Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Consequentialist (Teleological) Theories of Morality

The term "consequentialism" was first used by G.E.M Anscombe in her 1958 paper "Modern Moral Philosophy." In regard to the anthropology of knowledge and the genealogy of academic fields, it is interesting to note that an Oxford Don publishes a paper, then the paper doesn't get much attention for a long time; then the paper is rediscovered 27 years later and is written about, leading more people to write about "consequentialism," so that textbook authors are subsequently calling "consequentialism" one of the main divisions of Ethical thought. Is there an observation to be made here?

High and Low Context Cultures, 2
From Thiroux & Krasemann:

Consequentialism: "Ethical Theories that are concerned with the consequences of actions or rules. The traditional philosophical name for this is teleology, (from the Greek telos, meaning end or purpose. Examples of consequentialist theories are all forms of ethical egoism and utilitarianism" (284).

Kaplan: 1) If teleology was first used by German philosopher Christian Wolff in 1728, just how traditional is it? And who's tradition? 2) Use of the word theories: Are all consequentialist propositions necessarily attended by theories? Do all consequentialist propositions lead to theories? And as to such theories, what are they used for? How are they used? And who uses them?

Teleological: "See Consequentialism."

Nonconsequentalism: "Ethical theories based not upon consequences but upon some other moral standard (usually considered 'higher' by the nonconsequentialist): referred to in traditional philosophy as deontology (from the Greek, loosely meaning 'ought'). Examples of such theories are Kant's Duty Ethics and the Divine Command Theory" (286).

Kaplan: 1) The language here simply refers to people who believe rules are to be obeyed. Is this belief a theory? 2) Are the commands of God, and/or the belief such commands are to be obeyed theory? 3) If antinomians believe laws and rules are not to be obeyed, is this a belief or a theory? If an antinomian (or simply somebody who does what he wants to do) breaks a law, are they doing so because of a belief, a theory, or something else entirely?

Deontological: "See Nonconsequentialism."


"That theory which is concerned with self interest. Psychological egoism exemplifies the scientific, or descriptive approach to morality, describing how human beings are thought to behave. Strong psychological egoism states that human beings always act in their own self-interest. Weak psychological egoism states that human beings often act in their own self-interest. Psychological egoism differs from ethical egoism in that the former exemplifies the psychological normative approach to ethics. The later exemplifies a  philosophical normative or prescriptive approach.  Individual ethical egoism says, 'Everyone ought to act in my self interest.' Personal ethical egoism says, 'I ought to act in my own self interest but I make no claim concerning what others should do.' Universal ethical egoism says, 'Everyone ought to act in his or her own self-interest'" (284).

Kaplan: The language here is interesting. 1) Can a theory, strictly speaking, be concerned with anything? People can have concerns, but not theories. Nor am I nit-picking here or playing semantic games. As in so much of their thought, the authors' reification of "theory" is rooted in a disregard and misuse (and an ignorance) of language that leads to conceptual confusion and philosophical credulousness. They are hypnotized by abstract nouns much in the same way that mystics are obsessed with visions, mediums are possessed by spirits, houses are haunted by ghosts, and psychotics are tormented by hallucinations. Philosophical credulousness characterizes much of their thought. Unfortunately, this is characteristic also of the social sciences whenever its practitioners remove themselves from empirical matters and indulge in theory and theorizing. 2) Passim. 3) What were we talking about? 4) The individual ethical egoist sounds like a psychopath. The personal ethical egoist sounds like an awkward thinker who lacks the intelligence or imagination to wonder about the implications of how others act, and who has failed to consider that people might act to hurt the personal egoist. The personal ethical egoist might sound to some like a person who isn't quite "with it". The universal ethical egoist has not taken into consideration that it does not matter what he or she thinks other people should do. Ergo, he or she is either an egomaniac, or an over-bearing adolescent who has read Ayn Rand and is young and naive enough to believe that in Ayn Rand he or she has "discovered" a "new" and "profound" thinker.

Consider other grammatical possibility for different kinds "theories" of ethical egoism.

Psychological Egoism: "See Egoism." Scientific or descriptive approach to morality.

Ethical Egoism: "See Egoism." Psychological-normative approach to ethics. Three species of ethical egoism:
1) Individual.
2) Personal.
3) Universal.

Utilitarianism: "A normative ethical theory originally established by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill that advocates bringing about good consequences or happiness to all concerned--sometimes stated as "the greatest good for the greatest number." Act utilitarianism states that one should perform that act which will bring about the greatest amount of good for all concerned. Rule utilitarianism states that one should always establish and/or follow that rule or those rules which will bring about the greatest amount of good for all concerned" (288-289).

Kaplan: In their definition for "Normative, or Prescriptive ethics" the word normative as used by Thiroux & Krasemann refers to what they call "the first type of ethics under the philosophical approach." Ethical systems characterized as "normative" are prescriptive--they prescribe how humans ought to behave. All ethical systems--Ethical egoism, Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics and Kant's Duty Ethics are normative. But what about antinomian ethics? Is it normative, anti-prescriptive, philosophical--all three, and none, at once?

In their definition of egoism, however, they describe the normative-psychological approach as what people actually think? Perhaps antinomianism belongs here?

Two species of utilitarianism:
1) Act.
2) Rule.


I. Basic ideas:

a) Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness. Actions are wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.

b) Happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain. Unhappiness is

pain and the privation of pleasure.

II. Jeremy Bentham 1748-1832): lawyer, democratic, populist. Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789)

a) External standard of goodness: happiness could be measured quantitatively.
b) Law should be based on science. Law and morality should be decided "scientifically."
1 - definition of human nature
2 - Human beings are under the governanace of pain and pleasure."
3 - "felicific calculus"
4 - Seek to spread pleasure as widely as possible to produce the "general good" or "the greatest happiness to the greatest number."

III. John Stewart Mill (1806-1873): philosopher, political economist, politician.
a) Internal measure of goodness: happiness was subjective, and tied to altruism, which is as important as self-interest. Happiness is qualitative.

b) Obligation can be compatible with self-interest if it leads to the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

c) System of Logic (1843), outlines the limits and nature of meaningful discussion.

d) On Liberty (1859), relates individual liberties to those of he state, and argues that civil restrictions on individual liberties are only permissible if they are only absolutely necessary to prevent harm to others.
1 - Seek happiness rather than pleasure.
2 - Mill was pluralist--individuals should be protected from majority opinion and rules.
3 - Public good.
4 - Help the poor for the public good.

Can morality be made "scientific"?


I. William James (1843-1910

a) Popularizer of pragmatism, called his system "radical empiricism."

b) Spent two years in Germany, returned to Harvard for his medical degree in 1869, and was appointed to an instructorship at Harvard Medical College in 1872. His subject field as an instructor was "physiological psychology."

b) Principles of Psychology (1890)

1. Mind is an activity, not a mental state.

2. There are no fragments labeled "sensations" or "ideas" or "mental states." Mind is a dynamic and continuous process in which an organism and the environment are integrated. It is a process of adjustment, and adjustment is intelligent and conscious.

3. Overturned the psychology of "mental states" that was the basis of empirical philosophy since Locke.

c) James' pragmatism is practicalism. An idea is useful because it is true, or it is true because it is useful.

d) Thoughts are just tools with which to do things, and the truth is what's pragmatically useful.

II. John Dewey (1859-1952)

a) Instrumentalism: Thoughts are instrumental in working out problems.

b) Thinking is a process of adjustment between man and his environment.

c) Truth is relative, and is worked out through experience and life.

d) Dewey influenced American education: experimental problem-solving, and non-dogmatic teaching.
1. Since everything is relative, nothing can be decided philosophically. 
2. Pragmatism's stress on relativity fits in with the efficiency of industrial capitalism, etc.
3.  Pragmatism's stress on relativity fits in with the administrative mandates of socialism, technocracy and oligarchical control.

 Can morality be made "scientific"?

Shame Culture and Guilt Culture:

Guilt Culture: Morality is decided internally, individually,

Shame Culture: Morality is decided socially, by society. 

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