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  • PROFESSOR: OK, so what I want to do today is to finish up

  • the lecture that we were engaged with last week about

  • utilitarianism and then to move on to what is perhaps the

  • most dead-guy-on-Tuesday lecture of the semester, that

  • is, an explanation of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant.

  • So in order to make up for the fact that the second part of

  • the lecture is fairly dry, we'll have a couple of clicker

  • questions in the first part of the lecture.

  • OK, so as you recall from our lecture last class, John

  • Stuart Mill, in the selections from Utilitarianism that we

  • read, says two extraordinarily famous things that serve in

  • some ways as the heart of the utilitarian view.

  • The first thing that he says is that he articulates what's

  • known as the greatest happiness principle.

  • This is a principle that's supposed to tell you what it

  • is for an act to be morally right.

  • And what Mill says is, there's a proportionality between the

  • rightness of the act and something that it produces.

  • In particular, a proportionality between the

  • rightness of the act and the amount of happiness it

  • produces, regardless of how that happiness is distributed.

  • In particular he says "actions are right in proportion as

  • they tend to promote happiness, they're wrong as

  • they tend to promote the reverse of happiness," and the

  • happiness with which we're concerned is not the agent's

  • own happiness but "the happiness of all concerned."

  • The second extraordinarily famous saying that he says in

  • the opening passages of Utilitarianism is that the

  • motive with which an act is performed is irrelevant to the

  • act's moral worth.

  • He says the motive has nothing to do with the

  • morality of the action.

  • "He who saves another creature from drowning does what is

  • morally right, whether his motive be duty or the hope of

  • being paid for it."

  • So we might summarize what these principles say, as

  • saying that the first one tells us that what matters for

  • the morality of an act is the aggregate amount of happiness

  • that it produces.

  • And what we're concerned with here are aggregates, not

  • individuals.

  • We're interested in how much good is done overall, not

  • where those pieces of good might happen to fall.

  • And what the second principle tells us is that what the

  • utilitarian, who is after all a consequentialist, is

  • concerned with are consequences.

  • They're interested in the outcome of the act, not the

  • process by which that outcome was achieved.

  • So the first reading that we did for last class was a

  • selection from Mill's Utilitarianism where he

  • articulated these principles.

  • And it's important to recognize that these get

  • something profoundly right about what we're thinking

  • about, I think, when we try to articulate what lies behind

  • our moral judgment.

  • It does seem right that what we're interested in is what

  • the world is like after a particular action is taken,

  • and to the extent that we're interested in what the world

  • is like, our primary interest is not in how that state of

  • affairs came about, but what that state of affairs is.

  • And our primary concern, if we're taking a moral stance,

  • is not in how much we ourselves have, but rather in

  • how much good there is in the world overall.

  • That said, there have been, since utilitarianism was

  • articulated, a classic set of objections which are raised to

  • the view, some of which we'll talk more about today, and

  • some of which we encountered in the selection from Bernard

  • Williams that we read last class.

  • Now you will all recall that Williams' discussion begins

  • with a story of a gentleman that he calls Jim, who finds

  • himself in a South American village that's run by a rather

  • unsavory cowboy.

  • And some of the citizens of that village have been

  • protesting the unsavory cowboy's leadership.

  • And so what the unsavory cowboy has done is he has

  • rounded up twenty of those villagers, and he's

  • planning--simply to show the others that he's in charge--to

  • kill those twenty villagers.

  • When Jim arrives, Pedro the cowboy tells him that, if Jim

  • is willing to shoot one of the villagers, the other nineteen

  • will be set free.

  • So that's the Jim case.

  • Jim shows up in a town.

  • The sheriff of the town has selected twenty people at

  • random to be shot, but if Jim is willing to kill one of them

  • the other 19 will be set free, so--

  • clickers out--

  • Question: In the Jim case, what is Jim

  • morally obliged to do?

  • Is the moral thing for Jim to do in this case to shoot the

  • one man, thereby liberating the other nineteen, or is the

  • right thing for him to do to refuse to shoot the one,

  • thereby letting all twenty die?

  • OK, so let's see how the numbers came out.

  • So almost 3/4 of you, actually more than 3/4 of you, think

  • that what the morally right thing for Jim to do in this

  • case is to shoot one man, thereby

  • liberating the other nineteen.

  • We'll have a chance next week to talk a lot in about these

  • sorts of questions.

  • Our reading for Thursday is a series of moral dilemmas with

  • this structure.

  • But what I want to ask those 77% of you, who answered

  • "yes," to do now is to think about whether you take what

  • Williams says is the natural utilitarian next step.

  • Williams argues that if you are a committed utilitarian,

  • and you think that the morally right thing for Jim to do is

  • to shoot the one and release the other nineteen, then you

  • ought to feel no moral compunction about doing so.

  • There's a clear right thing to do.

  • The right thing is to kill the one, so

  • it's to save the nineteen.

  • You may feel moral disapprobation--indeed you

  • should feel moral disapprobation--towards Pedro

  • who put Jim in this situation.

  • But you ought to feel no moral disapprobation towards Jim,

  • and even more importantly according to Williams, Jim

  • himself ought to feel no moral compunction.

  • So among the 77% of you who answered that Jim did the

  • right thing in killing the one and saving the nineteen, do

  • you think that in shooting the one man, Jim ought to think of

  • any hesitation that he feels as mere squeamishness,

  • something that ought to be overcome?

  • Or do you think that Jim ought to think of the hesitation

  • that he feels in doing what the utilitarian and in what

  • you yourself said was the right thing, do you think he

  • ought to think of his hesitation as being indicative

  • of something morally relevant?

  • So there's roughly seventy of you who should

  • be answering this.

  • Let's see how the numbers come out.

  • OK, so most of you take on only part of the

  • consequentialist picture here, at least in the way that

  • Williams understands it.

  • Most of you think that, although the right thing for

  • Jim to do in that case is to kill the one to save the

  • nineteen, it's not the case that he ought wholeheartedly

  • to endorse that as the right thing to do.

  • In a minute, I'm going to present to you Williams'

  • analogy to the case of residual racism to try to help

  • you see why someone who really has taken on board the

  • consequentialist outlook thinks that the combination of

  • views which most of you present, where you think the

  • right thing to do is to kill the one to save the nineteen,

  • but you also think the right thing to do is to feel bad

  • about that in some way, have not fully appreciated what the

  • utilitarian stance provides you with as a way of

  • understanding morality.

  • So Williams, as you know, presents us with two cases.

  • The first is the case that I've just given you, the case

  • of Jim and the captive Indians.

  • The second is the case in high '70's fashion of a man who is

  • needing to go back to work because it's difficult to have

  • his wife working outside of the home.

  • I leave that to you as a period piece.

  • But the work which George is provided in Williams' example

  • is work in a bioweapons lab, something to which George

  • feels moral opposition.

  • But if George doesn't take the job in the bioweapons lab a

  • much more gung-ho person, somebody who's likely to

  • advocate the use of bioweapons in all sorts of contexts, will

  • get the job instead.

  • So the two cases that Williams presents us with there have a

  • common structure.

  • And a common structure which we're going to see again and

  • again in moral dilemmas.

  • There's one act that the person can do that leads to a

  • particular outcome, another act that the person can do

  • that leads to a different outcome, where the first act

  • is worse on its surface than the second.

  • So Jim has the possibility of shooting one person, or

  • shooting no people.

  • Those are the choices that Jim faces.

  • If Jim does the first act, shooting one person, then

  • nineteen people will go free; if Jim does the second act,

  • which is not to shoot anybody at all, to refuse Pedro's

  • bargain, then all twenty people will be shot.

  • Likewise, George faces a choice between doing one

  • thing, taking the job in--

  • sorry, George faces the choice between taking the job in the

  • bio lab and not taking the job in the bio lab.

  • If George takes the job in the bio lab, then the gung-ho

  • biological weapons fellow won't [will]

  • get the job, and the outcome will be better [worse].

  • If George doesn't take the job, then the gung-ho

  • biological weapons person won't get the job and the

  • outcome will be better.

  • So, in both cases we have an act killing the one versus

  • killing none, taking the job versus not taking the job,

  • which is worse than another, but the outcomes of those acts

  • are inverted.

  • The consequentialist tells us not to look at the act side of

  • the equation, but to look at the

  • outcome side of the equation.

  • The only things, says the consequentialist, that we need

  • to take into consideration, is how many people are saved or

  • how much bio-weapons research is done.

  • According to the consequentialist, what we do

  • is we look and we see, outcome one is better than outcome

  • two, and then reading back from that, we decide which

  • thing we ought to do.

  • We ought to do act one because it's the thing that produces

  • the better outcome.

  • The deontologist or virtue ethicist says, not so fast.

  • Don't jump straight to the consequence, look also at what

  • it is that is needed to be done by the individual to

  • bring about that consequence.

  • And recognizing that act one is worse than act two, the

  • deontologist or virtue ethicist says, it's at least

  • important to take seriously as a possibility that the right

  • thing to do in this situation is the second act, even if the

  • outcome that it leads to is worse.

  • Now what Williams points out is that if one takes seriously

  • the first of these stances, the one where what we're

  • looking at is the outcome and not the process which gave

  • rise to that outcome, then any hesitation we feel towards

  • bringing about that outcome as the result of that particular

  • act is due to what we might call a certain kind of

  • squeamishness.

  • The utilitarian says, and we started with the quotes from

  • Mill for this reason, that thinking about who does an act

  • is morally irrelevant, just as thinking about who gets the

  • goods is morally irrelevant.

  • What matters, says the greatest happiness principle,

  • is how much aggregate happiness is produced; what

  • matters not, except in so far as it affects the amount of

  • happiness, is who produces that happiness or where that

  • happiness goes.

  • So there is room on the consequentialist picture for

  • second-order thinking about the

  • distributions of happiness.

  • If gross inequities in the amount of happiness across a

  • society produces itself less happiness, then we can take

  • that into consideration in our calculus.

  • If performing a particular kind of act produces in an

  • individual less happiness, we can take that into

  • consideration in our calculus.

  • But ultimately the only things that go into the equation in

  • determining whether an act is morally right is the amount of

  • happiness and not where that happiness is distributed.

  • Now, as Epictetus pointed out, some things are up to us and

  • some things are not up to us.

  • And when Jim arrives in Pedro's village, one of the

  • things that is not up to him is the fact that he faces a

  • forced choice of the structure that Pedro has

  • presented him with.

  • It goes without saying that what Pedro has done is

  • outrageous, but the structure of the situation that Jim