Alleviate Suffering

Mon, Sep 09

What's your moral code?  Starting with this class, we'll be wrestling with the question of what it takes to live a moral life.  According to utilitarians, the key to acting morally is to do whatever will alleviate suffering and promote pleasure in the world.  As a result, anything that can feel pain or pleasure deserves your moral consideration.  And we might be called upon to make some significant sacrifices if it holds out the hope of making the world better.

By the end of our lecture class today:

  1. You will understand how utilitarians define The Principle of Equal Consideration and The Greatest Happiness Principle.
  2. You will explain whether the "repugnant conclusion" is a decisive objection to utilitarianism.
  3. You will articulate the extent to which utilitarian principles support your view of the moral life.

Read This:

PHILOSOPHICAL TEXT:

Book 2 of Utilitarianism (John Stuart Mill) (The following sections are optional: "Happiness as an Aim", "Is Utilitarianism Chilly?", "Utilitarianism as 'Godless'", and "Expediency")

APPLICATION TEXT:

"Join Wall Street, Save the World "(Washington Post)

OPTIONAL: "No Son of Mine Is Going to Be a Benthamite Utilitarian. This is a John Stuart Mill Family, Dammit!" (McSweeney's)

Do This:

Before class, complete the following two reading reflection questions in your GGL Journal:

  1. Describe the role that you think pleasure should play in the good life.  Identify and respond to at least one passage from the reading where Mill makes a claim about the role of pleasure in the good life.
  2. Is it morally better to maximize and then donate your income OR to care personally for those in need, even if you think it will have less an impact overall?

Watch This: