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last time we argued about
the case of the Queen verses Dudley and Stephens
the lifeboat case, the case of cannibalism at sea
and with the arguments about
the lifeboat
in mind the arguments for and against what Dudley and Stephens did in mind,
let's turn back to the
philosophy
the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham
Bentham was born in England in 1748, at the age of twelve
he went to Oxford, at fifteen he went to law school
he was admitted to the bar at age nineteen but he never practiced law,
instead he devoted his life
to jurisprudence and moral
philosophy.
last time we began to consider Bentham's version of utilitarianism
the main idea
is simply stated and it's this,
the highest principle of morality
whether personal or political morality
is
to maximize
the general welfare
or the collective happiness
or the overall balance of pleasure over pain
in a phrase
maximize
utility
Bentham arrives at this principle by the following line of reasoning
we're all governed by pain and pleasure
they are our sovereign masters and so any moral system has to take account of them.
How best to take account?
By maximizing
and this leads to the principle
of the greatest good for the greatest number
what exactly should we maximize?
Bentham tells us
happiness
or more precisely
utility.
Maximizing utility is a principal not only for individuals but also for communities and
for legislators
what after all is a community
Bentham asks,
it's the sum of the individuals who comprise it
and that's why
in deciding the best policy, in deciding what the law should be, in deciding what's just,
citizens and legislators should ask themselves the question if we add up,
all of the benefits of this policy
and subtract
all of the costs,
the right thing to do
is the one
that maximizes
the balance
of happiness
over suffering.
that's what it means to maximize utility
now, today
I want to see
whether you agree or disagree with it,
and it often goes, this utilitarian logic, under the name of cost-benefit analysis
which is used by companies
and by
governments
all the time
and what it involves
is placing a value usually a dollar value to stand for utility
on the costs and the benefits
of various proposals.
recently in the Czech Republic
there was a proposal to increases the excise tax on smoking
Philip Morris,
the tobacco company,
does huge business
in the Czech Republic. They commissioned
a study of cost-benefit analysis
of smoking
in the Czech Republic
and what their cost benefit
analysis found
was
the government gains
by
having Czech citizens smoke.
Now, how do they gain?
It's true that there are negative effects
to the public finance of the Czech government
because there are increased health care costs for people who develop smoking-related
diseases
on the other hand there were positive effects
and those were
added up
on the other side of the ledger
the positive effects included, for the most part, various tax revenues that the government
derives from the sale of cigarette products but it also included health care savings to
the government when people die early
pensions savings, you don't have to pay pensions for as long,
and also savings
in housing costs for the elderly
and when all of the costs and benefits were added up
the Philip Morris
study found
that there is a net public finance gain in the Czech Republic
of a hundred and forty seven million dollars
and given the savings
in housing and health care and pension costs
the government enjoys the saving of savings of over twelve hundred dollars
for each person who dies prematurely due to smoking.
cost-benefit analysis
now, those among you who are defenders utilitarianism may think that this is a unfair
test
Philip Morris was pilloried in the press and they issued an apology for this heartless
calculation
you may say
that what's missing here is something that the utilitarian can be easily incorporate
mainly
the value to the person and to the families of those who die
from lung cancer.
what about the value of life?
Some cost-benefit analyses incorporate
a measure
for the value of life.
One of the most famous of these involved the Ford Pinto case
did any of you read about that? this was back in the 1970's, you remember that
the Ford Pinto was, a kind of car?
anybody?
it was a small car, subcompact car, very popular
but it had one
problem which is the fuel tank was at the back of the car
and in rear collisions the fuel tank exploded
and some people were killed
and some severely injured.
victims of these injuries took Ford to court to sue
and in the court case it turned out
that Ford had long
since known
about the vulnerable fuel tank
and had done a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it would be worth it
to put in a special shield
that would protect the fuel tank and prevent it from exploding.
They did a cost benefit analysis
the cost per part
to increase the safety
of the Pinto,
they calculated at eleven dollars per part
and here's,
this was the cost benefit analysis that emerged
in the trial,
eleven dollars per part
at 12.5 million cars and trucks
came to a total cost of
137 million dollars to improve the safety
but then they calculated
the benefits
of spending all this money on a safer car
and they counted 180 deaths
and they assigned a dollar value
200 thousand dollars
per death
180 injuries
67 thousand
and then the cost to repair
the replacement cost for two thousand vehicles that would be destroyed without the
safety device
700 dollars per vehicle,
so the benefits
turned out to be only 49.5 million,
and so they
didn't install
the device
needless to say
when this memo
of the Ford Motor Company's cost-benefit analysis came out in the trial
it appalled the jurors
who awarded a huge settlement
is this a counter example to the utilitarian idea of calculating
because Ford included a
measure of the value life.
Now who here wants to defend
cost-benefit analysis from
this apparent counter example
who has a defense?
or do you think it's completely destroys
the whole utilitarian calculus?
I think that
once again they've made the same mistake the previous case did that they've assigned a dollar value
to human life and once again they failed to take into account things like
suffering and emotional losses of families, I mean families lost earnings
but they also lost a loved one and that
is more value than 200 thousand dollars.
Good, and wait wait wait, what's you're name?
Julie Roto.
so if two hundred thousand, Julie, is too
too low a figure because it doesn't include the loss of a loved one,
and the loss of those years of life,
what would be, what do you think
would be a more accurate number?
I don't believe I could give a number I think that this sort of analysis shouldn't be applied to
issues of human life.
I think it can't be used monetarily
so they didn't just put to low a number,
Julie says, they were wrong to try to put any number at all.
all right let's hear someone who
you have to adjust for inflation
all right
fair enough
so what would the number of being now?
this is was thirty five years ago
two million dollars
you would put two million
and what's your name
Voicheck
Voicheck says we have to allow for inflation
we should be more generous
then would you be satisfied that this is the right way of thinking about the question?
I guess unfortunately
it is for
there's needs to be of number put somewhere
I'm not sure what number would be but I do agree that there could possibly
be a number put
on a human life.
all right so
Voicheck says
and here he disagrees with
Julie
Julie says we can't put a number of human life
for the purpose of a cost-benefit analysis, Voicheck says we have to
because we have to make decisions somehow
what do other people think about this? Is there anyone prepared to defend cost-benefit
analysis here
as accurate, as desirable?
I think that if ford and other car companies didn't use cost-benefit analysis they'd eventually go out
of business because they wouldn't be able to be profitable
and millions of people wouldn't be able to use their cars to get to jobs, to put food on the table
to feed their children so I think that if cost-benefit analysis isn't employed
the greater good
is sacrificed
in this case. Alright let me ask, what's your name?
Raul. Raul.
there was recently a study done about cell phone use by drivers, when people are driving
a car,
and there's a debate about whether that should be banned
and
the figure was that some
two thousand people die
as a result of accidents
each year
using cell phones
and yet the cost benefit analysis which was done by the center for risk analysis at Harvard
found that if you look at the benefits
of the cell phone use
and you put some
value on the life, it comes out about the same
because of the enormous economic benefit of enabling people to take advantage
of their time, not waste time, be able to make deals and talk to friends and so on
while they're driving
doesn't that suggest that
it's a mistake to try to put monetary figures on questions
of human life?
well I think that if
the great majority of people
tried to derive maximum utility out of a service like using cell phones and the convenience that cell phones
provide
that sacrifice is necessary
for
satisfaction to occur.
You're an outright utilitarian. In, yes okay.
all right then, one last question Raul
and I put this to Voicheck,
what dollar figure should be put
on human life to decide whether to ban the use of cell phones
well I don't want to
arbitrarily
calculate a figure, I mean right now
I think that
you want to take it under advisement.
yeah I'll take it under advisement.
but what roughly speaking would it be? you've got 23 hundred deaths
you've got to assign a dollar value to know whether you want to prevent those deaths by
banning the use of cell phones in cars
so what would you're hunch be?
how much?
million
two million
two million was Voitech's figure
is that about right? maybe a million.
a million.?!
Alright that's good, thank you
So these are some of the controversies that arise these days from cost-benefit analysis especially
those that involve
placing a dollar value on everything to be added up.
well now I want to turn
to your objections, to your objections not necessarily to cost benefit analysis specifically,
because that's just one version of the
utilitarian logic in practice today,
but to the theory as a whole, to the idea
that the right thing to do,
the just basis for policy and law,
is to maximize
utility.
How many disagree
with the utilitarian
approach
to law
and to the common good?
How many bring with it?
so more agree than disagree.
so let's hear from the critics
my main issue with it is that I feel like
you can't say that just because someone's in the minority
what they want and need is less valuable than someone who's in the majority
so I guess I have an issue with the idea that
the greatest good for the greatest number
is okay because
there is still what about people who are in
the lesser number, like it's not fair to them they didn't have a say in where they wanted
to be.
alright now that's an interesting objection, you're worried about
the effect on minority. yes.
what's your name by the way. Anna.
alright who has an answer to Anna's worry about the effect on the minority
What do you say to Anna?
she said that
the minorities value less, I don't think that's the case because individually the minorities
value is just the same as the individual in the majority it's just that
the numbers outweigh the
minority
and I mean at a certain point you have to make a decision
and I'm sorry for the minority but
sometimes
it's for the general
for the greater good. For the greater good, Anna what do you say? what's your name? Youngda.
What do you say to Youngda?
Youngda says you just have to add up people's preferences
and those in the minority do have their preferences weighed.
can you give an example of the kind of thing you're worried about when you say you're worried
about utilitarianism violating
the concern or respect due the minority?
can you give an example.
so well with any of the cases that we've talked about, like with the shipwreck one,
I think that
the boy who was eaten
still had
just as much of a right to live as the other people and
just because
he was the
minority in that case the one who
maybe had less of a chance to keep living
that doesn't mean
that the others automatically have a right to eat him
just because
it would give a greater amount of people
the chance to live.
so there may be a certain rights
that the minority
members have that the individual has that shouldn't be traded off
for the sake of
utility?
yes Anna?
Now this would be a test for you,
back in ancient Rome
they threw Christians to the lions in the coliseum for sport
if you think how the utilitarian calculus would go
yes, the Christian thrown to the lion suffers enormous excruciating pain,
but look at the collective ecstasy of the Romans.
Youngda. Well
in that time
I don't think
in the modern-day of time to value the, um, to given a number to the happiness given to the people watching
I don't think
any
policy maker would say
the pain of one person, the suffering of one person is much much,
in comparison to the happiness gained
no but you have to admit that if there were enough Romans delirious with happiness,
it would outweigh even the most excruciating pain of a handful of
Christians thrown to the lion.
so we really have here two different objections to utilitarianism
one has to do
with whether utilitarianism
adequately respects
individual rights
or minority rights
and the other has to do
with the whole idea
of aggregating
utility
for preferences
or values
is it possible to aggregate all values
to translate them
into dollar terms?
there was
in the 1930's
a psychologist
who tried
to address
the second question. He tried to prove
what utilitarianism assumes,
that it is possible
to translate
all goods, all values, all human concerns
into a single uniform measure
and he did this
by conducting a survey
of the young recipients of relief, this was in the 1930's
and he asked them, he gave them a list of unpleasant experiences
and he asked them how much would you have to be paid to undergo
the following experiences and he kept track
for example
how much would you have to be paid to have one upper front tooth pulled out
or how much would you have to be paid to have one little one tow cut off?
or eat a live earth worm, six inches long
or to live the rest of your life on a farm in Kansas
or to choke a stray cat to death with your bare hands
now what do you suppose
what do you suppose was the most expensive item on that list
Kansas?
You're right it was Kansas
for a Kansas
people said they'd have to pay them
they have to be paid three hundred thousand dollars
what do you think
what do you think was the next most expensive?
not the cat
not the tooth
not the toe
the worm!
people said you'd have to pay them a hundred thousand dollars
to eat the worm
what do you think was the least expensive item?
not the cat
the tooth
during the depression people were willing to have their tooth pulled
for only forty five hundred dollars
now
here's what Thorndike
concluded from his study
any want or satisfaction which exists, exists
in some amount and is therefore measurable
the life of a dog
or a cat
or a chicken consists
of appetites
cravings
desires and their gratifications
so does the life
of human beings
though the appetites and desires
are more complicated
but what about
Thorndike's study?
does it support
Bentham's idea
that all
goods all values can be captured according to a single uniform measure of value
or does the preposterous character of those different items on the list
suggest the opposite conclusion
that may be whether we're talking about life
or Kansas
or the worm
maybe
the things we value
and cherish
can't be captured
according to a single uniform measure of value
and if they can't
what are the consequences
for the utilitarian theory
of morality
that's a question we'll continue with next time
alright now let's take the other
part of the poll
which is the
the highest
experience or pleasure?
how many say
Shakespeare
how many say fear Factor
no you can't be serious
really?
last time
last time we began to consider some objections
to Jeremy Bentham's version
of utilitarianism
people raised two objections in the discussion
we had
the first
was the objection, the claim
that utilitarianism,
by concerning itself
with the greatest good for the greatest number
fails adequately to respect
individual rights.
today we have debates
about torture
and terrorism
suppose
a suspected terrorists was apprehended on September tenth
and you had reason to believe
that the suspect
had crucial information about an impending terrorist attack that would kill over three thousand
people
and you couldn't extract the information
would it be just
to torture
the suspect
to get the information
or
do you say no
there is a categorical moral duty of respect for individual rights
in a way we're back to the questions we started with t
about trolley cars and organ transplants so that's the first issue
and you remember we considered some examples of cost-benefit analysis
but a lot of people were unhappy with cost-benefit analysis
when it came to placing a dollar value on human life
and so that led us to the
second objection,
it questioned whether it's possible to translate all values
into a single uniform measure of value
it asks in other words whether all values are commensurable
let me give you one other
example
of an experience, this actually is a true story, it comes from personal experience
that raises a question at least about whether all values can be translated without
loss
into utilitarian terms
some years ago
when I was a graduate student I was at Oxford in England and they had men’s and women's
colleges they weren't yet mixed
and the women's colleges had rules
against
overnight male guests
by the nineteen seventies these
rules were rarely enforced and easily violated,
or so I was told,
by the late nineteen seventies when I was there, pressure grew to relax these rules and it became
the subject of debate among the faculty at St. Anne's College
which was one of these all women colleges
the older women on the faculty
we're traditionalists they were opposed to change
on conventional moral grounds
but times had changed
and they were embarrassed
to give the true grounds of their objection
and so the translated their arguments
into utilitarian terms
if men stay overnight,
they argued, the costs to the college will increase.
how you might wonder
well they'll want to take baths, and that will use up hot water they said
furthermore they argued
we'll have to replace the mattresses more often
the reformers
met these arguments by adopting the following compromise
each woman
could have a maximum of three overnight male guest each week
they didn't say whether it had to be the same one, or three different
provided
and this is the compromise provided
the guest
paid fifty pence to defray the cost to the college
the next day
the national headline in the national newspaper read St. Anne's girls, fifty pence a night
another
illustration
of the difficulty of translating
all values
in this case a certain idea of virtue
into utilitarian terms
so that's all to illustrate
the second objection
to utilitarianism, at least the part of that objection
that questions rather
the utilitarianism
is right to assume
that we can
assume the uniformity of
value, the commensurability of values and translate all moral considerations
into
dollars
or money.
But there is a second
aspect to this worry about aggregating values and preferences
why should we
weigh
all preferences
that people have
without assessing whether they're good preferences or bad preferences
shouldn't we distinguish
between
higher
pleasures
and lower pleasures.
Now, part of the appeal of
not making any qualitative distinctions about the worth of people's preferences, part of the
appeal
is that it is non-judgmental and egalitarian
the Benthamite utilitarian says
everybody's preferences count
and they count regardless of what people want
regardless of what makes it different people
happy. For Bentham,
all that matters
you'll remember
are the intensity and the duration
of a pleasure or pain
the so-called higher pleasures or nobler virtues are simply those, according to Bentham
that produce
stronger,
longer, pleasure
yet a famous phrase to express this idea
the quantity of pleasure being equal
pushpin
is as good as poetry.
What was pushpin?
It was some kind of a child's game like to tidily winks pushpin is as good as poetry
Bentham said
and lying behind this idea
I think
is the claim
the intuition
that it's a presumption
to judge
whose pleasures
are intrinsically higher
or worthier or better
and there is something attractive in this
refusal to judge, after all some people like
Mozart, others
Madonna
some people like ballet
others
bowling,
who's to say
a Benthamite might argue, who's to say which of these pleasures
whose pleasures
are higher
worthier
nobler
than others?
But, is that right?
this refusal to make qualitative distinctions
can we
altogether dispense with the idea
that certain things we take pleasure in are
better or worthier
than others
think back to the case of the Romans in the coliseum, one thing that troubled people about that
practice
is that it seemed to violate the rights
of the Christian
another way of objecting to what's going on there
is that the pleasure that the Romans take
in this bloody spectacle
should that pleasure
which is a base,
kind of corrupt
degrading pleasure, should that even
be valorized or weighed in deciding what the
the general welfare is?
so here are the objections to Bentham's utilitarianism
and now we turn to someone who tried to
respond to those objections,
a later day utilitarian
John Stuart Mill
so what we need to
examine now
is whether John Stuart Mill had a convincing reply
to these objections to utilitarianism.
John Stuart Mill
was born in 1806
his father James Mill
was a disciple of Bentham’s
and James Mills set about giving his son
John Stuart Mill a model education
he was a child prodigy
John Stuart Mill
the knew Latin, sorry, Greek at the age of three, Latin at eight
and at age ten
he wrote a history of Roman law.
At age twenty
he had a nervous breakdown
this left him in a depression for five years
but at age twenty five what helped lift him out of this depression
is that he met Harriet Taylor
she in no doubt married him, they lived happily ever after
and it was under her
influence
the John Stuart Mill try to humanize
utilitarianism
what Mill tried to do was to see
whether the utilitarian calculus could be
enlarged
and modified
to accommodate
humanitarian concerns
like the concern to respect individual rights
and also to address the distinction between higher and lower
pleasures.
In 1859 Mill wrote a famous book on liberty
the main point of which was the importance of defending individual rights and minority
rights
and in 1861
toward the end of his life
he wrote the book we read is part of this course
Utilitarianism.
It makes it clear
that utility is the only standard of morality
in his view
so he's not challenging
Bentham's premise,
he's affirming it.
he says very explicitly the sole evidence,
it is possible to produce that anything is desirable is that people actually do
desire it.
so he stays with the idea that our de facto actual empirical desires are the only
basis
for moral judgment.
but then
page eight
also in chapter two, he argues that it is possible for a utilitarian to distinguish
higher from lower
pleasures.
now, those of you who've read
Mill already
how
according to him is it possible to draw that distinction?
How can a utilitarian
distinguish qualitatively higher pleasures
from
lesser ones, base ones, unworthy ones?
If you tried both of them
and you'll prefer the higher one naturally always
that's great, that's right. What's your name? John.
so as John points out
Mill says here's the test,
since we can't step outside
actual desires, actual preferences
that would
violate utilitarian premises,
the only test
of whether
a pleasure is higher
or lower is whether someone who has experienced both
would prefer it.
And here,
in chapter two
we see the passage
where Mill makes the point that John just described
of two pleasures, if there be one to which all are almost all who have experience
of both give a decided preference,
irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, in other words no outside, no independent
standard,
then that is the more desirable pleasure.
what do people think about that argument.
does that
does it succeeded?
how many think that it does succeed?
of arguing within utilitarian terms for a distinction between higher and lower pleasures.
how many
think it doesn't succeed?
I want to hear your reasons.
but before
we give the reasons
let's do an experiment
of Mills'
claim.
In order to do this experiment
we're going to look that three
short excerpts
of popular entertainment
the first one is a Hamlet soliloquy
it'll be followed by two other
experiences
see what you think.
'what a piece of work is a man
how noble in reason
how infinite in faculties
in form and moving, how express and admirable
in action how like an angel. In apprehension, how like a god
the beauty of the world
the paragon of animals
and yet, to me
what is this quintessence of dust?
man delights not me.
Imagine a world where your greatest fears become reality
each show, six contestants from around the country battle each other in three
extreme stunts. these stunts are designed to challenge these contestants both physically and mentally
six contestants, three stunts, one winner.
Fear factor.
The Simpsons. Well hi diddly-o peddle to the metal o-philes! Flanders- since when do you like anything cool.
well, I don't care for the speed, but I can't get enough of that safety gear
helmets, roll bars, caution flags. I like the fresh air
and looking at the poor people in the infield.
Dang Cletus, why you got to park by my parents.
Now hunny, it's my parents too.
I don't even have to ask which one you like most
the Simpsons? How many like the Simpson's most?
How many Shakespeare?
What about fear factor?
how many preferred fear factor?
really?
people overwhelmingly
like the Simpsons
better
than Shakespeare. alright, now let's take the other
part of the poll
which is the
highest
experience or pleasure?
how many say
Shakespeare?
how many say
fear factor?
no you can't be serious
really?
alright go ahead you can say it.
I found that one
the most entertaining
I know but which do you think was the worthiest, the noblest experience, I know you find it
the most anything
if something is good just because it is pleasurable what is the matter if you have some kind of
abstract
idea of whether it is good by someone else's sense or not.
Alright so you come down on the straight Benthamite's side
whose to judge
and why should we judge
apart from just registering and aggregating de facto preferences, alright fair enough.
what's your name?
Nate? okay fair enough
Alright so
how many think that the Simpson's is actually
apart from liking is actually the higher experience
higher than Shakespeare.
Alright let's see the vote for Shakespeare again
how many think Shakespeare is higher?
alright so
why is it
ideally I'd like to hear from someone is there someone
think Shakespeare is highest
but who preferred
watching
the Simpsons
Like I guess just sitting and watching the Simpsons, it's entertaining because the make jokes, they make us laugh but
someone has to tell us that Shakespeare was this great writer we had to be taught how to read him, how to
understand him, we had to be taught how to
take in Rembrandt, how to analyze a painting.
well how do, what's your name? Aneesha.
Aneesha, when you say someone
told you that Shakespeare's better
are you accepting it on blind faith you voted that Shakespeare's higher only because the culture
tells you that our teachers tell you that or do you
actually agree with that yourself
well in the sense that Shakespeare, no, but earlier you made
an example of Rembrandt
I feel like I would enjoy a reading a comic book more than I would enjoy a kind of analyzing
Rembrandt because someone told me it was great, you know. Right so of some this seems
to be, you're suggesting a kind of
cultural convention and pressure. We're told
what books, what works of art are great. who else?
although I enjoyed watching the Simpsons more in this particular moment in Justice,
if I were to spend the rest of my life considering
the three different
video clips shown
I would not want to spend
that remainder of my life considering
the latter two clips.
I think I would derive more pleasure
from being able to
branch out in my own mind
sort of
considering more deep pleasures, more deep thoughts.
and tell me your name
Joe.
Joe, so if you had to spend the rest of your life on
on a farm in Kansas with only
with only Shakespeare
or the collected episodes of the Simpsons
you would prefer
Shakespeare
what do you conclude from that
about John Stuart Mill's test
but the test of a higher pleasure
is whether
people who have experienced
both prefer it.
can I cite another example briefly?
in biology
in neuro biology last year we were told of a rat who was tested
a particular center in the brain
where the rat was able to stimulate its brain and cause itself intense pleasure repeatedly
the rat did not eat or drink until it died
so the rat was clearly experiencing intense pleasure
now if you asked me right now if I'd rather experience intense pleasure
or have
a full lifetime of higher pleasure, I would consider intense pleasure to be lower pleasure, right
now enjoy intense pleasure
yes I would
but over a lifetime I think
I would think
almost a complete majority here would agree
that they would rather be a human with higher pleasure that rat
with intense pleasure
for a momentary period of time
so now
in answer to your question, right, I think
this proves that, or I won't say proves
I think the conclusion
is that Mill's theory that when a majority people are asked
what they would rather do,
they will answer
that they would rather
engage in a higher pleasure. So you think that this supports Mills, that Mills was on to something here
I do.
all right is there anyone