202 Jan 25a

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Philosophy 202 Introduction to Ethics:

Philosophy 202 Introduction to Ethics Wednesday January 25, 2012


Epicurus Greek philosophy (341 - 270 BC). Believed pleasure to be the highest good. In the ancient world, he was the chief opponent to perfectionist moral philosophers. Modern word 'epicure' comes from his name.

Wise Pursuit of Pleasure:

Wise Pursuit of Pleasure Some physical pleasure will bring you pain Stomach ache after a large meal. Exhaustion after constant partying. Epicurus: You must pursue pleasure wisely Do not allow small pleasures to get in the way of greater pleasures Some large pleasures require hard work such as friendship and health The small pains these things require pay off in the long run.

Human Well-being:

Human Well-being Perfectionist Epicurus misses the mark. It is still the case that, in theory, a pig could experience a better life than a human being. The life of the pig could be preferable. The question is not "Why shouldn't I roll around in the mud like a pig?" but rather, "Why is it the case that a human life is better than the life of the pig rolling in the

Pleasure or Well-being:

Pleasure or Well-being The perfectionist thinks there is a distinctly human kind of well-being. The pig is incapable of experiencing this, no matter what. A kind of happiness available only to human beings (There may also be a distinctly pig kind of well-being) When human beings say they want to be happy, they are not expressing a desire for pleasure, but for human well-being. The Hedonist needs to explain why pleasure is distinctly human.

J. S. Mill:

J. S. Mill British philosopher (1806 - 1873) Social reformer Instrumental in universal suffrage and the abolishment of American slavery Advocated a form of hedonism called Utilitarianism

Kinds of Pleasure:

Kinds of Pleasure Quantity v. Quality of pleasure Quantity: How much pleasure you received The pig receives a lot of pleasure from rolling in the mud Probably more pleasure than I receive from going to work Quality: The kind of pleasure received The pleasure I get from going to work is of a higher quality than the pig's pleasure Eating a really good meal is better than eating a hot dog.

The “Ultimate Test”:

The “Ultimate Test” People's preferences show us which pleasures are of a higher quality Chess is better than pushpin (checker- ish game) Those who are acquainted with both prefer the latter. Characteristics of higher quality pleasures Intellectually demanding More nuanced and complex Require more work to obtain

Perfectionist Rebuttal:

Perfectionist Rebuttal Why are higher qualities of pleasure better? One answer: the higher quality pleasure exercise faculties that contribute to the goodness of our life. This is no longer hedonism - it is perfectionism Only available answer: exercising our higher faculties brings us pleasure. Pleasure is the result of exercising those faculties. Perfectionist rejects this - sometimes the exercise of those faculties is rewarding but not pleasant. Solving a difficult problem.


Rationalism Opposition of reason and appetite Reason can and should control appetite Life is a struggle to balance competing motives. Kant, Plato, and Hobbes are all rationalists of this sort.


Naturalism Reason is a natural phenomenon and only a part of the human person. Appetite can control reason and be controlled by reason. Appetites are not wrong simply because they are appetites. The mere fact that something is "of the body" does not make it bad. Aristotle, Mill, and Hume are naturalists of this sort.

The Ends of Life:

The Ends of Life Rationalist The ends of life are determined by reason What is rational determines what is good. Hence for Plato reason rules the soul. Naturalist The ends of life are determined by nature. Because we are things of a certain sort we should act in a certain way. The best life is connected to the kind of thing we are.


Aristotle An cient Greek Philosopher (384 - 322 BC) Fo un ding figure in naturalist, biology, psychology, and physics. Huge ly influential in Christianity, Islam, and medieval Judaism. Redisc ov ery of his works sparked the Renaissance

The function argument:

The function argument Ev ery kind of thing has a function Pe rf orming that function well is what is good for that kind of thing. Disc ov ering the function will allow one to understand what will allow that thing to perform its function. Proper ti es that allow a thing to perform its function are virtues (in Greek 'excellences').

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