Ethics for dummies, by panza & potthast & mill’s utilitarianism


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1. What is a consequentialist ethical theory?

2. What is the difference between an end and a means?

3. What is an intuition pump?

4. What is utilitarianism?  What is the principle of utility?

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5. What is hedonism?

6. What is Jeremy Bentham’s hedonistic calculus?  What characteristics of a pleasure or pain does it take into account?

7. How do Panza & Potthast understand Mill’s distinction between higher pleasures and lower pleasures?  (NOTE: Panza & Potthast get it wrong!  So we’ll be revisiting the issue when we read Mill.)

8. What does it mean to say that utilitarianism is an impartial ethical theory?

9. What is the greatest happiness principle?

10. What is the difference between act utilitarianism (the direct approach) and rule utilitarianism (the indirect approach)?

11. Why do some critics of utilitarianism say that justice and rights are not taken seriously enough by utilitarians?

12. What is the supererogatory, and why is this category a problem for utilitarianism?

13. Why do some critics of utilitarianism think that it threatens personal integrity?

14. What is negative responsibility, and what does it have to do with utilitarianism?

15. What knowledge problem does utilitarianism involve?

16. What does Mill mean by utilitarianism?  On what theory of life is utilitarian ethical doctrine grounded?

17. How does Mill respond to the objection that pleasure-based morality is “swinish”?  What is his doctrine concerning lower and higher pleasures, and how does he defend it?

18. According to Mill, why is nobleness of character important for utilitarian ethics?

19. How does Mill respond to the objection that genuine human happiness is impossible?

20. How does Mill respond to the objection that true moral heroism consists in self-renunciation (i.e., sacrificing one’s own happiness)?

21. What is the ideal of impartiality that Mill’s utilitarianism embraces?  How can this ideal best be approached in human society?

22. How does Mill respond to the objection that utilitarianism sets too demanding a standard of morality?

23. How does Mill respond to the objection that utilitarianism is irreligious?

24. How does Mill respond to the objection that utilitarianism requires the sacrifice of principle to expediency?

25. How does Mill respond to the objection that utilitarianism is impractical because nobody can take time to weigh probable consequences for general happiness of every action before acting?

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