Friday, July 15, 2016

Impartiality and Consequentialism

From guest blogger, Alexander.

After learning about multiple theories to address and combat moral issues, I feel that consequentialism is not an accurate measurement of morality. On paper, the “maximization of total aggregate happiness” sounds great. However, it ends up screwing the non-happy portion. The first idea that I do not agree with is impartiality, that all beings are counted as equal. As great as this sounds, a lizard’s happiness is nowhere near equal to a human being’s. A consequentialist might say that happiness is a measure that should account for all beings on earth, but I don’t think that’s remotely true. For this theory, I believe human happiness should be above all else. Obviously, there would need to be exceptions to immoral cases like animal cruelty for this addition to benefit the theory. But, I think, with exceptions, human happiness is the most important. The second problem that I have with consequentialism is the inability to accurately assess immoral situations. The first example coming to mind is slavery. One largely populated group is happy, while a minority is very unhappy. In this case, it is morally acceptable. Slavery sets an example to several other immoral situations, like torture, kidnapping, or murder. If one party has more happiness than the unhappiness of the other, than it is moral. Which, obviously, is not the case. I believe the cause of pain or hurt should be counted in more than the “happiness” in the situation. In my opinion, pain is much more significant than happiness, and it takes a bigger toll on you. The goal should be to attempt to minimize or eliminate pain while still maintaining the highest possible amount of happiness. 


Alex Sorensen said...

I agree with your first problem about Consequentialism regarding impartiality, where animals' happiness should be treated with less weight than the happiness of humans (except in extreme cases like animal abuse). If the Consequentialist were to take a page from the Deontologist and add that we should "maximize the total aggregate happiness of rational autonomous beings", would this solve the problem for you? That takes care of the lizard's happiness (unless its an extreme case like animal abuse) in minor situations. I believe that morality, at its core, aims to take the emotions and situations of others into account before making our own actions, and Consequentialism, (although it may fail to do so in some cases) I believe tries to do this at its core. As for your second problem, I'll let someone else comment on that haha.

Jane Zhou said...

Hi Alexander,

I really like your example of slavery which demonstrates the assessment of immoral situations. I would like to provide my own opinion about the drawback of consequentialism. Consequentialism fails to appreciate the ethical importance of the motives behind an action, and it does not have the recognition of the moral value of our motives for acting as we do. For example, if torturing a child produces the greatest happiness, then it is right to torture a child. Happiness or satisfying people’s preferences is not always morally good, but the desire to do good, to act as morality requires, is considered to be highly important when making a moral judgment. Motives matter ethically, but consequentialism ignores motives, consequentialism cannot be right.

Please let me know if you have any question.

-- Jane Zhou