Utilitarianism is an ethical and political philosophy that states, in the words quoted above from its founder Jeremy Bentham (1789), actions or laws are good if they promote "the greatest happiness of the greatest number", or in other words...
To learn more about this philosophy, watch these two short BBC videos:
The Trolley Problem
Kant vs. Utilitarianism
Then these two 8-bit philosophy videos:
John Stuart Mill
Take basic notes. Finally, in a short post,
a.) define Utilitarianism in your own words using an example, and
b.) take a position on Peter Singer's Utilitarian argument about animal rights in the last video.
Tip - the image below provides a visual summary of the key utilitarian ideas in case you need a refresher after the videos.
Watch these two very brief BBC animations describing two opposed points of view on wealth in society:
First, John Rawl's left-wing philosophy of economic equality.
Second, Ayn Rand's right-wing philosophy of economic self interest.
Then post your thoughts in a brief but substantive comment. Do you with agree with Rawls or Rand? Or do you think their positions are both flawed? If so, would you move in a more left-wing or right-wing direction, or would you try to find some middle ground instead? Finally, what examples support your point of view? Be careful of going too far in the direction of generalizing (assuming all cases are the same) or using anecdotal evidence (assuming one case proves how things usually are).
[Try to think beyond your own experience as well, or to look into the complexities of it. For example, I have parents who rose from poverty to into the upper middle-class, but I know that part of that is due to my dad's natural intellectual talents which enabled him to get a job on Wall Street even though he hadn't been able to afford finishing college. And I can't deny my dad's effort OR the fact that this effort wouldn't have gone as far if he wasn't white, due to a lot of conscious and unconscious prejudice in our society (my dad's company has only in the past decade started to hire minorities for good positions). So I have to take ALL that into account...]
To begin, take the political compass quiz. If you're comfortable, post and comment on your results (like, do you think they accurately reflect you? and which philosophers does this align you with?); if not, write about your results on paper and turn it in directly to me. Either way, this comment is worth 25 points.
Then, begin to compile your personal notes on political philosophers - I will check these like I did with the early units for 25 points as well. You can use the handouts I distributed, or review these videos I showed in class:
Social Contract Theory (8 Bit Philosophy)
John Locke (Whiteboard Animation)
Confucius and Laozi (The School of Life)
From the beginning of the year we have seen an endless debate about how the human min, with its concepts and judgments, "fits together" with the seemingly meaningless world of material, physical things in which we find ourselves. There are three key movements in this debate:
-PLATO thought that real things were reflections of "Ideal Forms" from a Higher World of pure, eternal ideas;
-ARISTOTLE thought there was no Higher World, but that real things contained their own inner purpose (telos)
-Most importantly, ST. THOMAS AQUINAS unified these two views with the Christian religion, providing a long-lasting (and still popular) explanation of the world: the things around us are products of God's Mind (like Plato's Ideal Forms), each "designed" with their own specific built-in "law" or purpose (like Aristotle's telos).
The centuries between Aquinas and the death of Nietzsche (1900) saw the collapse of uncomplicated faith in religion, thanks to the scientific revolution, the discovery of evolution, and the rise of technological nihilism. It seemed that humans, with our minds and their search for meaning, were left stranded in a world without any purpose or significance beyond the random movements of matter. The five 20th century philosophies we looked at each tried to address this problem. Which do you think provided us with the best means for finding new meaning in life (or helping us cope with the lack of meaning)? Defend your answer with an example from your own life, a world event, and/or a fictional character's experience.
-Existentialism: All meaning is invented by the human subject ("Existence precedes Essence")
-Pragmatism: All "truth" is a temporary interpretation of a changing reality which is good as long as it "works"
-Psychoanalysis: The nonsensical drives of the unconscious are more basic than the rationalizations of the mind.
-Marxism: Meaning is found through analysis of the "objective" structures of society (dialectical class conflict)
-Analytic Philosophy: "Meaning" is just the product of a logical structure of language and social interaction