CHAPTER 2: UTILITARIANISM: (pages 31-57)
What do you see as the main point of Bentham’s theory of utilitarianism?
Bentham remarked that “rights” were “nonsense upon stilts”. Do you agree with the 1st objection on page 37 that utilitarianism fails to respect individual rights? What do “rights” have to do with throwing Christians to the lions and torturing a suspected terrorist?
Bentham has often been referred to as the “ultimate democrat”. Do you agree with the second objection on page 41 that’s it’s wrongheaded to build a moral theory on a common currency of value? Why is the cost-benefit analysis that Philip Morris and the Ford Motor Company did wrong?
Utilitarians argue that “human life has its price, whether we admit it or not”. (Sandel, 45) The range of values on pages 44-45 range from $1.54M to $3.7M… wouldn’t it be best to just run the average and say… “The cost of an American’s life, adjusted for 2015 inflation, is approximately $3.5M” - and be done with it?
What would you pay for the following items?
a) A date with Katy Perry
b) Lunch with President Barack Obama
c) An opportunity to launch a Hellfire missile from a UAV on terrorists
What would you want to be paid to perform the following tasks?
a) Live on an Indian Reservation for 24 months
b) Donate one of your kidneys to a very wealthy (but extremely needy) recipient
c) Drink an 8 oz. glass of urine
How would you summarize the improvements John Stuart Mill claimed to make upon Jeremy Bentham’s version of utilitarianism?
What do you make of Mill’s distinction between “higher” and “lower” pleasures – do you agree with it or side with Bentham who said: “Push-pin is as good as poetry”? (Sandel, 52)