Friday, July 15, 2016

Consequentialism and Predicting Consequences

From guest blogger, Jane. 

Classical consequentialism states that acts are morally right just because they maximize the amount of goodness in the world. In addition, act utilitarianism, the most prominent version of consequentialism, claims that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its actual results, rather than its expected results. However, I intend to provide my own opinions to object the idea of act utilitarianism.

No one can predict the actual result precisely. In other words, we cannot take everything under our control, and there must be some randomness involved in the action or process. If an action is utterly determined by its result, then the result is not always as accurate as the expectation. Take basketball game as an example. Basketball fans believe that a player has a “better chance” of making a shot after having just made his last two or three shots than he does after having just missed his last two or three shots. In this case, if it is a fair game, not a single player can say if the player is going to make the shot or not. The result of the game is determined by players’ skills plus some degree of luck. Moreover, we tend to underappreciate how much randomness could impact outcomes. I use this example to demonstrate how randomness can affect the result of an action, and act utilitarianism, which is solely based on the result, is not reliable enough to determine whether the action is right or wrong.

5 comments:

Liam Perkins said...

Hi Jane,
I agree with you that a randomness factor plays into almost every decision we make. The consequentialist approach definitely faces tough decisions when a situation has many hard-to-predict variables. But randomness will hinder any approach to determining morality. For instance, if a police officer wants to be brave and fair (virtuous) when confronting a possibly-violent suspect. Should the officer approach the suspect prepared to fire his gun and possibly take an innocent life, or should the officer keep his weapon holstered and risk the suspect engaging violently? An officer must find a balance in this type of situation by determining the likelihood of possible outcomes. The officer should definitely strive to be virtuous but in the end he must make a decision that he believes will have the best results for him, the suspect, and his community. This is a very difficult decision to make, but one must be prepared to weigh all the possible options (consequetialism) and act quickly in a situation like this.

-Liam Perkins

Yi Iverson said...

Hello Jane,
I like your example to show the randomness of the shooting. It proves that we can make the wrong predictions a lot of times. However, I have couple of questions about your example.
First of all, the probability of the shooting case would be probably 50% depending on the person. Even though the probability might be various depending on athletics, I think utilitarians might not concern into these details. It is hard to predict if Golden State Warriors will win the champion or the Cleveland Cavaliers will win. However, we can roughly calculate the supportive rate of different teams. Then, we can roughly predict which team's winning would bring more happiness.
I think in general, it is not really hard to predict the result of certain behaviors.(Human activities.) but like your example, it is really hard to predict which side of the coin will face towards you when you throw it on the air. But utilitarians might think that certain things (such as coin flipping )might not lead a lot of moral consequences. (I'm not sure if I make sense. Please let me know if you have questions about my comment.)

Aria said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aria said...

Hi Jane,

I completely agree with the notion of randomness involved in the prediction of consequences. However, I don't think that this poses a real challenge to the theory. As it was discussed in class, the Utilitarian accepts that there is always randomness involved in how consequences turn out but that is just the nature of how things work and it is something that is out of the control of the agent making the moral decision. So, as previously discussed, all they expect from us is to try our best given what we know to predict the consequences and make a decision that maximizes the net balance of happiness over misery/pain.

Aria Kenarsary

Aria said...

Hi Jane,

I completely agree with the notion of randomness involved in the prediction of consequences. However, I don't think that this poses a real challenge to the theory. As it was discussed in class, the Utilitarian accepts that there is always randomness involved in how consequences turn out but that is just the nature of how things work and it is something that is out of the control of the agent making the moral decision. So, as previously discussed, all they expect from us is to try our best given what we know to predict the consequences and make a decision that maximizes the net balance of happiness over misery/pain.

Aria Kenarsary