ALOHA

Blog ini merupakan coretan dari berbagai permasalahan baik tentang iman, pandangan hidup, kumpulan bahan perkuliahan, masalah kesehatan dan masalah-masalah lain dalam kehidupan manusia. Blog ini hanyalah sebuah media untuk sharing tentang berbagai hal.


“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”(Dr. Seuss)

Jumat, 01 Juni 2012

Teleological Ethics

We have already encountered one teleological system: individual ethical egoism. You will remember that the right thing to do here was to do what turned out best for you as an individual. This turned out not to be especially attractive so now let us consider consequences that look more promising.
 There are some different candidates for gauging whether an action is right or wrong in terms of the consequences that result (or would result) from it. We might say that an action is right if it leads to greater concordance with God's wishes for the world. One can read this interpretation from Kierkegaard's analysis of the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Christian Bible. Here, God tells Abraham, the father, to kill (sacrifice) his son Isaac. Despite the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' and his duty as a parent to care for his son, Abraham prepares to obey – because he knows that it is right and good to obey God notwithstanding any other consideration (like disobeying one of God's laws or killing an innocent person whom he loves).

Theories of this type are called teleological because they look at what happens (or will happen) following an action which has a moral dimension – what the outcome (or end – which is where 'telos' comes from) is or will be. Typically, one's actions may then be good if the outcome is desirable. Of course, predicting what will happen if we take a particular course of action is not all that the theories are about. They are ethical in that they prescribe what sorts of consequences are good – ones we ought to do; and what sorts are bad – ones we ought not do.
We have already encountered one teleological system: individual ethical egoism. You will remember that the right thing to do here was to do what turned out best for you as an individual. This turned out not to be especially attractive so now let us consider consequences that look more promising.
 There are some different candidates for gauging whether an action is right or wrong in terms of the consequences that result (or would result) from it. We might say that an action is right if it leads to greater concordance with God's wishes for the world. One can read this interpretation from Kierkegaard's analysis of the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Christian Bible. Here, God tells Abraham, the father, to kill (sacrifice) his son Isaac. Despite the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' and his duty as a parent to care for his son, Abraham prepares to obey – because he knows that it is right and good to obey God notwithstanding any other consideration (like disobeying one of God's laws or killing an innocent person whom he loves).
As we have seen, even if God exists, it is still necessary for us to discover the best ethical system available to us – and this is true a fortiori if we are non-believers. 

Utilitarianism

Another teleological candidate is to do whichever action leads to the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people. Thus, if action A leads to X amount of happiness whereas B only leads to 95% of X, A is the good thing to do and B is not. There are two important things to notice here. The first is that the intentions behind the action do not count. So, if lying in a particular situation leads to greater happiness than not lying, it is good to lie in those circumstances: the liar is good (in those circumstances) and the truth-teller bad. The second thing is that, in principle, this system can give an answer to any circumstances in which a person finds themselves – there is no dilemma, no situation where the good thing is impossible – simply calculate the various amount(s) of happiness which would result then do the one that leads to the greatest.

Happiness, however, despite it seeming to be a prime candidate for the basis of an ethical system (after all, who does not want happiness?), needs to be examined a little more closely before we are ready to go on. To show people that happiness is not the sole state that is important, there is the pleasure-machine thought-experiment. Imagine there is a pleasure-machine into which you can climb. Once in it, your brain is connected up to a simulator which fulfils perfectly your every desire: you want champagne and strawberries? The taste, feel, and so on of this experience are conjured up and fed into your brain and you, in the machine, can tell no difference between this and the real thing. The same goes for any other experience you can wish for. In other words, the machine can make you perfectly happy, all of the time, for the rest of your life. The one possible drawback is that, once inside, you can never get out. Would you get in? Most people would like to try it out for a while, but few people actually say that this (happiness) is all that they want in their life. The thought-experiment is used to demonstrate that, in fact, the sort of life an individual wants is not just optimal happiness. Thus, basing an ethical system solely on happiness is not going to be satisfactory.

Similarly, we can look at mass happiness. If the World Government (assuming there were such a thing) decided to go for the greatest happiness of the greatest number by putting a drug in everyone's water so that we were all in a state of bliss all day long all our lives long, would we say that they would be doing good? Again this is a rhetorical question – we are expecting everyone to see that this would not be good at all.
We might also note here a difficulty with the formulation of 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number'. Notice that it contains two 'greatests' and this means that there are two variables involved. This introduces a problem because which of the two 'greatests' are we supposed to be aiming for? Suppose that we have a 100 people and a large sum of money. Which should we do: give the same amount of money to each person which increases everyone's happiness by a certain amount (the 'greatest number')? Or do we give different amounts to different people to maximize happiness since some people are made much, much happier with a lot of money than others (the 'greatest happiness')? This quandary can set Utilitarians apart. Peter Singer, for example, insists that in developed countries people should have a third of their income taken and redistributed to the non-developed countries of the world. 

This wealth redistribution would presumably diminish the happiness of the few rich, enhance the happiness of the many poor so, overall, produce happiness for the greatest number. However, other Utilitarians argue that the few rich will be much, much less happy and the many poor only a little bit happier after such a wealth distribution and so this would not give the greatest happiness.

Considerations about the limitations of happiness such as those above led John Stuart Mill to a different definition of what was foundational to ethical behaviour. Mill was a Utilitarian and he put utility at the base of behaviour: you should act to increase utility in society. For Mill utility is not simply happiness. Otherwise, given that ignorance is bliss, ignorance is good and knowledge bad. Mill's definition of utility is 'the permanent interests of man as a progressive being' which is something far more complex. This makes it far less easy to agree on what, exactly, utility is. How 'permanent' does it have to be? What sorts of things can be classed as 'interests'? What counts as 'progressive'? Perhaps these difficulties make the whole idea unattractive but nearly everyone would agree that there is something about the consequences of actions that really do matter and thus we need to pay attention: intending to hit someone is treated quite differently from actually hitting someone. This treatment recognizes that consequences count so unless we can show that the outcome of our actions need not be considered at all (see the deontological section for this approach), then we ought to entertain it as a serious possibility for a while longer at least.

There are two basic types of utilitarianism. The first focuses on the specific act and its specific consequences (usually referred to as act-utilitarianism). The merit of this is its simplicity: in any circumstances choose to do what maximizes utility and you will have done what is right. The problem with it is its simplicity. How can we check out the consequences of every possible action before we act? It is impractical. Further, it ignores what seem to be fundamental intuitions about right and wrong. If I kill and dismember a healthy orphan and use their body parts to save the lives of lots of people (2 kidney transplants, a heart transplant, bone marrow, blood, skin grafts, etc.) then, if the utility generated is greater (as it might well be in this case) then I will have done a good thing. To most people, the ethical system which permits this is itself immoral.

The second type focuses on rules of conduct which lead to greater utility – so-called rule-utilitarianism. This seems to be more respectable and more sophisticated than act-utilitarianism but, as we shall see later, there is still a place for simply considering an act on its own merits despite the difficulties outlined in the previous paragraph. Rule-utilitarians say that it is possible to devise rules which, if followed, will lead to maximizing utility.

The appeal of this is immediate – it gets us out of the problem of having to consider all consequences of all alternative actions before doing something (which act-utilitarianism demands) and allows us to adopt the rule. So, for instance, if there is a rule that non-lying leads to greater utility, in a situation where I might lie or tell the truth, all I need do is not lie: that will be the good thing to have done. It also acknowledges (as put in more detail in the ethical egoism section) that we are rule-following creatures – we are constantly seeking and applying general principles by which to live. Finally, it rests ethical behaviour squarely on the outcome for society (local or global depending on the scope of the action) as a whole, treating others as we would wish them to treat us. Again, this last has a strong intuitive appeal and perhaps brings us some relief to see it incorporated into an ethical system.

That said, rule-utilitarianism faces some formidable objections. The first is that it cannot even call itself utilitarian which threatens to blow it right out of the water before it even gets going. The objection here is that devising the rules refers us to deontological principles for justification – so the 'not lying' rule is justified not because we know that this will maximise utility (this we cannot know without the evidence) but because it is not rational to have a society in which lying is commonplace (see the section on Kant's deontological system).

If rule-utilitarianism tries to avoid this accusation, then it seems to fall back into act-utilitarianism. For example, it is not hard to imagine a situation where an act which breaks the rule will lead to greater utility – lying to someone about their abilities may well produce greater utility than obey the 'not lying' rule and telling them they are inept. In this case, we use act-utilitarianism to produce greater utility than rule-utilitarianism: therefore, act-utilitarianism trumps rule-utilitarianism and so is the one to rely on if you want to be a thorough-going utilitarian.

The rule-utilitarian has a way of resisting this analysis. What can be done is to adopt different levels of thinking when deciding what to do. The general, everyday, level is to behave in a rule-utilitarian sort of way – obey the rules that are likely to lead to greatest utility. However, given that we sometimes find there is a conflict between such rules, then we can adopt act-utilitarianism and do what we judge will lead to the greatest utility. This seems to accommodate problems like the 'white lying' one we have been talking about. The utilitarian will generally not lie since this rule, if broken, leads to less utility. However, when this conflicts with another rule like increasing another individual's happiness a good deal (which involves telling them a lie) then it is right to lie in those circumstances.

You will not be surprised that this still doesn't satisfy many moral philosophers. A major objection is one that we have already outlined. What does the act-utilitarian (thinking on the non-everyday level) refer to when judging whether to follow one rule rather than another? Since the consequences of any act cannot be known in anything like sufficient detail, then it looks suspiciously like they must simply follow their intuitions. 'Following your intuitions', as we have seen in the ethical egoism section, has few attractions.

Another strong objection to the utilitarian approach stems from Bernard Williams' example of Jim and Pedro. Jim is a botanist working deep in a jungle in a South American country when he gets separated from the rest of his group. Fortunately for him, he happens upon a village. Unfortunately, he also happens on an execution about to be carried out by a captain, Pedro, and a group of soldiers. Pedro sees Jim and soon discovers that he is a famous botanist working alongside the South American country's government to discover plant medicines to help the ill people of that country. Jim in turn discovers that Pedro has orders to execute 20 people from the village as a reprisal for the shooting of a soldier in the village the previous day. Pedro explains that he chose the 20 by getting all 200 people in the village to line up in any order they liked. 

He then simply picked out every 10th person. And now these 20 are to be shot. Jim is appalled and argues that, in his country, this is not just – perhaps it might be fair for one life to be taken to compensate for the lost life of the soldier, but not an innocent life, and certainly not 20 lives. Pedro replies that this is how things are done in his country. But wait, he has a solution. Since Jim is an honoured guest and helping his country, Pedro says that he can persuade his superiors that, in this case, he can avoid killing all 20 people by saying that he is honouring Jim by adopting his (Jim's) country's type of justice. But, in return, Jim must adopt a bit of the South American country's justice: Jim must choose one of the 20 people for execution and then shoot that person himself. The other 19 will then go free. Jim is in a moral dilemma.

The utilitarian approach (with its appealing simplicity) to this dilemma is that Jim chooses the one of the 20 potential victims with least utility (perhaps the oldest, the least healthy, the baby?) and then shoots him/her. The utilitarian approach (with its appalling simplicity) is then to say that Jim has done a good thing. What this example demonstrates more than anything else is that utilitarianism is not enough to fully cope with human behaviour. What we would like to say is that Jim may have done what was best in the circumstances, but we would not call the killing of an innocent individual good as utilitarianism insists.

Examples like this remind us that there is more to human behaviour than a simple calculus involving quantities of happiness. What seems to be missing from the utilitarian approach, as well as the deontological approach, is a full incorporation of another human attribute: the way we feel about certain types of behaviour. The ethical system which has emerged as a rival to these other two systems, and which seeks to help us to a deeper understanding of how to behave, is both very old and very new: it is called Virtue Ethics and we will look at it next.

Source : E-book