Friends and Fans — I have retired from my work as a public intellectual, so Philosophy in Action is on indefinite hiatus. Please check out the voluminous archive of free podcasts, as well as the premium audio content still available for sale. My two books — Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame and Explore Atlas Shrugged — are available for purchase too. Best wishes! — Diana Brickell (Hsieh)


Utilitarianism

  • Q&A: Impartialism in Ethics: 30 Aug 2015, Question 1
  • Question: Does ethics require impartiality? Critics of egoism, particularly utilitarians, accuse egoists of being biased in favor of oneself without justification. They assert that a scientific ethics must be neutral and impartial: it must take a third-person viewpoint where the self isn't given any special consideration. Are the utilitarians wrong? If so, why should a scientific ethics bias the self over others?

    Tags: Academia, Altruism, Ethics, Impartialism, Meta-Ethics, Philosophy, Relationships, Self, Utilitarianism

  • Q&A: One Thought Too Many in Egoism: 22 Jun 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Does egoism suffer from "one thought too many"? Bernard Williams argues that utilitarianism suffers from a problem of inappropriate motivation in which a person has "one thought too many" before acting morally. So, for example, a good utilitarian must calculate whether the general welfare is served by saving a drowning child before jumping into the water. A truly good person, in contrast, simply jumps into the water to save the child without that calculation. Wouldn't this same objection apply to even rational, benevolent egoism? Or are those extra thoughts between situation and action actually rational?

    Tags: Benevolence, Duty Ethics, Egoism, Emotions, Ethics, Friendship, Impartialism, Meta-Ethics, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Utilitarianism

  • Q&A: Moral Saints: 13 Feb 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Should a person want to be a "moral saint"? In her classic article "Moral Saints," Susan Wolf argues that a person should not wish to be morally perfect, i.e. a moral saint. What is her basic argument? What's right or wrong about it? Does it apply to rational egoism?

    Tags: Altruism, Christianity, Duty Ethics, Egoism, Ethics, Immanuel Kant, Moral Saints, Perfection, Philosophy, Pride, Sacrifice, Susan Wolf, Utilitarianism

  • Q&A: Justifying Punishment: 12 Jan 2014, Question 1
  • Question: What justifies punishing people for committing crimes? In your 2006 graduate paper, "The Scope Problem in Punishment," you criticize utilitarian theories of punishment that aim for deterrence of future crimes on the grounds that they don't punish all and only those who are guilty. Yet why is that a problem? Moreover, why should a criminal be punished if doing so won't have any future benefits, such as deterring future crimes? Doesn't self-interest require that actions have some future benefit – and if so, shouldn't all punishment have some positive future effect like deterrence?

    Tags: Crime, Ethics, Justice, Law, Objectivity, Politics, Punishment, Retributivism, Utilitarianism

  • Q&A: The Nature of Happiness: 22 Jul 2012, Question 3
  • Question: What is happiness? When philosophers such as Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, and Ayn Rand speak of happiness, what do they mean? Is happiness just a fleeting sensation of pleasure? Or is it something more enduring and stable?

    Tags: Aristotle, Ethics, Happiness, Objectivism, Objectivism, Pleasure, Utilitarianism

  • Q&A: The Wrong of Utilitarianism: 29 Apr 2012, Question 1
  • Question: What's wrong with utilitarianism? The basic principle of utilitarianism is "the greatest happiness for the greatest number." What's wrong with that as a moral standard? Shouldn't a person act for the good of society?

    Tags: Collectivism, Egalitarianism, Ethics, Hedonism, Philosophy, Utilitarianism


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