Bentham and Mill’s Utilitarianism – John Rawls Original Position – Kant The Role of the State – Security vs Liberty

Outline the main differences between Bentham’s utilitarianism and Mill’s utilitarianism, and demonstrate how they differ by applying the theories to a real-world example.

They were both utilitarianism moral philosophers. The base or their theories states that an action is right or obligatory just as long as it promotes utility, which is the maximization of happiness.

The difference is that Bentham believed that it is possible to calculate, compare and measure pleasure and pain generated by actions according to seven criteria. This formula was called “felicific calculus”. This means that every action that we intend to do should be measured by the number of “units of pleasure” it produces, or expects to produce, in each of those seven categories; the most correct action (the most ethic one) will be the one giving a highest total of points to the highest amount of people.

On the other hand Mills, was aware of the difficulties of making these quantitative measurements like Bentham did, and changes the emphasis from “quantity” of pleasure to its “quality”. He distinguishes between “higher” pleasures (associated with the mind, that generate “happiness”) and “lower” pleasures (associated with the body, that generate “contentment”).

Moreover, for Bentham, humans are little more than animals. Humans always in search of pleasure.

On the other hand, for Mill – humans are qualitatively different from animals. Not merely pleasure-seeking animals. Have intellect and engage in intellectual pursuit.

Bentham emphasized pleasure, Mill, happiness.

Bentham: the greatest happiness of the greatest number, that is the measure of right and wrong. 

The harm principle holds that the actions of individuals should only be limited to prevent harm to other individuals.

For Bentham, the ultimate aim of each person is predominantly, if not exclusively, the promotion of the agent’s own happiness (pleasure).

Since for Bentham human beings are just seeking pleasure animals, the simple fact of having pleasure by reading a gossip magazine would enough for Bentham. It would be wouldn’t cause harm to others, it could last long and be quite intensive for some. However, for Mills, since the person is not using intensively its faculties to read that magazine and what he or she would you get from it is not meaningful, read a gossipy magazine is not worthy someone’s time. However, if someone is reading The Economist, according to Mill, this is a “high” pleasure, where only someone with a greater intellect would be able to have pleasure by reading such a magazine.

Bentham believes that it is possible to calculate, compare and measure pleasure and pain generated by actions according to several criteria (seven, to be precise). He called this the “felicific calculus”.

This means that every action that we intend to do should be measured by the number of “units of pleasure” it produces, or expects to produce, in each of those seven categories; the most correct action (the most ethic one) will be the one giving a highest total of points.

Mill is aware of the difficulties of making these quantitative measurements (that are a clear shortcoming of Bentham’s ideas), and changes the emphasis from “quantity” of pleasure to its “quality”.

“Better to be a dissatisfied human being than a satisfied pig. Better to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied fool. And if the fool, or pork, believe otherwise it is because they only know their side of the problem. ” Mills

He distinguishes between “higher” pleasures (associated with the mind, that generate “happiness”) and “lower” pleasures (associated with the body, that generate “contentment”). How do we know which is which? – Well, as he explains it… “those who have experienced both prefer higher pleasures”.

Bentham said  “Quantity of pleasure being equal, push-pin is as good as poetry”.

But Mill disagreed, and said: “Better to be a dissatisfied human being than a satisfied pig. Better to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied fool. And if the fool, or pork, believe otherwise it is because they only know their side of the problem. “

As should be evident from the foregoing, Mill had quite a different conception of human nature to Bentham.

DIFFERENCE ONE – For Mill, it is not just the quantity of happiness but also the quality of happiness. Mill, not surprising for an intellectual perhaps, distinguishes between higher and lower pleasures

DIFFERENCE TWO – Bentham – humans are little more than animals. Humans always in search of pleasure

Mill – humans are qualitatively different from animals. Not merely pleasure-seeking animals. Have intellect and engage in intellectual pursuit DIFFERENCE THREE – Mill, more than Bentham, tries to introduce a theory of justice into utilitarianism, protecting individual rights.

 

What is the “original position”? Why does John Rawls think that people will come to accept his principles of justice (as opposed to classical liberal, Aristotelian, etc.) from this position? What are the principles of justice, according to Rawls, that will assure justice is fair?

According to John Rawls, the “original position” is (like the social contract) that point at which we can have a fair and impartial point of view to help us in our reasoning about principles of justice. In this point of view, we are to imagine ourselves in the position of free and equal persons who jointly agree upon and commit themselves to principles of social and political justice.

A feature of the Original Position, the “veil of ignorance”: prevent arbitrary facts about citizens influencing agreement among the citizens’ representatives – the fact that a citizen is an example of a certain race, class, or gender is no reason for social institutions to favor or disfavor him or her.

Each representative in the original position is deprived of knowledge of the race, class, and gender of the real citizens they represent – even stronger, the veil of ignorance deprives the representatives of all facts about citizens that are irrelevant to the choice of principles of justice: not only race, class and gender but also age, natural endowments, and more. ALSO the veil blocks out specific information about the citizens’ society so as to get a clearer view of the permanent features of a just society (sometimes we call this “realistic utopianism”); Though have knowledge of human psychology, politics, “A just society is a society that if you knew everything about it, you would be willing to enter it in a random place”.

So, again, each one of us behind the “veil of ignorance” would be concerned that we could be one of the “least advantaged members of society”, so we want to make the worst better off (in our self-interest).

So, inequalities can be tolerated (there is a place for a market economy, which does tend to generate inequalities*) but inequalities have to JUSTIFY THEMSELVES.

Principles of justice: the idea that we can put in place a set of social and political [and economic] institutions that will ensure the just distribution of benefits and costs throughout society.

NOTE that for Rawls it is SOCIAL JUSTICE, not justice between individuals that he’s considering.

Be able to simply summarize the principles of justice that Rawls imagines people will come to accept in the original position.

The “veil of ignorance” may be helpful in answering why Rawls thinks rational, self-interested people would choose these principles of justice as opposed to utilitarian principles, aristotelian principles, etc. Pay attention to the idea of the possibility of being one of the “least advantaged”.

When assessing fairness of a policy, every person’s characteristic (gender, age, etc.) must be ignored as if everyone is behind the veil.

It is a method of determining the morality of a certain issues. It is a hypothetical situation where parties select principles that will determine the basic structure of the society they will live in. This choice is made from behind a veil of ignorance, which would deprive participants of information about their particular characteristics: his or her ethnicity, social status, gender and, crucially, Conception of the Good (an individual’s idea of how to lead a good life). This forces participants to select principles impartially and rationally.

The idea is that parties subject to the veil of ignorance will make choices based upon moral considerations, since they will not be able to make choices based on self- or class-interest.

In the classical liberal, people. Social Justice.

State should not seek to impose any conception of the “good life.” freedom understood as individual autonomy – freedom to establish, define and pursue one’s goals without constraints or obstructions from the state.

According to classical liberals, a theory of justice should define and delimit the proper sphere of government—the realm of legitimate coercion, in contradistinction to the social realm of voluntary interaction. A government should concern itself only with matters of justice, while leaving individuals free to pursue their own values in religious, economic and personal affairs. This meant that the primary task of political philosophy, strictly speaking, is to determine the nature of a just society rather than a good society per se.

Rawls argues that self-interested rational persons behind the veil of ignorance would choose two general principles of justice to structure society in the real world:

1) Principle of Equal Liberty: Each person has an equal right to the most extensive liberties compatible with similar liberties for all. (Egalitarian.)

2) Difference Principle: Social and economic inequalities should be arranged so that they are both (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged persons, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of equality of opportunity.

Particular justice is the correct distribution of just deserts to others. For Aristotle, such justice is proportional—it has to do with people receiving what is proportional to their merit or their worth. In his discussion of particular justice, Aristotle says an educated judge is needed to apply just decisions regarding any particular case. This is where we get the image of the scales of justice, the blindfolded judge symbolizing blind justice, balancing the scales, weighing all the evidence and deliberating each particular case individually.

 

Choose one of the following: same-sex marriage, euthanasia, defamation, etc. What should the role of the state be in relation to this? How could such a role be decided, and if there were to be state involvement rather than it being left to individuals to decide, how would various philosophical approaches (utilitarianism, Rawlsian/liberalism, Aristotelianism, etc.) guide such a decision?

Same-Sex marriage

Role of the state

  • Should just be involved as much as they are in hetero-marriages, means in legal affairs like giving tax reductions, property, children (allowing adoption as a next step), etc.
  • Should be decided on if marriage is a private thing or a social construct with a duty to society
  • Philosophers:
    • Utilitarianism:
      • Greatest good for the greatest number
      • Pleasure of the couple outweighs the pain (seeing something “disgusting”) of others
      • Consequences argument: no reproduction à however so many orphans who need parents so it would be better if they have two daddys or two mummys rather than none at all
      • Combine the harm principle, rights, and utilitarian calculation. Step one, is there harm? If not, then it’s protected(justice). If yes there is harm, then you make the utilitarian calculation.
    • Libertarian
    • Rawlian / Libertarian
    • Marriage should be privatized completely.
    • from a Rawlsian perspective grounded in public reason, that state authority must be confined to exclusively endorse civil unions for both heterosexual and homosexual couples seeking the legal and economic benefits of partnership currently associated with marriage.
    • Rawls argues, a reasonable person is one that recognizes and is willing to shoulder the consequences of the burdens of judgment
    • Therefore, reasonable persons who adhere to reasonable comprehensive doctrines recognize a limit as to what can be justified to others who adhere to different reasonable comprehensive doctrines.
    • . One may provisionally acknowledge one’s comprehensive commitments according to the notion of public reason endorsed here and by Rawls, but in a liberal society marked by moral pluralism, comprehensive values cannot, and ought not to be, the source of legislative decision making. à Religion not a reason to go against same-sex marriage
    • Aristotelianism
      • Aristotle also believes “for we always choose [happiness] for itself, and never for the sake of something else.” Those in favor of same-sex marriage do not hold this view just for the sake of angering people who disagree with their views but to increase quality of life and happiness for all through equal access to the right to marry.  “For it is always for the sake of the end that all else is done.” People generally want to be happy and be able to enjoy life with their partner. Imagine not being able to be happy to your full potential because the people (the state) who are supposed to be helping you live to full happiness believe it is right to hinder your happiness just because of who you love.
      • According to Aristotle, “man is naturally a social being.” Therefore, people naturally create communities and relationships with each other based on their natural instinct. However, in today’s society, it is not legally sanctioned to create a marriage between two people of the same sex. Aristotle never says it is unnatural for those relationships to form and grow.
      • “The carpenter and the geometer both look for the right angle, but in different ways” à happiness can be achieved in different ways, both look for love in the long run
      • Aristotle believes that justice consists in giving people what they deserve, and that a just society is one that enables human beings to realize their highest nature and to live the good life.
      • In the first place there must be a union of those who cannot exist withouteach other; namely, of male and female, that the race may continue (and this is a union which is formed, not of deliberate purpose, but because, in common with other animals and with plants, mankind have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves à however it was another time, same-sex was just unthinkable so if he would life now, he would probably agree with same-sex marriage
      • State is needed yes, but just to guarantee the happiness of the marriage, people are a political animal
      • Aristotle advocate of equality and justice for everybody
    • “the good is prior to the right”
      • But what is right? Is it really right that men and women are just allowed to marry each other because it was always like this? Until a few decades racism was right. Earlier slavery was right. So why not changing it now also for same-sex marriage is right. Society is changing all the time through history, and it should not stop now. The state should be involved just as much as need to equal benefits in economical and political matters. Everything else should be covered under the blanket of privacy, no matter if two men or women are lying under it.

SUMMING UP LIBERALISM IN ONE SENTENCE: freedom understood as individual autonomy – freedom to establish, define and pursue one’s goals without constraints or obstructions.

For Kant and Rawls, the “right is prior to the good”.

Utilitarian – presumes “the good” consists of maximizing pleasure or welfare and asks why system of rights is likely to achieve it.

Aristotle – reasoning about justice requires reasoning from the “telos” (or nature) of the good in question. We can’t decide principles of justice until we figure out the best way to live. Therefore the “good is prior to the right.”  

 

It’s common to claim that there is a security-liberty trade-off, that security and liberty are dichotomous (independent variables). Do you agree or disagree? Support your disagreement or agreement with logical argument. Whichever side you come down on, make reference to either habeas corpus, the use of torture, or invasion of privacy and/or private property in consideration of how states should respond to terrorism.

Firstly, let’s define Liberty and Security.

Liberty or freedom means to be able to do what whatever you want so long as you don’t harm others and the absence of coercion of a human being by any other human being. EVEN if one uses guidance (religious ideas, cientific knowlede or pure advice), if these are willingly accepted, any act resulting from such influences is still an act of liberty as much as any other.

Security is a little bit harder to define. If we are securing the individual, the society or the state. However, a basic definition would be an state of being free from danger or the threat of a danger. Even free from fear which can be subjective from person to person.

But thinking in a society, I mostly don’t believe that they are independent variables. I believe that Does liberty not include some element of security? Does security not include some element of liberty?

Serving the military!! Securing a minority.

Surveillance. Torture.

Have to find a balance. It will never be perfect and have to be ajusted from time to time depending on the situation. : if liberal societies remain dedicated to their core values in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, such a strategy decreases the probability of a terrorist attack.

Without even looking at the empirical literature, ask yourself whether infringing on the liberty of minorities could really be that security enhancing in the long term?

What would the life of a maximally secure person be like if the trade-off thesis is correct? A maximally secure person would have NO liberty at all.

Does liberty not include some element of security? Does security not include some element of liberty?

Rule of law and instead turning to “rule of man.

Social contract theory – why was/is government formed? To defend our liberty… Did free people create the government to defend liberty? In that case, then liberty is the basis of government whereas Security is a goal of government.

Are governments wrong in having elevated security – a goal of government – to the level of freedom which created the government?

No, I actually believe that liberty and security are independent variables and that you can’t have both at the same time. Quite the oposite, to have a greater level of freedom, one needs some level of security to guarantee those liberties.

If we have completely freedom (do what we want) we will end up infringing in other people’s rights and liberty, reducing them. The opposite might happen as well, reducing our level of liberty and personnal rights.

To manage the interactions between members of a society, the rule of law should exist to impose restrictions and regulations but at the same time restricting the leat amount of constitutional order to a dichotomy: a balancing act between liberty and security.

To answer this question well, you will need to (AT LEAST ATTEMPT TO) define security and liberty, draw on some literature or make an argument to support your agreement or disagreement with the notion that there is a trade-off; your prioritizing of one value/good over the other should inform how you answer the question of how states respond to terrorism.

Opening paragraph: “The war on terrorism presents any thinking person with what appears to be an irresolvable dilemma. On the one hand, as citizens, we claim to have inalienable rights that protect us against force, whether initiated by terrorists or by the state. On the other hand, by insisting that the state assiduously respect our rights, we can in practice weaken its power to deal with terrorism. If we ratchet back our commitment to the rights we hold against the state, we court the dangers of totalitarianism. But if we insist on an inflexible commitment to those rights, we court the dangers of mass murder. We could of course simply deny the dangers of either totalitarianism or terrorism, but if we acknowledge them, as we should, it’s clear that there is a difficult problem here in need of a resolution.”

Traditional dichotomy of security and liberty, which suggests we need to find a balance of security and liberty. (Not Khawaja’s view).

Rights – Posner is limited to constitutional rights (US) – doesn’t deal with separate statutes, etc. that deal with rights

–National Emergencies – Problem with how Posner uses it; Usually an emergency is “a sudden, generally unexpected occurrence or set of circumstances which require immediate action… putting life and limb in jeopardy” (98) Can a national emergency be years in duration? An “indefinite emergency” is a contradiction in terms? In the US, a “state of emergency” – two world wars,the Cold War, the War on terrorism…
–Terrorism – a unique phenomenon, and Islamic terrorism even more unique; Posner claims that his proposals apply exclusively to Islamic terrorism; what about drug gangs? was the shooting in San Bernandino “terrorism” contributing to a national emergency or a crime? don’t some activities cut across categories of crime, terrorism, national emergency?

What to do?
Engage in “pragmatism” – this kind of vague weighing up of liberty and security in a type of cost-benefit analysis.

Don’t suspend habeas corpus, but make the burden of proof so high (prove you’re not a terrorist!) that the chances of a terrorist going free is low.

A legal regime so utterly uncertain and insecure in its capacity to safeguard our rights. Is there a right to habeas corpus?Not really. How about a right against unlimited powers of search and seizure? Well, sometimes. Do we have security against the possibility of being tortured by the government? Not if a judge doesn’t ‘feel’ like granting any. And a right to free speech? Well, yes – unless your speech has ‘low social value’ by an unspecied standard of value. If the ‘safety of the people’ is the ‘supreme law,’ it is hard to see how that safety can be preserved in a regime of the sort that Posner envisions, where in fact nothing is ever safe

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual” (Thomas Jefferson)   (Modern translation: *liberty or freedom means to be able to do what whatever you want so long as you don’t harm others* *the absence of coercion of a human being by any other human being*)

Liberty is determining for oneself what one will do – and, this is important, even if that determination depends to a degree on some kind of guidance such as religious instruction (what would Jesus or Mohammed do?), scientific knowledge (I guess I shouldn’t jump off this building because it would kill me), the advice of another person (mom, what should I do?), or even a clairvoyant (Beware the ides of March), EVEN if one uses such guidance, if these are willingly accepted, any act resulting from such influences is still an act of liberty as much as any other.

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