Williams and consequentalism

The video lectures for the preceding module will also apply to this discussion board. 

Consider the selection by Mill which states that the sole criterion of moral is to maximize happiness. Now, consider an instance where you are riding a trolley car. The trolley car is out of control and up ahead the track splits. Assume then there is no doubt that you are the only one that can make the following choice and then you must in fact do so. On the left is a stranger (to you at least) with a bag over their head. On the right track are five strangers with bags over their head. From the perspective of the utilitarian (also referred to as consequentialists, as when evaluating moral action they evaluate only the consequences) which track must you choose? It would have to be the track on the left as it would provide the greatest amount of happiness to the largest possible amount of people.

Now consider the same scenario where you are still in control of the trolley car and you still must in fact make the choice. However, the difference in this instance is that instead of unknown stranger on the track to the left imagine that it is your mother, father, significant other, or some other person of great significance in your life? While you are still obligated to choose as you did before (the one person over the five), would you still be willing to do so? (These are only hypothetical situations. A personal response to this question should be avoided! Stick to the reasons you can provide from the readings.)

Prompt: Consider this trolley car thought experiment with regards to Bernard Williams’ critique of utilitarianism. With regards to both, what is the morally correct choice? That is should we accept or reject consequentialist approaches to ethics?

Required Reading: Bernard Williams “Utilitarianism & Integrity” (.pdf provided in Course Lessons in the “Week 9 Content” folder)

Recommended Reading: “Consequentialism”, Sections 5, 6,  & 7 (Other information in the article will be useful for you.) < http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consequentialism/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. >

 
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