I just wanted to know if any of you are Anarchists or Communists. If you are I would like to add you to my friends and ask you to join my Anarchist group. If you aren't either then talk to me anyway so I can make you one. ;)

Tags: Anarchy, Communism

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Db0 wrote on July 24, 2008
(George Kane wrote) No action is good or bad in itself, but only as it produces harm or benefit in peoples’ lives

(Db0 responded) No, I disagree wholeheartedly. Your examples are creating impossible situations in order to justify moral consequentialism but all of these examples can be countered by other moral systems as well. Similar to the example of living in Germany, hiding a Jew from the Nazis and having one of them at your door asking you if you are hiding a Jew. The moral action is of course to lie about it, even though lying it morally condemnable most of the time. The reasons to do so is not because the consequences of are better, but because your intentions are correct.


This is a completely inadequate example to undermine consequentialism, because it seems clear to me that the reason that lying to the Nazis is the right thing to do is specifically because it saves lives. If the person at the door were to say to the Nazi “Listen, friend, nobody here wants any trouble. Here a a couple hundred Marks. Why don’t you run along and buy something nice for your Frau?” there is no doubt that his intentions are correct. But it in fact discloses the hiding Jew, leading directly to his capture. Therefore, the action was wrong – and not because bribery is illegal.

Db0 continued:
In your example above, if the war was truly unavoidable in every other way then it would be morally wrong not to marry that person if you were to save thousands of people from death. Of course your example, by itself, puts us into a generally immoral situation that is unlikely to occur today so imho there is no point in using modern morality to explain it. It would be better if you could apply your examples to something current.

In every situation, the moral value of an action is determined by the balance of harm and benefit that results, not because it conforms to or violates a rule. So, to prove this point, I have to provide situations in which the normal moral rules do not apply.

Moral rules are usually pretty good guides to action, mental short-cuts based on society’s experience. If you follow them, they will produce beneficial outcomes most of the time. But a person trained to rely on consequential moral analysis should always be alert for exceptions.

Here’s an example that isn’t too ancient. In 2000, a couple from Malta brought their conjoined baby twins, Mary and Jody, to Britain for medical treatment. The British medical team determined that Mary’s organs were so week that she could not live for long. Mary was, in effect, a parasite on the more robust Jody, and would drain Jody to death also if they were not separated. The doctors expected that Jody could be successfully separated and could be expected to live a normal life. Mary, without Jody;s organs to sustain her, would quickly die.

At the time I read an opinion by a Monsignor LoSchiavo, who argued that it was completely clear that the doctors must not separate the twins. It is an absolutely inviolable law, the cleric claimed, that we must never take an innocent life. We must totally disregard the medical opinions of the doctors, he insisted, because they were based only on medical facts and not on law.

The parents were Roman Catholics, and insisted on this Natural Law reasoning, so the doctors took the parents to court. The British court gave the doctors permission to separate the twins over the parents’ objections. As expected, Mary died and Jody is living a healthy, normal life.

Because the court reasoned consequentially, Jody is alive. If they had followed the “Natural Law” morality of the Catholic Church, both girls would be dead. I think that this demonstrates the superiority of consequentialism over rule-based ethics such as natural law.

Db0 continued:
I cannot think of a modern situation in which rape would be good. I think that in the case you provide, it would be ridiculous to assert that the rapist’s decision to rape was the product of consequential reasoning.

But are you not then judging him by his intentions instead of his consequences?


Are you asking me to assume, for this thought experiment, that the rapist concluded through consequential analysis that if he raped the woman, it would result in reform of treatment for rapists that would substantially reduce the occurrence of rape? I think that line of reasoning is impossible, presuming a result so unlikely that it has to be dismissed. But, even if it were true, the man still must be jailed for breaking the law. Public order is best served when the public expects consistent application of law.

Db0 continued:
Aren't people who push for the dissolution of gay rights as morally culpable as the insane ruler? ... Even if they are the majority that say that they are not?

I support fully equal rights for gays, including legal recognition of their marriages, because I am convinced that it promotes the greatest good for the greatest number. It is impossible to identify people who are harmed by these rights, and legalizing same-sex marriage will result in more children being reared in two-parent homes. Two parent homes have a much greater success rate of parenting outcomes than single-parent homes.

But, as you say, most Americans still oppose equal rights for gays. I have never met anyone who did so because of consequential analysis. It is always because they base their judgments of right and wrong on deontoloical rules.

Db0 continued:
Basing moral reasoning on actual consequences imposes modesty on us, because we cannot foresee all of the consequences of such a policy. That is why we must refrain from inflicting harm.

This modesty is not at all dependent on consequentialism. One should also be cautious when they cannot foresee the consequences of their actions precisely.


I’ve read this over several times, Db0, and as far as I can see you are agreeing with me.

Db0 continued:
In that case then Act Utilitarianism is already restricted in its choices. It is not about finding the objectively moral action in any situation but rather only the lesser evil and then call it moral.

Of course the actions considered are those that are actually available. That is the only constraint.
If the person at the door were to say to the Nazi [...] Therefore, the action was wrong – and not because bribery is illegal.

No, his actions were misguided. He is still not morally wrong to have offered a bribe, even if the Jew cas captured in the end. In consequentialism he would be condemnable however because the Jew was captured. You can't condemn someone for attempting to do the right thing unless it is something like criminal incompetence or criminal ignorance.

In every situation, the moral value of an action is determined by the balance of harm and benefit that results, not because it conforms to or violates a rule. So, to prove this point, I have to provide situations in which the normal moral rules do not apply.

I otoh find that there is no point in mentally masturbating with impossibilities like the trolley-car accident.

Here’s an example that isn’t too ancient. In 2000, a couple from Malta brought their conjoined baby twins, [...] Because the court reasoned consequentially, Jody is alive. If they had followed the “Natural Law” morality of the Catholic Church, both girls would be dead. I think that this demonstrates the superiority of consequentialism over rule-based ethics such as natural law.

You keep bringing examples where there is a choice between a system I do not espouse (in this case the "natual law") and consequentialism. Just because consequentialism is superior to those primitive systems, does not mean that it is absolutely superior to everything.

In this case I would consider the separation of the twins as the moral outcome as well.

Are you asking me to assume, for this thought experiment, that the rapist concluded through consequential analysis that if he raped the woman, [...] But, even if it were true, the man still must be jailed for breaking the law. Public order is best served when the public expects consistent application of law.

But then you are going against your moral guideline. Since you base everything on consequences, then by the consequences of this action, that man can be considered to have done good, regardless of his intentions

Laws are based on morals, if we are to have good laws they must be based on good morals. If you claim that your moral system is the best, then laws based on that should give us the desired result. Thus in this case, the rapist would have to be let free or unpunished.

One other thing where consequentialism fails is that it is extremely hard to foresee the consequences of one action (Chaos theory and all that jazz). Thus we might end up punishing or condemning someone even though his consequences were better and vice-versa.

I’ve read this over several times, Db0, and as far as I can see you are agreeing with me.

If you mean that I am agreeing with you in that modesty/cautiousness is a a good thing then yes

Of course the actions considered are those that are actually available. That is the only constraint.

What do you mean "always available"? In our example of Death VS Slavery due to war I explained that not going to war is the moral option. Wasn't that an option available? Or, from the start of our discussion, you said that Slavery was at one point good because it was superior to death. Thus if you, as a Act Consequentialist, were living in that age, you would have to consider Slavery a good thing. Were I to be living in that age, I would consider Slavery wrong even though that and Death were my only options.
Db0 wrote on July 26, 2008
You can't condemn someone for attempting to do the right thing unless it is something like criminal incompetence or criminal ignorance.

My concern is not to condemn anyone, it is to provide the framework for moral reasoning that will lead to the greatest good for the greatest number.

Db0 continued
You keep bringing examples where there is a choice between a system I do not espouse (in this case the “natual law”) and consequentialism. Just because consequentialism is superior to those primitive systems, does not mean that it is absolutely superior to everything.

One thing that I tried to show was that rules are not morally determinative, even though “don’t take innocent life” sounds like a pretty good one. The other is to show that the moral value of the decision is determined by its consequences, not by intent. I don’t doubt that the parents had good intent, but leaving the decision to “God’s will” would have resulted in Jody’s death. So I thought the example was useful to the discussion.

Db0 continued
But then you are going against your moral guideline. Since you base everything on consequences, then by the consequences of this action, that man can be considered to have done good, regardless of his intentions.

As I’ve stated, the purpose of act utilitarianism is to establish the best framework for moral reasoning, not for punishment and reward. If a person concludes that he can prevent future rapes by committing this one rape (a premise that I consider ludicrous) then indeed, it follows that he should do it. But he should be convicted and jailed for committing the rape because he broke the law, and public order requires the consistent application of justice.

Db0 continued
Laws are based on morals, if we are to have good laws they must be based on good morals. If you claim that your moral system is the best, then laws based on that should give us the desired result. Thus in this case, the rapist would have to be let free or unpunished.

Laws are rules, but rules are not determinative of the best consequences. The best rule will only lead to favorable consequences some percentage of the time. There are times when, indeed, people have a moral obligation to break the law, but they should expect to pay the consequences. Returning to our Nazi example, the person has a moral obligation to hide the Jew because it may save his life. But if he is caught, he should expect that he will be charged with a crime, convicted and punished.

Db0 continued
One other thing where consequentialism fails is that it is extremely hard to foresee the consequences of one action (Chaos theory and all that jazz). Thus we might end up punishing or condemning someone even though his consequences were better and vice-versa.

I don’t see this as a failing, but rather an accurate statement of fact. We cannot know all of the consequences of our actions. Some consequences will be unforeseen. But the obligation on the moral agent is to decide which course of action will lead to the greatest surplus of benefit over harm, based on the best information available and sound reasoning. But sometimes he will be wrong. I think that accurately describes the human condition, that we live continually in moral uncertainty.

Again, you are hung up on punishment. The purpose of an ethical system should be to provide a basis for moral reasoning that leads to the greatest good for the greatest number.

Db0 continued
In our example of Death VS Slavery due to war I explained that not going to war is the moral option. Wasn't that an option available? Or, from the start of our discussion, you said that Slavery was at one point good because it was superior to death. Thus if you, as a Act Consequentialist, were living in that age, you would have to consider Slavery a good thing. Were I to be living in that age, I would consider Slavery wrong even though that and Death were my only options.

I think that you are making the mistake of judging another time with the moral prejudices of your own time. Consider that Christians regard the bible as the inspired source of moral law, yet it orders slaves to be obedient to their masters, and justifies masters beating slaves as long as they don’t die within three days. Paul returns the runaway slave. It was not obvious to the writers of the bible that slavery was wrong, because it was written by people living in a slave economy. Such judgments are not somehow eternal, but the product of the specific conditions of a society.

Nor do I think that “don’t go to war” is a universally applicable precept. Groups will inevitably come into existential conflicts, such as over water rights. In fact, such wars are minimized by uniting the cities and nations in an empire that will resolve conflicts. But, to achieve an empire, you have to fight wars.
My concern is not to condemn anyone, it is to provide the framework for moral reasoning that will lead to the greatest good for the greatest number.

Then it will fail. People do not choose moral acts based on possible consequences, they choose moral acts based on beliefs and desires and consequences come as third. Indeed most people may very well have no clear idea what consequences their action will have or, due to their beliefs, have a skewed understanding of a good and bad consequence.
If you want to change people, the framework that will provide the best moral reasoning is one that will modify their desires.

Arguing for people to change their moral framework to be a AU one while they keep their desires constant is impossible. They will still act to fulfill the strongest of them.

The other is to show that the moral value of the decision is determined by its consequences, not by intent. I don’t doubt that the parents had good intent, but leaving the decision to “God’s will” would have resulted in Jody’s death. So I thought the example was useful to the discussion.
Then I have been misunderstood. I never defended that the a moral value is set by solely the intentions. I only said that consequentialism does not take into account the intentions at all which is wrong.

As I’ve stated, the purpose of act utilitarianism is to establish the best framework for moral reasoning, not for punishment and reward. If a person concludes that he can prevent future rapes by committing this one rape (a premise that I consider ludicrous) then indeed, it follows that he should do it.

And this is why your moral framework fails. It is obviously wrong to rape the woman, no matter the possible aftereffects it might have because we do not want rape to be happening. We want people not to have a desire to be raping due to the obvious problems such an actions creates in a society.
In DU, the action was morally wrong because the desires that led to it were bad and thus we can pass moral judgement.
in AU, the action was not morally wrong and the only way you can somehow patch that is by bringing in an arbitrary blind-following of a law that is not based on morality.

Laws are rules, but rules are not determinative of the best consequences. The best rule will only lead to favorable consequences some percentage of the time. There are times when, indeed, people have a moral obligation to break the law, but they should expect to pay the consequences

You did not based on morals then what are they based on?
Like your moral framework, a rules framework is there to bring the greatest good for the greatest amount of people.
Rules were based on morals, They did not just exist and then at some point AU came about and is just following the rules.
A moral system that cannot tell us that a rule is good or bad is then no use at all and we are now stuck in a cycle.
If AU can say that a rule is bad, then if AU and Law conflict, in a society where AU is the norm, our previous example becomes not only morally acceptable but not punishable by law.
If AU cannot say that rules are good or bad, then AU cannot improve society at all and we're doomed to stagnation.

Returning to our Nazi example, the person has a moral obligation to hide the Jew because it may save his life. But if he is caught, he should expect that he will be charged with a crime, convicted and punished.

But then he is being convicted and punished unlawfully, for the current law is obviously wrong and people using a good moral framework that leads to the greatest good for the greatest amount of people should rise and stop this. But AU, by the way you describe it, would not, in order to prevent public order.
Doggamn character limits!

Again, you are hung up on punishment. The purpose of an ethical system should be to provide a basis for moral reasoning that leads to the greatest good for the greatest number

you are wrong to think that punishment is irrelevant. An ethical system need to include it for punishment and praise are the only things that can modify desires A system that does not consider it is not capable of convincing people to use it.

I think that you are making the mistake of judging another time with the moral prejudices of your own time.

This is moral (or cultural) relativism.

Nor do I think that “don’t go to war” is a universally applicable precept. Groups will inevitably come into existential conflicts, such as over water rights. In fact, such wars are minimized by uniting the cities and nations in an empire that will resolve conflicts. But, to achieve an empire, you have to fight wars.

Then the moral framework of these groups is wrong and they are not capable of seeing that peaceful cooperation would be better results.
Also, War for Peace is an absurdity
Db0 wrote on July 25, 2008
People do not choose moral acts based on possible consequences, they choose moral acts based on beliefs and desires and consequences come as third. Indeed most people may very well have no clear idea what consequences their action will have or, due to their beliefs, have a skewed understanding of a good and bad consequence.
If you want to change people, the framework that will provide the best moral reasoning is one that will modify their desires.

Arguing for people to change their moral framework to be a AU one while they keep their desires constant is impossible. They will still act to fulfill the strongest of them.


Beliefs and desires have no significance in the moral valuation of an action. Utilitarianism, which judges the moral quality of actions based on the greatest good for the greatest number, is necessarily an altruistic system. It values the interests of the moral agent no more highly than the interests of anyone else affected by the action in question. In my opinion, an ethical system which values the interests of the moral agent more than the interests of others is not a moral system, but rather an amoral system.

Neither can the good be determined from the desires of others, because people often desire things that are harmful to them. A child, for example, may have an obsessive desire for the latest video game. A conscientious parent is likely to leave this desire unsatisfied, however. He will probably buy the child entertainment that gets him out of the house and encourages exercise.

Concern for desires also has the corrosive effect on an ethical system of opening it to subjectivity. Harm and benefit relate to objective, confirmable conditions of fact. Desire is individual, creating the possibility that different people will reach very different, but equally justifiable conclusions, with no basis on which the discrepancy may be resolved.

Db0 continued
It is obviously wrong to rape the woman, no matter the possible aftereffects it might have because we do not want rape to be happening.

It is obviously wrong to rape a woman because it is such a patently harmful act. If it is wrong for some other reason, what is it? In order to test your hypothesis, you have to show that if there were a situation in which there were substantial beneficial consequences, that the rape would still be wrong, and it certainly appears to me that you have failed. You proposed a rather contrived case in which it would significantly lower the incidence of future rapes, but that proves the consequentialist position. You are weighing a single rape as more significant that the hundreds or thousands that would be stopped in your proposed scenario. That clearly is a position of grievous moral disproportion.

Db0 continued
We want people not to have a desire to be raping due to the obvious problems such an actions creates in a society.

The desire to rape is a form of the desire to dominate others. I think that most psychologists agree on this point. But the desire to dominate others motivates many behaviors that society values highly. For example, it is demonstrated strongly in competitions of every sort, and I think it is clear that Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov made enormous cultural contributions. It may be a laudable trait in other endeavors, such as a military field commander or a crusader for moral reforms.

Db0 continued
…in AU, the action was not morally wrong and the only way you can somehow patch that is by bringing in an arbitrary blind-following of a law that is not based on morality.

This is a gross misunderstanding. Act utilitarianism holds rape to be wrong because it is grievously harmful. And an act utilitarian does not consider an action to be good because it conforms to a rule, or bad because it violates a rule, but good or bad depending on its consequences. If the justice system is moral, it must maximize surplus of benefit over harm in society.

Db0 continued
Laws are rules, but rules are not determinative of the best consequences. The best rule will only lead to favorable consequences some percentage of the time. There are times when, indeed, people have a moral obligation to break the law, but they should expect to pay the consequences

Db0 continued
Like your moral framework, a rules framework is there to bring the greatest good for the greatest amount of people.

I agree completely.

Db0 continued
Rules were based on morals. They did not just exist and then at some point AU came about and is just following the rules.

As you are aware, act utilitarianism is never “just following the rules.” Moral value is based on consequences, not conformance to rules.

Moral rules can come about in many different ways.

They can be empirical conclusions. We may find over time that if we adopt a certain rule, it will lead to favorable consequences most of the time. This is characteristic of Rule Utilitarianism.

They may be necessary from reason. If I torture you, then I am implicitly accepting the proposition that there are conditions in which it is permissible for you to torture me. So all rational beings should agree that torture is wrong. This is the method characteristic of rationalism.

A god-believer usually claims that moral right is god-declared. Christians claim that the rules are provided for us in the bible.

Frequently rules are just cultural prejudices, that can only be justified by saying “that’s the way its always been!” I think that laws against same-sex marriage fall into this category.

And yet others would say that moral laws are “self-evident,” or a priori. I think that this is just a disguised form of cultural prejudice.

Db0 continued
A moral system that cannot tell us that a rule is good or bad is then no use at all and we are now stuck in a cycle.

What Act Utilitarianism will tell you is that none of them is a proper guide all of the time. “Do not murder” is a pretty good one, and it will lead to the best consequences if you follow that rule over 99% of the time. “Do not lie” is probably a 75% rule, still pretty good. “Honor thy father and mother,” maybe 55%. “Don’t work on Sunday” – sometimes moral rules go obsolete.

But Act Utilitarianism holds that a person is always responsible for the consequences of his actions. It doesn’t matter if you followed a really good rule, if people are harmed an act utilitarian will admit his responsibility.

Db0 continued
If AU can say that a rule is bad, then if AU and Law conflict, in a society where AU is the norm, our previous example becomes not only morally acceptable but not punishable by law.

That laws are sometimes unjust is hardly a uniquely Act Utilitarian insight. Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King persuaded nations to moral transformation by intentionally violating the law. But they did not try to escape the legal punishment for their violations.

Db0 continued
If AU cannot say that rules are good or bad, then AU cannot improve society at all and we're doomed to stagnation.

A particular strength of the utilitarian principle is that can be used to test the moral value of any rule, because it is not culturally dependent. You can compare the consequences of Sharia laws concerning the treatment of women to Western protections for women’ rights, and I think that it will be readily apparent which society has adopted rules that result in the greater good. The pursuit of the greatest good for the greatest number is a program for the continuous improvement of society.

Db0 continued
(George Kane wrote) Returning to our Nazi example, the person has a moral obligation to hide the Jew because it may save his life. But if he is caught, he should expect that he will be charged with a crime, convicted and punished.

(Db0 replied) But then he is being convicted and punished unlawfully, for the current law is obviously wrong and people using a good moral framework that leads to the greatest good for the greatest amount of people should rise and stop this. But AU, by the way you describe it, would not, in order to prevent public order.

I don’t think that there is any country that does not prosecute people who aid fugitives to escape their laws. I don’t see how any country could do so. I’m sure that the laws prohibiting this have survived from Nazi times (and of course earlier) to the present day.

Db0 continued
(George Kane wrote) Again, you are hung up on punishment. The purpose of an ethical system should be to provide a basis for moral reasoning that leads to the greatest good for the greatest number

(Db0 replied) you are wrong to think that punishment is irrelevant. An ethical system need to include it for punishment and praise are the only things that can modify desires A system that does not consider it is not capable of convincing people to use it.

I’m all in favor of using the public justice system for rehabilitation of criminals and reintegration into society.

Db0 continued
(George Kane wrote) I think that you are making the mistake of judging another time with the moral prejudices of your own time.

(Db0 replied) This is moral (or cultural) relativism.

Cultural relativism holds that whatever a society enacts is right. A consequentialist will be as critical of the laws of ancient societies as he is of the laws of the nations of today. Rather, I pointed out the historical context that explained the moral views of the epoch with regard to slavery. If it seems to you that ancient societies were stupid to accede to slavery, you need only examine our own acceptance of the exploitation of wage labor to see that we are no smarter.

Db0 continued
(George Kane wrote) Nor do I think that “don’t go to war” is a universally applicable precept. Groups will inevitably come into existential conflicts, such as over water rights. In fact, such wars are minimized by uniting the cities and nations in an empire that will resolve conflicts. But, to achieve an empire, you have to fight wars.

Then the moral framework of these groups is wrong and they are not capable of seeing that peaceful cooperation would be better results.

The “moral framework” cannot be the product of twenty-first century biases. The cultural superstructure arose to support the prevalent relationships of production.

Db0 continued
Also, War for Peace is an absurdity

Not too absurd for America to fall for Wilson’s “War to End All Wars.”
I recalled something that I intended to include in my last post.

Db0 wrote
Arguing for people to change their moral framework to be a AU one while they keep their desires constant is impossible. They will still act to fulfill the strongest of them

Consequential moral reasoning is really not difficult for most people, as we all use it at times. And once you learn it, it easily becomes a habit. I’ve learned to use it exclusively when considering moral problems.

I think that it is a major shortcoming of public schooling that there is no teaching of ethics. Without it, some students never get beyond self-interest in consideration of their actions, and only refer to concepts of ethics when it is self-serving. And of course the domination of moral arguments by Christians is enormously harmful. A lot of young people buy into it because it puts them in a position of assumed superiority from which to condemn others. Others reject the entire enterprise of ethics for the same reason.

I wish that students received systematic instruction in situations of social obligation. They should be presented with moral dilemmas, and read analyses from different moral perspectives. Including, of course, Act Utilitarianism.
I think it would be more accurate to say, that there is a distortion of ethics. I htink for students to get better education on social obligations will never come from schools that are funded and governed with rules by the status quo that would benefit more by not reinforcing those obligations.
What are your thoughts on justifying consequentialism within meta-ethics? On what basis can moral systems be justified?

Can they only be justified tautologically, such as saying consequentialism is correct because of it's consequences; or natural law is correct because it does not violate natural law?

Or is there an objective basis outside of each system's moral principles by which one can be justified against another?

Just curious what your thoughts were.
Oolon Colluphid wrote on July 26, 2008
On what basis can moral systems be justified?

That’s a very good question. An ethical system is a theory of obligation, so it must explain why anyone should follow it, the nature of that obligation.

I don’t hold deductive systems from first principles in very high credibility. When you look at them closely, these first principles turn out to be preferences, and usually fall into the category that I call “cultural prejudices.”

The Utilitarian Principle is not a logical axiom, a divine declaration or a natural law, but an empirical conclusion. I think that in every human society you find an ethical system, comprising normative precepts, values and beliefs. I think that this is an evolutionary development found in every human society that promotes relationships that contribute to our species survival.

I don’t think that evolution provides us much if anything in terms of specific content for ethical systems, just a social pattern of norming behaviors. But when we look at societies we find that there is a wide variety of the ethical systems they adopt. These ethical systems vary widely in how they contribute to species success, which I see as roughly congruent to promoting the highest quality of life. The Utilitarian Principle expresses that goal in terms of observable criteria and a method for valuation.

I admit that it could be wrong. According to the Utilitarian Principle, the best ethical system will be the one that promotes the greatest good for the greatest number. I think that this is most likely to happen if people are trained in Act Utilitarianism. But if, in fact, society flourishes best when people believe in god-declared laws, I would have to admit that that is the best system.

One conceptual problem that I have is that I don’t see that the Utilitarian Principle is sufficient for an ethical system, but that it needs to be supplemented with a principle of justice. That’s OK if the principle of justice is also an empirical conclusion, but I have to convince myself that it is not my own cultural prejudice.

I also have never satisfactorily resolved animal rights in my own mind. I know that other Utilitarians like Peter Siner and Sam Harris are ardent supporters of animal rights, but I haven’t been convinced by their arguments. I think that animals cannot be included among the “greatest number” in the utilitarian calculation. I think that we should at least avoid cruelty to animals, but I cannot explain that using the Utilitarian Principle.
Consequential moral reasoning is really not difficult for most people, as we all use it at times. And once you learn it, it easily becomes a habit. I’ve learned to use it exclusively when considering moral problems.

That does not refute what I said though. I am not telling you how difficult it is to change ones moral framework. I am telling you that AU cannot do it by leaving the desires unchanged.

I think that it is a major shortcoming of public schooling that there is no teaching of ethics[...] hey should be presented with moral dilemmas, and read analyses from different moral perspectives. Including, of course, Act Utilitarianism.

Lets not get into that right now. Needless to say that I consider the current education systems to be horribly outdated and ineffective, and not only because of ethics.
Db0 wrote on July 30
I am not telling you how difficult it is to change ones moral framework. I am telling you that AU cannot do it by leaving the desires unchanged.

I guess that I do not understand you here, Db0. By acculturation and training, people learn to recognize the ethical significance of actions that affect other people. They learn that it is unethical to give greater weight to his own interests than to the interests of any other.

I suppose that one thing he must be taught is to distinguish his desires from the greatest good for the greatest number. Is this what you mean?

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