Utilitarism Essay

2385 words - 10 pages

Question 1: Williams thinks that the doctrine of negative responsibility, which follows from the principle of utility, undermines personal integrity. Do you agree that being held responsible for the consequences of not acting, of failing to prevent something, will (always or sometimes) erode the idea of personal integrity? Is there any way to be a utilitarian and still respect the integrity of individuals?

Integrity is the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity regards internal consistency as a virtue. One may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they clam to hold. As Williams explains, the ...view middle of the document...

So, the principals of utilitarianism are not conflicting with personal integrity.
With that being said, I believe that a person of integrity may differ about what is right but a moral person cannot have integrity. The utilitarian approach alienates individuals from their own commitments and moral identity. Deliberating and acting for reasons directed at the right or good thing to do depend upon a moral theory in which we have personal integrity. To be moved by the needs of others, we need to possess substantial commitments that help individuals see themselves as part of the group (Sheehy 2008). Not to dismiss what role principles like the principles of utility have in our decisions, but our view of the world is made of the commitments forming us. This idea is not limited to an individual, but central to the nature of us and woven into our moral thinking.
Ashford, Elizabeth, 2000. ‘Utilitarianism, Integrity and Partiality,’Journal of Philosophy, 97: 421–439.
Sheehy, Paul. "Doing the Right Thing (Part II): Challenges to Utilitarianism." The Richmond Journal of Philosophy. Richmond Journal, Mar. 2008.
Williams, Bernard, 1973. ‘Integrity,’ in J.J.C. Smart and Bernard Williams, Utilitarianism: For and Against New York: Cambridge, 108–117.

Question 2: Morality tells us what we ought to do, and imposes upon us duties which it would be wrong not to fulfill. Yet Kant claims, in Chapter Two of the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, that autonomy—the ability to choose for ourselves what to do—is crucial for morality. That might appear somewhat contradictory. First, briefly explain the role of autonomy in Kantian ethics. Then argue either that Kant is correct or incorrect in claiming that morality requires autonomy.

Kantian ethics is based on autonomy, human capacity to direct one’s life according to rational principles. Kant tries to explain that both the laws of nature and the laws of morality are grounded in human reason itself. While many believe that he defines two incompatible thoughts, nature and freedom, Kant believed that both laws of nature and the laws of free human conduct must be compatible because they are both products of human thought imposed on us by our experience. Therefore, Kant derived the fundamental principles of human thought and action from human sensibility, understanding, and reason – all the sources of our autonomy. Kant argues that nature and freedom can be tied together because experience offers us a tangible image of our moral freedom. I agree that Kant is correct in claiming that morality requires autonomy.
Autonomous people are considered as being ends in themselves in that they have the capacity to determine their own destiny. For John Stewart Mill, the concept of autonomy involves the capacity to think, decide and act on the basis of such thought and decision freely and independently. He advocated for autonomy in his principle of liberty, provides that it did not cause harm to others (Mill, 1968)....

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