McDate and the Rise of Dating Apps – A Comment

First I want to begin by saying I’m not against Dating Apps, I myself have used them and I know of people who have had really good success with them. As this is a blog about Ethics, I want to think about it in terms of how the process of finding someone, and the frequency with which it is done, is either good or bad, or neutral.

So how does it work? Download any choice of app dedicated to pairing people up and in a matter of minutes your scrolling through today’s classifieds. Thousands of people have signed up as well so it’s a little different than in the past. You can filter age, location, and some even areas like income and other areas of a person that may be desirable or undesirable. Messaging begins and if you’re lucky you exchange places to meet and tell each other what you will be wearing that first night and where you will meet. The second floor of bar X, her in red you in blue etc. etc. So is there anything wrong with this picture? Depends on who you ask.

On the one hand, it is a modern service offered to those looking to meet up with a significant other. On the other hand, it mass produces an experience which for hundreds of years took effort and skill. That seems to be the two sides of the coin. Personally, I’m on the fence.

While these apps have given rise to McDate’s, as we can call them, doesn’t the fact that couples resulting from their use are genuinely happy trump any ick factor. If there is an ick factor at all.

Yes, the ick factor is at play here. Often used for arguments against equal marriage rights, cloning, eating meat, etc. is to a lesser extent an influencer on whether people see McDating as good or bad. Those who have no ick factor say it’s fine. Those that do, of course, say it’s bad. Without going at length into why an ick factor should not have moral influence, I would just end by saying that I’m neutral. My measure would be on an individual basis rather than as a whole, and dependent on amounts of Utility generated.

Just a comment.

Is the only intrinsic good pleasure, and intrinsic evil pain?

The focus of this paper is an examination of the question: Is the only intrinsic good pleasure and the only intrinsic evil is pain? The moral view which agrees with this claim is called value hedonism. Welfare hedonism although very similar is of a slightly different view. Welfare hedonists hold that pleasure and pain are the only intrinsic goods and evils which are counted towards a person’s well-being. They do not rule out the possibility of there being other intrinsic goods and evils just not ones which count towards well-being.

If all that is important is that someone is gaining pleasure regardless from the activities it is that they receive pleasure from, then it would under the view of pleasure being the only intrinsic good mean that a person is living a good life even if they are gaining their pleasure from the most basic of forms.

The objection here, however, is that we intuitively believe that it is not only that someone is gaining pleasure that is important but also from what sorts of activities they are gaining that pleasure from. For instance, if we were to compare someone who gains pleasure from watching the weather network to someone who gains pleasure from watching the opera, we are rightfully inclined to think that the one gaining the pleasure listening to great music has a greater overall well-being than that of the person watching the weather network. This objection raised though does not entirely rule out that pleasure is the only intrinsic good it merely shows that how someone is getting the pleasure is also of importance. Clearly, the mental state someone is in while gaining pleasure is also of importance but even with a combination of physical and mental states producing pleasure is that enough to determine someone’s well-being? Kagan thinks not. He illustrates through the use of the businessman and the experience machine examples that merely having physical and mental pleasures is in fact not by itself enough. There is reason to think that to determine well-being there must be some form of an external criterion to the situation so that well-being cannot be solely determined by the individual. These reasons can be seen in the businessman example.

The businessman example is that of a businessman who believes he has everything he has always wanted, a wife, children, and a successful business which provides him with large amounts of both mental and physical pleasures. What he does not know though is that his wife actually cheats on him, his children use him for his money and his business is about to be bought out. Under the view that pleasure is the only intrinsic good and pain the only intrinsic evil we would have to accept that the businessman’s life is a good one. It is reasonable however to reject the consideration of his life as being a good one because when looked at the situation objectively it is clear that the truth of the matter is he is not living the life he would like. It may be reasonable to say then that another intrinsic good is a certain objective truth of the matter or truth in general. Thus if we are to reject the idea that both the person watching the weather network and the person listening to opera are of equal well-being and also reject the idea that the ignorant businessman is living good life, then it seems to be there is good reason to deny the claim that pleasure is the only intrinsic good.

None of what has already been mentioned however specifically seems to addresses the issue of the intrinsic aspect of the question. Does the idea that the businessman is better off if he actually knew the truth of the matter necessarily mean that the objective truth of the matter is an intrinsic good? Does it not seem to be that the truth of the matter will make the businessman’s life better is a sufficient enough of a reason to state that truth is an intrinsic good. It is clearly a good, but for it to be intrinsic it must meet specific criteria.

To say something has intrinsic value is to say that it is valued for its own sake. Pleasure, for instance, is taken to have intrinsic value because it is valuable in itself, it is not used as a means to an end. Playing a sport, for instance, would be a good but it would not be an intrinsic good because people play sports as a means to the end goal of pleasure. A distinction is therefore made between goods which are in themselves valuable and those which are used as a means to an end called instrumental values. To say that pain is the only intrinsic evil and pleasure the only intrinsic good is not to deny the notion that there are other good’s and evils simply that the only intrinsic ones are pleasure and pain.

There are good reasons however to think that pleasures are not all good, specifically in three instances. The first instance involves morally vicious pleasures. The classic example of this is with torture. It seems reasonable to want to deny the claim that the pleasure someone gets from torturing someone is a good thing, rather just the opposite. Additionally, it is true that we take it to be a good thing to feel some pain for others in pain. Undeserved pleasures also raise serious doubts to the claim that pleasure is intrinsically good. For instance, after committing a crime it is reasonable to accept that the perpetrator deserves a certain degree of pain. The final instance of pleasure which is reason to think that pleasure is not intrinsically good is with mindless pleasures. A good example of this is someone who watches television all day to receive pleasure. These three objections seem to be sufficient enough for disputing the claim that pleasure is an intrinsic good and pain and intrinsic evil, since it is clear that not all pleasures are good and not all pains are evil.

So it may be the case in the end that the only intrinsic good is pleasure and the only intrinsic evil is indeed pain. At the same time, however, it seems clear that to determine the well-being of one’s life there are other goods aside from pleasure which may need to be counted which do not lead to bringing you pleasure but add to the well-being. Likewise with the case of evils which bring you pain but are needed in order to perhaps better recognize the pleasures.

Editing human embryos “morally permissible”

July 17, 2018

While we can tell an acorn from an oak tree, it doesn’t stop the acorn from growing into an oak tree.

Temperatures Impact and Climate Change Affecting Nesting of Sea Turtles

It seems as though today concern for the environment is again in the media and for good reason. Seems that not only are our seas damaged, not beyond repair, and sea animals at jeopardy of vanishing, but the very oceans themselves are increasingly becoming dumping grounds for plastic products of all varieties.

In the news now straws are the culprit rather than our consumer behaviour which drives the pollution to disastrous levels. Stories being shared for a good reason, are warning consumers that changes need to be made and some businesses have taken notice and eliminated their use. Deeming it important to make a stand is hopefully not without some thought on whether looking back in the past, conversations could have lasted longer and been more conclusive on action items.

Only focusing on straws, everyone knows, will not solve this complex problem of climate change and environmental degradation. New approaches to reduce rising temperatures can be made and improvements upon past action can be fruitful. Environmental disasters are linked, as this news story reveals:


The question I have is important for others to know. Why not make it more public? It would only lead to good and better social views on nature.

Henry Sidgwick Intuitionalism and Four Conditions in Determining Trust Worthy Conclusions

In “The Methods of Ethics”, Henry Sidgwick is looking for the proper moral code to use in order to figure out what is it people “ought” to do. In doing so he examines three moral theories seriously, Egoistic hedonism, Universalistic hedonism also known as utilitarianism, and Intuitionalism. Of these three, it is Henry Sidgwick’s review and critique of Intuitionalism with regards to the four conditions he believes must be completely fulfilled in order to arrive at trustworthy conclusions which will be the focus of this paper.

The moral theory of Intuitionalism begins with the fundamental assumption that it is possible for people to clearly see what actions are in themselves right and reasonable. Our intuitions about what is right and wrong relate to the intentions of the individual performing the action. The rightness of an action then depends more on the state of mind of the individual than only the outwards actions themselves. “In other words, what we judge to be ‘wrong’ – in the strictest ethical sense – is not any part of the actual effects, as such, of the muscular movements immediately caused by the agent’s volition, but the effects which he foresaw in willing the act; or, more strictly, his volition of choice of realizing the effects as foreseen.”[1] When analyzing the individual’s state of mind the motives and the intentions of the individual must be examined. While the intention serves as a judge to determine the rightful or wrongness of an action, the motives determine the scale in which that action is right or wrong. For instance, the morality of the simple action of stealing a loaf of bread cannot be determined by the physical action along, a great deal more information needs to be revealed. Two essential bits of information needed to determine the morality of an action under Intuitionalism are the individual’s intentions and motives. One possible scenario is that the individual intended to steal the loaf of bread with the motivation of feeding his family. In this scenario, the act is still wrong but because the motivating factor is taken to be a good one, it lessens how bad the action of stealing is and seems to be intuitively more excusable. If the individual intended to steal the loaf of bread only to see if he could do it than the motivating factor would intuitively not diminish the wrongness of the action. This demonstrates how the rightness or wrongness of an action can be determined intuitively by looking at the intentions and motivations of an action without actually looking at the consequences.

Since Sidgwick is trying to find a usable moral theory to determine what people ought to do, the notion that Intuitionalism can lead to moral judgments of right and wrong is not enough. Many moral theories can tell us what we ought to do but that does not mean that those theories are correct. Sidgwick believes that for Intuitionalism to be a useful theory it must be able to lead us to trustworthy conclusions. In order to distinguish self-evident truths from mere-opinions Sidgwick proposes four conditions, each of which the fulfillment of must be met in order to accept the self-evident truths which follow from Intuitionalism as trustworthy conclusions. The four conditions which must be met are that the terms of the proposition must be clear and precise, the self-evidence of the proposition must be ascertained by careful reflection, it must be mutually consistent, and the intuition must be widely accepted.[2]

Sidgwick thinks that Intuitionalism does not pass the first criteria of being clear and precise. A moral theory must be able to clearly decide every possible case of what is right and what is wrong. It must be that it can determine what our individual duties are in so far as we can reliably say action x is or is not bad. So in the case of the person stealing a loaf of bread, Sidgwick is looking for a moral theory which will have a clear and precise answer i.e. the action of stealing a loaf of bread is bad, what he is trying to avoid is an “it depends answer”. Sidgwick also thinks that Intuitionalism cannot determine what to do in instances where two duties are conflicting with one another. For example, Sidgwick believes that in an instance between meeting someone for lunch, versus saving a person it could not be determined which to do. It seems incorrect though that Intuitionalism cannot make clear and precise principles in both instances of individual duties and when two duties are conflicting with one another. Rather than thinking Intuitionalism fails to meet this criterion it is more the case that Intuitionalism simply needs more specifics in determining whether an action is right or wrong which when dealing with morals is a strong characteristic of the theory rather than a weak characteristic. Although it may be the case that Intuitionalism cannot clearly state whether stealing a loaf of bread is wrong, it is only due to the extreme broadness of the situation. The greater the amount of information provided the stronger and easier it would be for Intuitionalism to make a clear and precise principle from it. For instance if we add to the example of the person stealing a loaf of bread that it is being stolen from a baker who has a large excess of bread which will foreseeable be thrown out, and the person stealing the bread may die of hunger, then it seems that the Intuition that what the person is doing is at least morally neutral if not acceptable. Just how precise the self-evident proposition needs to be is wrongfully left to doubt. It is a fallacy to look for a moral theory which makes sweeping judgments without taking into consideration the context of the action, which by looking at the motives and intentions of an action Intuitionalism is stronger for.

The second condition Sidgwick puts forth to determine if the apparent self-evident truths that stem from Intuitionalism can be taken as trustworthy conclusions is that they must be ascertained by careful reflection.[3] The careful reflection is necessary in Sidgwick’s view in order to guard against mistaking impulses and impressions with dictates of reason and additionally from opinions which upon frequent repetition may be mistaken as self-evidence. This condition of reflection is important for Sidgwick as he does not want to be tempted to simply approve actions as moral any which brings desire. Not everything that first strikes someone as valid is self-evident and Sidgwick is trying to state that it really must be a judgment of self-evidence, intuition is not sufficient grounds alone. He wants to put intuitions of rightness through rigorous testing in order to see if it really expresses a clear intuition of rightness or if it has just been mistaken as such.

That the propositions be taken to be self-evident must be mutually consistent is Sidgwick’s third criteria. He believes that any collision between two intuitions is evidence that the intuition of at least one of them must be false. Although in general, this may be true it does not seem to hold up when the specifics of a case are added, which as already mentioned is what strengthens Intuitionalism. To illustrate this it can be helpful to look at the stealing of the loaf of bread case. Our general intuition about stealing is that it is morally wrong and our general intuition about saving one’s own life is morally good. If the only way the individual could save his life were to steal the loaf of bread in order to feed himself there is a clear case of two intuitions conflicting with one another and yet it does not seem to be that either one of the intuitions is false. Rather than completely eliminating the intuitions on what is right and wrong, it would be more plausible to state that when there are two conflicting intuitions the specifics of the case will lead to a new intuition for all scenarios in which those two previous intuitions conflict. So it could be said that it is intuitively good, perhaps only to a slight degree, that the person stole the loaf of bread. From then on it would be known that it is intuitively good to save a life at the expense of a minor theft in large part because it is intuitively known that the importance of the former vastly outweighs that of the latter.

General acceptance of the self-evidence of an intuitional proposition is Sidgwick’s fourth and final criteria. Since intuitive propositions are supposed to be self-evident then it should be the case that the majority of people can easily arrive at the same conclusion without any elaborate background information.[4] The denial by some of the self-evidence of the proposition would seemingly force impairment in the confidence of a claim one can hold on just how self-evident it truly is.

It is those four conditions, clear and precise, sustained by careful reflection, mutually consistent, and generally accepted, through which Sidgwick goes against Intuitionalism. It actually seems as though Sidgwick set up the conditions in order for Intuitionalism to fail. If the first and third conditions are met then it seems condition two could not be because of what each one demands. The first and third conditions demand specifics while specifics seem to deny the self-evidence of the proposition and thus failing the second condition. Intuitionalism seems incapable of passing these four conditions laid out by Sidgwick to determine if the conclusions that follow can be trustworthy although he believes that Utilitarianism, which is the moral theory he clearly prefers, can pass the test.

The moral theory of Intuitionalism which holds that through intuition, it is possible to clearly determine whether a certain action is right or wrong is rejected by Sidgwick. It is rejected on the basis that the conclusions which are apparently self-evident are not trustworthy, because they do not meet all four of the conditions for determining whether a method of reasoning leads to trustworthy conclusions. Those conditions being that they be clear and precise, self-evident upon careful reflection, mutually consistent and that there is general acceptance of their validity.

[1] Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 7th ed. (1907; Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981) pg.201

[2] ibid pg.338-341

[3] ibid pg.339

[4] ibid pg.341

Flip it and Reverse it

Over the years I continue to look at the world through an ethical lens, it’s unavoidable after 5 years of morality, ethics, law, and theological lectures.

Often people complain today on social media about how this person said this, or this person did that. It is a remarkable equalizer in terms of social justice with corporate PR Teams often themselves in the news frantically responding to a tweet which went uncontrollably viral and permeated the various app feeds of every 15 – 35 year old in the developed world.

It’s as though now we can say, finally, don’t treat me badly or you will be the one in the spotlight. And it will hit you hardest where it hurts, in your pocketbook from a tarnished reputation.

Could this be avoided if people were to follow the “Golden Rule” – do unto others as you would have done unto you. The thought often arises, if an individual said today, I don’t treat people that way and so I do not expect to be treated that way, what could they really do. People have a remarkable tool now in the Internet, to respond in the court of public opinion and marketplace to say “Hey, enough!” Using a tool which has established itself as the means of communication, people today can affect change in ways never before imagined.

The other side of social media and a connected world devoid of personal relationships or relationships strained by time online is that people, at least I find, are increasingly rude and intolerant. Everyone has a microphone and freedom to shout over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc. etc. etc. Online bullying is a very real issue in schools today.

For many, living life with the expectation of being treated how they themselves have treated others is just the normal way of making decisions. Can we say though, without lowering ourselves to “their” level, I will treat others how I have been treated?

If people continually live with the Golden Rule, or as found in many ethical tenants some close variation, then surely how a person has been treated by someone is in fact what they want in return, for good or bad. Some might say, well I am not myself someone who follows the Golden Rule and so treat me well. What they are really saying is I want to be free from consequences my actions may cause. It is one thing to behave a certain way and expect to be treated that way in return. It is outlandish to think unwelcome behaviour would be treated well in return. Is it not? Clearly, there are many who would say, “forgive”, “turn the other cheek”, “get over it”, and they may in fact interestingly be those who live strongest by the Golden Rule.

It’s a complex dilemma for sure. If we “Flip it and Reverse it” to take Missy Elliott’s terminology, on the left hand we have nothing in return for unwelcome behaviour which we have forgiven. On the right hand, we have change through activism and progress. Change based not on benign neglect of social justice concerns, but on expectations of a better world and social environments free of hate and intolerance.

Why Values Hinder Pareto Efficieny Calculations

When the idea that hockey players should be wearing helmets first came out, many thought it was a good idea and said that they would endorse it while at the same time refusing to wear one themselves because others were not. This assignment looks at some of the conditions under which it may be rational for players to not wear helmets themselves while at the same time supporting a rule which would require everyone to wear one, and what some implications of this may be for understanding efficiency.

Efficiency when looking at market economics is generally taken to mean Pareto efficiency, which falls under the Pareto standard. The Pareto standard is the idea that a social state is more efficient with the more people in that state in which it is efficient for. So for instance, a social state between fifteen people will be as efficient as possible when it is efficient for each individual in that society working towards making it efficient. This creates a benefit for those involved in making a greater positive balance of achievement over sacrifice. Pareto efficiency is used because it allows the possibility for at least some individuals to be in a better position to achieve their goals while at the same time not hindering anyone else’s ability to do so. It, therefore, would allow one or several hockey players to not wear helmets in order to make more profit if possible while at the same time not decreasing the amount of profit for those who are wearing helmets.

Possible conditions than for not wearing a helmet could be when someone wants to gain endorsements and a way in which to do so is to distinguish your self from the rest of the hockey players. This was one of the reasons why some of the players decided not to wear helmets when they were first introduced because they believed that their fans would not be able to recognize them. Under this view, it seems it would be wrong to force helmets upon them because in doing so you would be worsening their welfare while improving others. This, however, is assuming that welfare is only taken to mean profit which need not be the case.

While the Pareto efficiency may allow certain players to not wear helmets if they so choose in order to maximize their own gains, Pareto efficiency can also provide a reason for supporting a rule requiring hockey players to wear helmets if welfare is taken to mean not only profit but also safety. In making helmet wearing mandatory everyone who plays hockey will be safer while not making anyone worse off. In the ability of helmets to decrease the risk of skull fracture upon hitting the ice, it is clear that a player’s welfare in the health and safety sense will be improved. Even this claim, however, has been recently challenged, by suggestions that the wearing of helmets provides a false sense of security through which the players become more aggressive and actually increase the risks of serious injury. On the profit side of the issue, if everyone was forced to wear a helmet then it could not be said that one person is losing profit from not having the fans recognize their face because that loss would be placed upon each player equally.

We are understanding efficiency in the market as Pareto efficiency which only allows for win-win transformations. To know if the implementation of mandatory hockey helmets is an efficient rule to require, it needs to be that such a rule will create a win-win transformation. In order for this to be known there need to be certain presuppositions in which to determine what the value is of certain inputs and outputs such as profit and health. In addition, there must be a consensus of the presuppositions in which all of the hockey players come to in order to make it valid. What the costs and benefits will have a large impact on whether or not the suggested helmet rule is an efficient one.

The problem with cost-benefit analysis is those specific measurements on values such as health and well-being cannot be made as easy as it can with money. Additionally, finding a consensus throughout the entire hockey league on how much weight should be given to each value in the analysis would be an extremely difficult task to accomplish. While some players would place more weight on health and well-being others would place more weight on profit. Others, the more reasonable ones perhaps, would recognize that the two are combined. Someone who stays safe has a better chance of making a greater profit over the long run than someone who does not wear the necessary protective gear and then becomes injured unable to make a profit. For our understanding of efficiency in large groups then, it would seem that the implication of a rule which requires hockey players to wear helmets would be efficient. When looking at individual efficiency however it is generally evaluated in accordance with the agent’s own goals and preferences.

If we were to look at one individual hockey player and evaluate that person in accordance with their own goals and preferences than it could easily be the case that the implications of implementing the helmet rule are indeed not efficient. For example, if prior to implementing the rule, the hockey player generated a large portion of profit from fans recognizing him and faced only a small amount of danger while on the ice, forcing the player to wear a helmet would create a losing scenario for the individual.

It must be concluded then that the implications for efficiency differ depending on whether we look at individual hockey players or all of the hockey players together. When we look at them as one it would in effect lead to the implementation of the helmet rule while if we look at them individually the efficiency of implementation of the helmet rule will vary from case to case.

Right to be Forgotten

Hello Ethics Nutters,

As I subscribe to the The American Journal of Bioethics I saw this fascinating podcast on the right to be forgotten in the digital age. Link below:

What some see as an issue others may not. Seems like a lot stems from matters of opinion.

Go through it and you’ll know where I’m coming from.




John Stuart Mill – Why be Moral?

It is not enough for moral theories to simply explain how things should be and then just leave it at that, there needs to be some reason for people to follow a moral theory. In other words, there needs to be some form of consequences inherent to that theory so that there is a reason to be moral, a reason not to break the rules. Each moral theory must answer this question in order for it to be applicable in the real world, and each goes about it in different ways. It is the focus of this paper to show why John Stuart Mill believes one should be moral under Utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism is a moral theory that states an action is morally right if and only if it produces more or at least the same amount of good, called utility, as any other alternative action available to the person.[1] To this, Mill added a greatest happiness principle which is simple one should act in such a way as to produce the greatest happiness.[2]

Mill focuses on which sanctions Utilitarianism provides compared to others and why people will follow Utilitarianism in chapter 3 of Utilitarianism 2nd Edition. Mill states that Utilitarianism can impose all of the sanctions other moral theories can, just as easily.[3] According to Mill there are two types of sanctions relating to moral theories, external and internal. External sanctions according to Mill are sanctions which are external to a person such as a sanction from fear of disapproval stemming from peer pressure. Mill does not go into great detail about this but believes that like other moral theories this form of sanction can be associated with Utilitarianism.[4] Internal sanctions, on the other hand, seem more important to Mill because they involve our conscience and are stronger. Internal sanctions come from ones own conscience and their feeling of duty such as the satisfaction from fulfilling a duty.[5] Mill sees these internal sanctions as being subjective because what one person may view as duty another may not, but this is a problem which he notes not only Utilitarianism has to deal with, but all moral theories.[6] Mill is most interested in these internal sanctions because what he is looking for is some kind of force to bind people to a moral code and since internal sanctions have the strongest influence on a person’s actions Mill targets them.

These sentiments of duty which Mill tries to use as a binding force can be either innate or implanted. He does not believe that it really matters which of the two it is because either would support Utilitarianism. If they are innate he does not see why they could not be with respect to others pain and pleasure, and so it would be fine under Utilitarianism and his greatest happiness principle.[7] Mill, however, feels that internal sanctions are not innate but rather implanted, but that they still remain natural.[8] He thinks that they can spring up spontaneously or can be cultivated. Those moral feelings which are cultivated into existence are natural according to Mill because they are a “natural outgrowth”[9] from human nature similar to speaking, or building cities.[10] This look at how Mill accepts implanted morals as internal sanctions raises doubts. There seem to be several problems with Mill accepting internal sanctions to be implanted. These are that the implications for what could now be called human nature seem to be drastic, that Mill is overlapping external sanctions with internally implemented sanctions, and there is a problem with the possibility of cultivating bad morals which he himself addresses.

To support Mills claim that moral feelings are acquired and yet still natural he uses several examples of acquired faculties in which he sees as natural, and that he believes no one would question as natural. His examples are of speech, reasoning, building cities, and farming.[11] These examples are flawed though because the first two are very different from the latter two. The first two examples seem to be innate human abilities which occur in human nature because humans are born with them and instead of acquiring these abilities later in life they are really just developing them. Everyone has, aside from birth defects, the ability to speak and reason later in life. The level of teaching someone how to speak is so low that it need not really be taught but only requires the infant to merely listen to something which cannot be avoided. As for reasoning, certain forms can be taught, and may even be very complex, but on the basic level of reasoning, it appears to be more of a function of the brain that can be present without being taught to the person. The other two examples, on the other hand, are things that are acquired but are so, from many lifetimes worth of knowledge being passed down through time and built upon. No one is born with the knowledge of how to farm or how to build a city, and how to do so properly would be impossible for a human to do in a lifetime. To simply say that because it is an “outgrowth” from human nature it is natural is to obscure the definition. This would mean that anything humans do is natural. For example, it was perfectly natural for Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon. That, according to Mill’s rational, is natural for a human to do. Mill should have stuck with internal sanctions which were innate. These seem to be things which are indeed natural because no one needs to be taught that health or security are good things all living beings innately recognize this from birth. This is only the first of a few problems that arise from his line of reasoning.

Mill distinguishes internal sanctions with implanted morals, from external sanctions when they should be looked at as the same thing. If for example someone is peer pressured into doing good deeds for the world and generating happiness for as many people as possible, and then the subject actually begins to develop his own desire to do this, it still began as peer pressure from a fear of disapproval, which is an external sanction. To this, however, Mill may respond something along the lines of the following. In the beginning, when he was doing the actions from fear of disapproval, it was an external sanction, but the moment he wanted to do it on his own it became an internal sanction which was implemented. From this however, one can see that if someone peer pressures someone into doing a bad act then it may get to the point where the person actually wants to do the evil act, and this seems to raise a problem.

This problem of bad morals being cultivated is actually addressed by Mill. His response is it is that these are “artificial”[12] moral feelings, and they are so, because they are being imposed rather than being naturally developed.[13] Imposed feelings, according to Mill, can be distinguished from naturally developed ones because naturally developed ones do not dissolve under scrutiny.[14] The problem here is how to distinguish “cultivation” and “imposition”. This really needs to be addressed because the former, Mill states can lead to good morals while the latter leads to bad “artificial” ones. If someone is cultivating someone even for seemingly good reasons, they must be to some degree imposing their values on another person, because through cultivation they are trying to alter a person’s view, in the end, to coincide with their own. If they did not need to impose their values on the other person then they would not need to cultivate the person in the first place because their morals would be aligned. The fact that Mill does not go into any great detail in this area seems to be a weakness. Mill makes a distinction between being able to naturally develop morals through cultivation, which requires some degree of imposition, and not being able to naturally develop morals through imposition alone. This distinction does not seem to exist. Even if one was to accept this distinction it remains unclear why an “artificial” imposed moral would always dissolve under scrutiny. If Mill was to impose instead of cultivating people to accept Utilitarianism, would it not stand up to scrutiny? Mill skips over many parts that just cannot be excluded because they raise serious doubts and reveal real weaknesses in his line of reasoning.

Never the less Mill believes that since utilitarian feelings of duty stand up to scrutiny, it is a strong foundation.[15] This is what Mill’s argument uses as a foundation and goes roughly as follows. The principles that Utilitarianism hold are a natural “outgrowth” from human nature which can be cultivated, and not be considered “artificial” because they are not being imposed and can withstand scrutiny. Because these principles are being cultivated they are implanted rather than innate sentiments of duty. These implanted sentiments of duty are of the strongest form of sanctions, internal ones. This will ensure people follow Utilitarianism so that they do not feel as though they have violated their sense of duty, which has been cultivated into them.

Through this paper, it has been discovered that this position is not strong. The fact that Mill tries to assert, that the feeling of duty crucial to Utilitarianism stands up to scrutiny is questionable and is never proved. Mill’s notion of what is and is not natural is inaccurate. The distinction between imposing ones views and cultivating someone to accept a view seems irrelevant if at all there is one. Finally, there also does not seem to be any real reason why to distinguish implanted internal sanctions with external sanctions. For all of these reasons, Mill does not do an adequate job in providing rational reasons why Utilitarianism is binding with inherent consequences and thus needs to be revised to be a successful moral theory.

[1] Robert Audi, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy 2nd Edition, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pg. 942

[2] Ibid pg. 942

[3] John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism 2nd Edition, Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing, 2001, pg. 28

[4] Ibid pg. 28

[5] John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism 2nd Edition, Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing, 2001, pg. 29

[6] Ibid pg. 29

[7] Ibid pg. 30

[8] Ibid pg. 31

[9] Ibid pg. 31

[10] Ibid pg. 31

[11] John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism 2nd Edition, Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing, 2001, pg. 31

[12] John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism 2nd Edition, Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing, 2001, pg. 31

[13] Ibid pg. 31

[14] Ibid pg. 31

[15] John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism 2nd Edition, Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing, 2001, pg. 31

Art Caplan on Trump’s Doctor

Hello Ethics Nutters,

An interesting interview with Art Caplan on the most recent Trump scandal involving his former Doctor.

Interesting to hear what he has to say.

Here’s the link: