Determining Mill's Position on Utilitarianism
1) As we’ve seen, Act Utilitarianism runs into objections, many of which concern the idea that people have rights not to be treated merely as means, even if it will do a great deal of good. One way a Utilitarian can respond to these objections is to abandon Act Utilitarianism in favour of Rule Utilitarianism. Do you think Mill does this? In other words, which sort of Utilitaranism do you think Mill is endorsing in his book, Utilitarianism? Is he an Act Utilitarian? Is he a Rule Utilitarian? Is he inconsistent? To answer this, you will have to look for places where Mill tips his hand, so to speak. Are there passages that support one interpretation over another? Is there conflicting evidence? To answer this question, you will need to be clear about what would count as evidence that Mill is a Rule Utilitarian. Is it enough that he thinks there are moral rules?
2) Several times over the course of the term, we’ve considered a kind of map or flow chart of different ways of thinking about ethics. Choose one of our authors and answer this question: how do you think this author would answer each of the questions on the map? Give evidence for your answer at each step. (For example, if you were answering this question for Hume, you would want to decide whether he thinks there are no truths in ethics. If you argue that he thinks there are no truths in ethics, then you would want to discuss his argument for that, and explain how he understands “ought” as opposed to “is.” If you argue that he does think there are truths in ethics, then you would need to decide where he thinks those truths come from. Do they come from the attitudes of a particular society, for example?)
3) We’ve been thinking about what philosophy is. One idea is that it is dialectical discussion. But in most cases there couldn’t be a real conversation between one of our authors and another. The later author could address the earlier author, but the earlier author couldn’t reply. Write a paper in which you imagine a two- 1way conversation between two of our authors. It need not be in the form of a dialogue, but it should contain an explanation of something the first author said, an explanation of how the second author might, or did, react to what the first author said, and an explanation of what the first author might say back. (For example, Mill suggests that Kant’s theory really just amounts to a kind of Utilitarianism. You could explain what you think Kant’s theory is, and then explain what Mill is saying about it, and then imagine what Kant might say back to Mill, if he could reply.)Finally, where do you think the conversation you’ve imaginedmight lead? Can you think of a way to move it forward?