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Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

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Kaz_1983
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Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by Kaz_1983 » July 13th, 2019, 12:21 pm

I'm sure all you guys have heard of the trolley problem, it's a hypothetical question of whether or not you would let a train stay on track to kill five people or pull a leaver, to divert the train and kill just one person....

My moral system is based on a utilitarianism type morality... so I'd choose to pull the lever and kill the one person instead of five but if this is the case, you must believe that Batman is immoral.....I'll explain later..

But if you feel that the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences... well, don't pull the lever... Kant believed in something very similar to this.

I believe that actions that bring about the most good and reduce the suffering in the world are the right ones but if that's the case shouldn't Batman to be considered morally obligated to kill the Joker?

If you said yes to the first question, to stay consistent you would say yes to Batman killing the Joker.

See imo Batman believes that any action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong, rather than based on the consequences of the action. Or he would of killed the Joker already...

If you said no to the first question, to stay consistent would have to say no to Batman killing the Joker.

Ohhh and in this sense are you a hypocrite, if you do not stay consistent with your beliefs?

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Hereandnow
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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by Hereandnow » July 14th, 2019, 10:48 am

Kaz_1983
I'm sure all you guys have heard of the trolley problem, it's a hypothetical question of whether or not you would let a train stay on track to kill five people or pull a leaver, to divert the train and kill just one person....

My moral system is based on a utilitarianism type morality... so I'd choose to pull the lever and kill the one person instead of five but if this is the case, you must believe that Batman is immoral.....I'll explain later..

But if you feel that the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences... well, don't pull the lever... Kant believed in something very similar to this.

I believe that actions that bring about the most good and reduce the suffering in the world are the right ones but if that's the case shouldn't Batman to be considered morally obligated to kill the Joker?

If you said yes to the first question, to stay consistent you would say yes to Batman killing the Joker.

See imo Batman believes that any action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong, rather than based on the consequences of the action. Or he would of killed the Joker already...

If you said no to the first question, to stay consistent would have to say no to Batman killing the Joker.

Ohhh and in this sense are you a hypocrite, if you do not stay consistent with your beliefs?
Interesting thing about Kant is that his categorical imperative is reducible to consequentialism, or nearly so. If I am in some moral dilemma, say, the familiar one about having to return someone's ax when there is clear drunken murderous intent, Kant asks us to, if you will, pull out the rational calculator: I should only return the ax if I can will it to be a universal law that all do this in a situation like this one. But how does one evaluate the situation? One has to describe it, analyze it's details, and this makes my maxim quite complicated, for it is not about returning axes at bad times, it is about this time and all of the circumstantial details that apply must be figured in. Perhaps returning the ax will end in the death of a serial killer who would otherwise go free. Then you maxim becomes should a person return an ax to the rightful owner who has at time Y murderous intent that would spare many of a horrible death? The rightness of universalizing the maxim now turns where? To utility. If you think this a wrong interpretation of Kant's moral theory, let me know.

But this does not mean that utility decides all issues, does it? Take the story of the WWII townsman who was ordered by the nazis to put a bullet in the head of a boy who had helped perpetrate a plan to assault them. If he refused, they would murder other innocents (something like this). A tough call, really.

I am, like you, mostly a consequentialist in my moral thinking, but it has to always be understood that what produces "the greatest good" or "the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness" can lead to disastrous "consequences". It can be used to justify atrocities that will in the long run make things better. This is where Kant's Kingdom of Ends comes in: never treat a person as a means, for each is an end unto herself. But if Kant reduces to a utilitarian assessment of a moral problem, is he not subject to the same abuse by those who universalize their cruelty?

Of course, a society in which cruelty is embodied in a universal rule cannot survive, one could argue; but why can't the universal rule be tailored to fit the the utility of oppression?

Your thoughts?

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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by Hereandnow » July 14th, 2019, 10:53 am

There is something about the above that is counter intuitive.

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Pantagruel
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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by Pantagruel » July 15th, 2019, 6:39 pm

I think the problem with any kind of ethical calculus, as hereandnow suggests, is that we are never really able to limit the effects of our actions or engender precisely the results we intend. Talking about ethics is very precise, it is in our control. In the real world, things rarely go exactly as planned. In my mind, this is why deontology has a significant advantage as a practical ethic. If you can't compute which action will have the best result (by whatever standard) then act in the way that seems most...ethical.

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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by LuckyR » July 16th, 2019, 2:42 pm

Pantagruel wrote:
July 15th, 2019, 6:39 pm
I think the problem with any kind of ethical calculus, as hereandnow suggests, is that we are never really able to limit the effects of our actions or engender precisely the results we intend. Talking about ethics is very precise, it is in our control. In the real world, things rarely go exactly as planned. In my mind, this is why deontology has a significant advantage as a practical ethic. If you can't compute which action will have the best result (by whatever standard) then act in the way that seems most...ethical.
Exactly correct. Folks here in Real Life predict (but can never know ahead of time) the results of their actions, thus the "trolley problem" has little value. If one wanted to make the trolley problem practical, it would be changed to some thing like:
You see a runaway trolley moving toward five people standing or walking near and on the tracks. The trolley is in danger of hitting one or more of them, or maybe none of them. You are standing next to a lever that controls a switch. If you pull the lever, the trolley will be redirected onto a side track, and the five people on the main track will be out of danger. However, there is a single person very near to the side track. You have two options:

Do nothing and allow the trolley to potentially kill up to five people on the main track.
Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will possibly kill one person.
Which is the more ethical option?

Most would shrug, pull the lever and wonder why such a simple question would be considered an example of ethics.
"As usual... it depends."

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Pantagruel
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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by Pantagruel » July 16th, 2019, 3:07 pm

LuckyR wrote:
July 16th, 2019, 2:42 pm
Most would shrug, pull the lever and wonder why such a simple question would be considered an example of ethics.
I do feel that a lot of philosophical examples become way too contrived to be meaningful. I think a complex theory should ultimately produce straightforward examples.

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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by Newme » July 16th, 2019, 6:18 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
July 14th, 2019, 10:53 am
There is something about the above that is counter intuitive.
Yes. The train and batman are different scenarios - in the 1st, the consequences are set as if an either-or immediate dilemma. With batman, it is not either-or nor is it immediate and known. Joker could become good, and killing should only be done in direct defense (of self or others). Otherwise, you could go up to parents who smoke and say they should die since they’re hurting themselves, their kids and others which will eventually end in lung cancer... etc.

When someone decided who deserves to live and die based on their own subjective ideas was historically, the beginning of tyranny that ended in genocide.

Still, it is an interesting idea.
“Empty is the argument of the philosopher which does not relieve any human suffering.” - Epicurus

Kaz_1983
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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by Kaz_1983 » July 16th, 2019, 9:13 pm

Newme wrote:
July 16th, 2019, 6:18 pm
Hereandnow wrote:
July 14th, 2019, 10:53 am
There is something about the above that is counter intuitive.
With batman, it is not either-or nor is it immediate and known. Joker could become good, and killing should only be done in direct defense (of self or others).
I meant stopping something from very bad happening, like Batman knew the Joker was going to kill 3 people if Batman didn't stop him/kill him right now.. I didn't explain that properly.

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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by Pantagruel » July 17th, 2019, 8:11 am

Kaz_1983 wrote:
July 16th, 2019, 9:13 pm
Newme wrote:
July 16th, 2019, 6:18 pm

With batman, it is not either-or nor is it immediate and known. Joker could become good, and killing should only be done in direct defense (of self or others).
I meant stopping something from very bad happening, like Batman knew the Joker was going to kill 3 people if Batman didn't stop him/kill him right now.. I didn't explain that properly.
What if one of those 3 people was going to go on to do something even worse?

Kaz_1983
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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by Kaz_1983 » July 17th, 2019, 8:49 am

Hereandnow wrote:
July 14th, 2019, 10:48 am
Kaz_1983
I'm sure all you guys have heard of the trolley problem, it's a hypothetical question of whether or not you would let a train stay on track to kill five people or pull a leaver, to divert the train and kill just one person....

My moral system is based on a utilitarianism type morality... so I'd choose to pull the lever and kill the one person instead of five but if this is the case, you must believe that Batman is immoral.....I'll explain later..

But if you feel that the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences... well, don't pull the lever... Kant believed in something very similar to this.

I believe that actions that bring about the most good and reduce the suffering in the world are the right ones but if that's the case shouldn't Batman to be considered morally obligated to kill the Joker?

If you said yes to the first question, to stay consistent you would say yes to Batman killing the Joker.

See imo Batman believes that any action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong, rather than based on the consequences of the action. Or he would of killed the Joker already...

If you said no to the first question, to stay consistent would have to say no to Batman killing the Joker.

Ohhh and in this sense are you a hypocrite, if you do not stay consistent with your beliefs?
Interesting thing about Kant is that his categorical imperative is reducible to consequentialism, or nearly so. If I am in some moral dilemma, say, the familiar one about having to return someone's ax when there is clear drunken murderous intent, Kant asks us to, if you will, pull out the rational calculator: I should only return the ax if I can will it to be a universal law that all do this in a situation like this one. But how does one evaluate the situation? One has to describe it, analyze it's details, and this makes my maxim quite complicated, for it is not about returning axes at bad times, it is about this time and all of the circumstantial details that apply must be figured in. Perhaps returning the ax will end in the death of a serial killer who would otherwise go free. Then you maxim becomes should a person return an ax to the rightful owner who has at time Y murderous intent that would spare many of a horrible death? The rightness of universalizing the maxim now turns where? To utility. If you think this a wrong interpretation of Kant's moral theory, let me know.

But this does not mean that utility decides all issues, does it? Take the story of the WWII townsman who was ordered by the nazis to put a bullet in the head of a boy who had helped perpetrate a plan to assault them. If he refused, they would murder other innocents (something like this). A tough call, really.

I am, like you, mostly a consequentialist in my moral thinking, but it has to always be understood that what produces "the greatest good" or "the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness" can lead to disastrous "consequences". It can be used to justify atrocities that will in the long run make things better. This is where Kant's Kingdom of Ends comes in: never treat a person as a means, for each is an end unto herself. But if Kant reduces to a utilitarian assessment of a moral problem, is he not subject to the same abuse by those who universalize their cruelty?

Of course, a society in which cruelty is embodied in a universal rule cannot survive, one could argue; but why can't the universal rule be tailored to fit the the utility of oppression?

Your thoughts?
Very interesting.

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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by h_k_s » July 17th, 2019, 8:09 pm

Kaz_1983 wrote:
July 13th, 2019, 12:21 pm
I'm sure all you guys have heard of the trolley problem, it's a hypothetical question of whether or not you would let a train stay on track to kill five people or pull a leaver, to divert the train and kill just one person....

My moral system is based on a utilitarianism type morality... so I'd choose to pull the lever and kill the one person instead of five but if this is the case, you must believe that Batman is immoral.....I'll explain later..

But if you feel that the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences... well, don't pull the lever... Kant believed in something very similar to this.

I believe that actions that bring about the most good and reduce the suffering in the world are the right ones but if that's the case shouldn't Batman to be considered morally obligated to kill the Joker?

If you said yes to the first question, to stay consistent you would say yes to Batman killing the Joker.

See imo Batman believes that any action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong, rather than based on the consequences of the action. Or he would of killed the Joker already...

If you said no to the first question, to stay consistent would have to say no to Batman killing the Joker.

Ohhh and in this sense are you a hypocrite, if you do not stay consistent with your beliefs?
The above by @Kaz_1983 is an entertaining look at the dilemma of action versus inaction.

In philosophical terms, I myself always harken back to Aristotle's "magnanimous man" concept. I would suspect that the magnanimous man would (1) take action and would (2) take that action which helps the most and harms the least.

So that's my answer. Your thoughts?

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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by h_k_s » July 17th, 2019, 8:10 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
July 14th, 2019, 10:48 am
Kaz_1983
I'm sure all you guys have heard of the trolley problem, it's a hypothetical question of whether or not you would let a train stay on track to kill five people or pull a leaver, to divert the train and kill just one person....

My moral system is based on a utilitarianism type morality... so I'd choose to pull the lever and kill the one person instead of five but if this is the case, you must believe that Batman is immoral.....I'll explain later..

But if you feel that the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences... well, don't pull the lever... Kant believed in something very similar to this.

I believe that actions that bring about the most good and reduce the suffering in the world are the right ones but if that's the case shouldn't Batman to be considered morally obligated to kill the Joker?

If you said yes to the first question, to stay consistent you would say yes to Batman killing the Joker.

See imo Batman believes that any action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong, rather than based on the consequences of the action. Or he would of killed the Joker already...

If you said no to the first question, to stay consistent would have to say no to Batman killing the Joker.

Ohhh and in this sense are you a hypocrite, if you do not stay consistent with your beliefs?
Interesting thing about Kant is that his categorical imperative is reducible to consequentialism, or nearly so. If I am in some moral dilemma, say, the familiar one about having to return someone's ax when there is clear drunken murderous intent, Kant asks us to, if you will, pull out the rational calculator: I should only return the ax if I can will it to be a universal law that all do this in a situation like this one. But how does one evaluate the situation? One has to describe it, analyze it's details, and this makes my maxim quite complicated, for it is not about returning axes at bad times, it is about this time and all of the circumstantial details that apply must be figured in. Perhaps returning the ax will end in the death of a serial killer who would otherwise go free. Then you maxim becomes should a person return an ax to the rightful owner who has at time Y murderous intent that would spare many of a horrible death? The rightness of universalizing the maxim now turns where? To utility. If you think this a wrong interpretation of Kant's moral theory, let me know.

But this does not mean that utility decides all issues, does it? Take the story of the WWII townsman who was ordered by the nazis to put a bullet in the head of a boy who had helped perpetrate a plan to assault them. If he refused, they would murder other innocents (something like this). A tough call, really.

I am, like you, mostly a consequentialist in my moral thinking, but it has to always be understood that what produces "the greatest good" or "the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness" can lead to disastrous "consequences". It can be used to justify atrocities that will in the long run make things better. This is where Kant's Kingdom of Ends comes in: never treat a person as a means, for each is an end unto herself. But if Kant reduces to a utilitarian assessment of a moral problem, is he not subject to the same abuse by those who universalize their cruelty?

Of course, a society in which cruelty is embodied in a universal rule cannot survive, one could argue; but why can't the universal rule be tailored to fit the the utility of oppression?

Your thoughts?
I believe the magnanimous man would throw the ax into the sea.

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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by h_k_s » July 17th, 2019, 8:11 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
July 14th, 2019, 10:53 am
There is something about the above that is counter intuitive.
All paradoxes and dilemmas are counter-intuitive.

As Kant pointed out, anything intuitive is merely a-priori.

And anything else is a-posteriori.

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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by h_k_s » July 17th, 2019, 8:13 pm

LuckyR wrote:
July 16th, 2019, 2:42 pm
Pantagruel wrote:
July 15th, 2019, 6:39 pm
I think the problem with any kind of ethical calculus, as hereandnow suggests, is that we are never really able to limit the effects of our actions or engender precisely the results we intend. Talking about ethics is very precise, it is in our control. In the real world, things rarely go exactly as planned. In my mind, this is why deontology has a significant advantage as a practical ethic. If you can't compute which action will have the best result (by whatever standard) then act in the way that seems most...ethical.
Exactly correct. Folks here in Real Life predict (but can never know ahead of time) the results of their actions, thus the "trolley problem" has little value. If one wanted to make the trolley problem practical, it would be changed to some thing like:
You see a runaway trolley moving toward five people standing or walking near and on the tracks. The trolley is in danger of hitting one or more of them, or maybe none of them. You are standing next to a lever that controls a switch. If you pull the lever, the trolley will be redirected onto a side track, and the five people on the main track will be out of danger. However, there is a single person very near to the side track. You have two options:

Do nothing and allow the trolley to potentially kill up to five people on the main track.
Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will possibly kill one person.
Which is the more ethical option?

Most would shrug, pull the lever and wonder why such a simple question would be considered an example of ethics.
Actually I suspect that most "real people" would do nothing. They would be frozen by inaction.

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Re: Utilitarianism vs Deontological Morality

Post by h_k_s » July 17th, 2019, 8:15 pm

Newme wrote:
July 16th, 2019, 6:18 pm
Hereandnow wrote:
July 14th, 2019, 10:53 am
There is something about the above that is counter intuitive.
Yes. The train and batman are different scenarios - in the 1st, the consequences are set as if an either-or immediate dilemma. With batman, it is not either-or nor is it immediate and known. Joker could become good, and killing should only be done in direct defense (of self or others). Otherwise, you could go up to parents who smoke and say they should die since they’re hurting themselves, their kids and others which will eventually end in lung cancer... etc.

When someone decided who deserves to live and die based on their own subjective ideas was historically, the beginning of tyranny that ended in genocide.

Still, it is an interesting idea.
Ok back to Batman, then, sure.

Batman should never play God. Nobody should.

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