Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Justice ~ #2b ~ How to Measure Pleasure

To answer these questions, view the first half of Harvard University's video:  Episode 2, Part 2, starting at 24:12.

How are we supposed to figure out what to do in a particular, real-life situation?  Suppose that we have to choose between building a new sports stadium and building a new hospital.  According to Bentham, we should consider how much pleasure sports fans would get if we were to build a new stadium, and how much pain sick people would be relieved of if we were to build a new hospital.  If building the stadium would produce a greater balance of pleasure, then we should build the stadium.

1.  Is it true that happiness is simply pleasure and the absence of pain, and that the goal of all human action should be pleasure?  Or is utilitarianism too crude as a moral doctrine?

2.  Are all goods commensurable?  Can they all be weighed on a common scale, or is it possible that the value of some goods, such as love, cannot coherently be balanced against the value of other goods, like money?  Is this a fatal problem for utilitarianism?

3.  Does utilitarianism threaten individual rights?  John Stuart Mill believed that protecting individual rights is the best way to increase the sum of happiness in the long run.  Was Mill right?  Either way, is this really the reason why we should not violate people’s basic rights?

8 comments:

Bonnie Jacobs said...

What about individual rights?

Shirley said...

The lack of protection of individual/minority rights is one of the major drawbacks of the utilitarian theory. The discussion of the importance of individual rights reminds me of the theme of Horton Hears a Who ("a person's a person, no matter how small").

Shirley said...

Sandra Day O'Connor's intro to Out of Order mentioned that one of the responsibilities of the Supreme Court is to ensure that minority rights are protected. I thought of this discussion on individual rights as I read this.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

I need to get back to posting questions about "Justice" here. I've been helping Donna since her knee replacement surgery and just haven't kept up with this blog. Sorry, Shirley and others.

Shirley said...

I hope Donna's recovery is going well. Don't worry about posting. Whenever you get around to it is fine with me.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Donna is doing well since the surgery, which was four weeks ago tomorrow. She has physical therapy three days a week and, until this week, needed blood work done two days a week. These weren't at the same place, of course, so I've been busy as her driver. I'm not doing as much for her at home, now that she has graduated from her walker to a cane, at least inside the apartment -- she still needs the walker as protection against falling when she'll be around lots of people. She has to exercise at home twice a day, including on the bicycle pedals she had to buy. Those were hard, but she's much better at it now.

Shirley said...

Sounds rather intense. That's good that you are able to take her where she needs to go. Are the bicycle pedals independent of a bicycle?

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Shirley, I posted the answer to your question on my blog, with photos. The pedals are "like" bicycle pedals, but not quite. So yes, they are independent of a bicycle. Here's the link:

http://bonniesbooks.blogspot.com/2013/04/pedal-exerciser-and-shoulder-pulley.html