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Reading Notes

Reading philosophical essays is more challenging in that you often have to scan once, read once, and review once before you can adequately explain the author's position. In order to be sure that you are receiving maximum benefit from your time spent studying, try to answer the guide questions posed below. If you cannot answer them, it is time to read or review to be sure you understand the main arguments presented. See more tips here.

Modern Ethicists: Immanuel Kant & John Stuart Mill

Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill are the two most famous ethicists of the 19th century. Kant first disputes the nature of ethics and ethical theories with Mill's tutor Jeremy Bentham, the originator of utilitarian ethics. This week is about the debate between the two approaches: deontological versus utilitarian. Our discussion highlights the ways in which these two philosophers have influenced everything from business management to cultural debates.

 

  1. Resources
  2. Guide Questions
  3. Smartboard Notes

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's reading:

Kant:

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's reading:

John Stuart Mill and Utilitarianism:


Guide Questions:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. The subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Objectives for this week: To understand the basic differences between deontological and utilitarian ethics as demonstrated in the works of Kant and Mill. After completing the assigned readings, reviewing the resources above and attempting the guide questions below, you should be able to:

  1. explain Kant's notion of the good will and its connection with duty and obligation
  2. distinguish between a categorical versus hypothetical imperative
  3. describe the concepts of universality, consistency and reversibility as they apply to the categorical imperative
  4. generate categorical imperatives for any situation
  5. distinguish between the higher and lower pleasures in Mill's ethics
  6. show how Mill rehabilitates Bentham;s utilitarianism to refute the charge that it is an ethics for swine
  7. explain the GHP and how it works in altruistic utilitarianism

Kant & Mill:

Guide Questions:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. I will check to see if you've completed them; the subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Kant

  1. Kant begins by defining the good will.  What is it? Is it related to circumstance?
  2. Do the results achieved under the direction of the good will matter when we review the moral worth of our actions?
  3. What is the categorical imperative and how ought it to be applied?
  4. What is the difference between a hypothetical and a categorical imperative?
  5. Kant covers four cases in which a categorical imperative must be applied. List the maxim generated in each case.
  6. What is the relationship between duty and obligation and how are they related to the good will in Kant's ethics?

Mill

  1. What are the most desirable ends according to Mill?
  2. What are the higher and lower pleasures?
  3. Name three distinct characteristics for higher pleasures.
  4. Who is a qualified judge for evaluating pleasures?
  5. Why are the higher pleasures more risky than lower pleasures?
  6. Does society encourage the cultivation of higher pleasures?
  7. What is the Greatest Happiness Principle?
  8. What is the proper approach to dealing with the concerns of others when deciding upon a course of action?
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Smartboard Notes from Week 11 Lectures:

 

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