Is Mill right when he says that goodness is simply “whatever promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people”? In your answer, consider Mill’s distinction between “higher and lower pleasures” in contrast to Bentham’s “moral arithmetic.” Consider, also, the various objections to utilitarianism as discussed in the lecture.
How useful is the ethical theory we have studied so far when it comes to concrete problems and issues in the “real world”? Consider some real-world issues, e.g. abortion, euthanasia, world hunger, etc. See the reading/viewing assignments, and note that you have the option of viewing any of 16 video programs in the award-winning “Ethics in America” series. Discuss a few of the positions pro and con that you’ve read, and then tell how you think such philosophers as Aristotle, Kant, and Mill would deal with the issues. Since most ethical controversies are subtle and complex, it is not likely that any of the philosophers we’ve studied would be completely “for” or completely “against” any of the positions discussed.
PHI and Ethics Links
You’ll find some helpful links at these web sites.
“Ethics in America” and “Ethics in America II” (These are two television series on various issues in applied ethics.)
Applied Ethics (This is an article from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)
2. (1 page)
Has ethics come full circle? We end our course with the same questions about virtue and the Good Life with which we began. Does Philippa Foot represent both a “return” to ancient questions about virtue and a “step forward” from the analysis of ethical language represented by the metaethicists, specifically Ayer and Stevenson? What do you think of virtue ethics compared with the other positions we have studied? Specifically, how would you evaluate Foot’s approach to ethics with those of Aristotle, Kant, Mill, and other philosophers?
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