (emotion) is the
source of right and wrong.

If you decide to help someone in
need you do so because you have
feelings, not reason. Compassion has
nothing to do with reason.

You cant go from a factual
statement (an is) to a moral one (an
AJ Ayer (1910-1989)
Language, Truth and Logic (1936)

When we make moral statements
we are not talking about objective
facts that can be known but are
expressing our emotions or feelings

Statements are only true or false as
far as we agree or disagree with
CL Stevenson
Ethics and Language
Developed Ayers ideas
Agreed with Ayer that ethical
statements are expressions of opinion
BUT also argued that these personal
opinions are not arbitrary they are
based on beliefs about the world and
how we think it should be
We disapprove of murders because we
have beliefs about human worth, not
just because this is a personal

RM Hare
The Language of Morals
Goes further than Ayer
When we make moral statements
it is because we want others to
share this view
Moral statements have a guiding
role too
We become heated during
arguments because we want
others to share our views
The distinction between asserting
you have a feeling and expressing
that feeling.
I am disgusted by your behavior.
I am in severe pain. vs.

Assertions are either true or false;
expressions of feelings are not.

The central idea of Emotivism is
that, while moral claims look like
assertions, they are actually
expressions of feeling.
Unlike some other emotive
expressions, the emotive
expressions used in ethical claims
have a tendency to have a
persuasive or magnetic effect on
listeners perhaps because of
childhood conditioning.

Emotivism draws attention to the way
that moral statements depend on our
own attitudes, feelings and
Emotivism does not seem to have
much substance our use of ethical
language could change from one day
to the next according to our feelings

AND moral statements are much
more than just expressions of

We do not want a judge to merely
express a personal preference
when making a decision about a
difficult case, such as whether to
allow a life-support machine to be
switched off.
The Main Tenets of
Emotivism (I)
The primary function of ethical
language is twofold:
To express the attitudes of the
speaker (expressivism)
To evoke similar attitudes in
others (boo-hurrah theory)
Ethical language functions
differently than scientific,
mathematical or other forms of
descriptive language.

The Main Tenets of
Emotivism (II)
Two kinds of meaning:
Descriptive Meaning
Emotive Meaning
Relations between the premises
and the conclusions of an
ethical argument are
Not logical

is wrong
of stealing