Utilitarianism or Deontology, and do you have to choose?

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Ethics
  3. » Utilitarianism or Deontology, and do you have to choose?

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Gracee
 
Reply Tue 2 Mar, 2010 02:10 pm
Are our actions ultimately right or wrong depending on the overall number of people helped or hurt, whatever our intentions. Or is the morality of our actions to be decided by our motives? And do you really have to choose?
If niether of the above, how would you say the morality of an was defined?
I have tended to come down on the side of deontology in this area, but i have never come to a satisfactory conclusion. Has anyone else constructed their own answer to this age old question?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 2 Mar, 2010 02:23 pm
@Gracee,
Gracee;134732 wrote:
Are our actions ultimately right or wrong depending on the overall number of people helped or hurt, whatever our intentions. Or is the morality of our actions to be decided by our intentions? And do you really have to choose?
If niether of the above, how would you say the morality of an was defined?
I have tended to come down on the side of deontology in this area, but i have never come to a satisfactory conclusion. Has anyone else constructed their own answer to this age old question?


I don't think that deontology has to do with intentions, because, as it is said, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". And, a wonderful depiction of this is to be found in Jane Austen's Emma. Deontology (anyway, Kant's version) concerns motives, not intentions.

John Stuart Mill held that Kant confused judging the action with judging the agent. We judge the action by its consequences for human happiness. We judge the agent by his motives.
 
Gracee
 
Reply Tue 2 Mar, 2010 02:29 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;134740 wrote:
I don't think that deontology has to do with intentions, because, as it is said, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". And, a wonderful depiction of this is to be found in Jane Austen's Emma. Deontology (anyway, Kant's version) concerns motives, not intentions.

John Stuart Mill held that Kant confused judging the action with judging the agent. We judge the action by its consequences for human happiness. We judge the agent by his motives.


Sorry, linguistic error, i'll replace intentions with motives.

Yes, but Kant had some interesting views on morality... i recall that according to him compassion should play no part, truely moral actions should be undertaken purely out of duty. I'm not sure i 100% subscribe to this view, because, although it seems good in theory, i'm not sure that anyone other than the Ghandi's and mother Theresa's of this world act morally purely out of duty.
In my experience compassion always plays some part, and a large part at that.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 2 Mar, 2010 02:41 pm
@Gracee,
Gracee;134748 wrote:
Sorry, linguistic error, i'll replace intentions with motives.

Yes, but Kant had some interesting views on morality... i recall that according to him compassion should play no part, truely moral actions should be undertaken purely out of duty. I'm not sure i 100% subscribe to this view, because, although it seems good in theory, i'm not sure that anyone other than the Ghandi's and mother Theresa's of this world act morally purely out of duty.
In my experience compassion always plays some part, and a large part at that.


Well, the distinction between intentions and motives is considerable. Intentions concern consequences, motives don't.

Kant was, of course talking about what "morality requires". Not about what we actually do. And, I would not be so sure about Gandhi's compassion as you seem to be. Nor, indeed, Mother Theresa's

Christopher Hitchens Interview
 
Gracee
 
Reply Tue 2 Mar, 2010 03:02 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;134768 wrote:
Well, the distinction between intentions and motives is considerable. Intentions concern consequences, motives don't.

Kant was, of course talking about what "morality requires". Not about what we actually do. And, I would not be so sure about Gandhi's compassion as you seem to be. Nor, indeed, Mother Theresa's

Christopher Hitchens Interview


Yes i know, but my point is that surely in stating what morality requires, one should have some intention to act accordingly. After all, surely morality without the corresponding actions is meaningless?
I was simply using them as examples of people who seemed to act out of duty a lot of the time, and pointing out that such people are very rare.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Tue 2 Mar, 2010 08:52 pm
@Gracee,
Gracee;134800 wrote:
Yes i know, but my point is that surely in stating what morality requires, one should have some intention to act accordingly. After all, surely morality without the corresponding actions is meaningless? [emphasis added]
I was simply using them as examples of people who seemed to act out of duty a lot of the time, and pointing out that such people are very rare.


You are making me think of Hume, and why he thought that sentiments were essential to morality. If you have no desire to act, you will not act no matter what matters of fact you know. When in the middle of the street, seeing a car speeding towards you, that fact alone is not enough to get you to move; it is the desire to not be struck by the car that makes the fact relevant, and gets one to move out of the way (or at least, to try to get out of the way).

Quote:
Extinguish all the warm feelings and prepossessions in favour of virtue, and all disgust or aversion to vice: render men totally indifferent towards these distinctions; and morality is no longer a practical study, nor has any tendency to regulate our lives and actions.

Online Library of Liberty - SECTION I.: of the general principles of morals. - Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals
 
Gracee
 
Reply Wed 3 Mar, 2010 12:57 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;135061 wrote:
You are making me think of Hume, and why he thought that sentiments were essential to morality. If you have no desire to act, you will not act no matter what matters of fact you know. When in the middle of the street, seeing a car speeding towards you, that fact alone is not enough to get you to move; it is the desire to not be struck by the car that makes the fact relevant, and gets one to move out of the way (or at least, to try to get out of the way).


I agree with you here, because although some say that in theory, to be seen as moral, an action should involve no personal sentiments, in practice it seems to be a little less black and white than this. I think an interesting question to ask would be 'would you still act morally if you had no conscience, or if you would not feel guilty if you didn't?'
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Wed 3 Mar, 2010 01:07 pm
@Gracee,
Gracee;135481 wrote:
I agree with you here, because although some say that in theory, to be seen as moral, an action should involve no personal sentiments, in practice it seems to be a little less black and white than this. I think an interesting question to ask would be 'would you still act morally if you had no conscience, or if you would not feel guilty if you didn't?'


In that case, you may enjoy reading Hume's Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. The Nidditch revision of the Selby-Bigge edition (ISBN-10: 019824536X, which includes Hume's other Enquiry, the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, which is also very worth reading, but is not about ethics) was the standard, but there is a newer edition put out by Oxford that I believe they hope will become the standard edition. But as I have not read the latter, I will venture to recommend the former.

You can also read it online if you prefer (the free online version is without the revisions by Nidditch, which are not essential):

Online Library of Liberty - Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals

There are also other works by Hume that they have:

Online Library of Liberty - David Hume


---------- Post added 03-03-2010 at 02:19 PM ----------

Gracee;134732 wrote:
Are our actions ultimately right or wrong depending on the overall number of people helped or hurt, whatever our intentions. Or is the morality of our actions to be decided by our motives? And do you really have to choose?
If niether of the above, how would you say the morality of an was defined?
I have tended to come down on the side of deontology in this area, but i have never come to a satisfactory conclusion. Has anyone else constructed their own answer to this age old question?


When I was your age, I was trying to come up with something regarding such matters, as well as other philosophical issues. When I was slightly older, I was hoping to be able to come up with something brilliant and put my mark on philosophy forever, as I had not found anything satisfactory in any of the philosophers I had read up to that point. Then I read Hume, and after thinking about it for a while, my hopes of fame were dashed to the ground, as I think Hume is right in virtually everything he wrote. It has been said of Hume that his philosophy is a "dead end", beyond which one cannot continue in his direction. I think it is a "dead end" in the same sense that the answer 4 is a "dead end" to the question, what is 2 + 2? Once one says 4, there is pretty much nothing left to say to answer that question.
 
 

 
  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Ethics
  3. » Utilitarianism or Deontology, and do you have to choose?
Copyright © 2022 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.02 seconds on 01/24/2022 at 01:57:54