Introduction to R.M. Hare's Kantian Utilitarianism
R.M. Hares Kantian Utilitarianism Two-level utilitarianism or Kantian Utilitarianism is an attempt to accommodate deontological intuitions (Kantian universalizability) within the framework of utilitarianism by synthesizing both act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. In summary, a person's moral decisions should be based on a set of 'intuitive' moral rules (derived from the logical feature of moral knowledge, common preferences of humanity, etc) except in certain rare situations (e.g., prima facie principles conflict, unusual cases) where it is more appropriate to engage in a 'critical' level of act utilitarianism. R. M. Hares Two Level Utilitarian Model: Act utilitarianism states that in all cases the morally right action is the one which produces the most pleasure. Rule utilitarianism states that the morally right action is the one that is in accordance with a moral rule whose general observance would create the most happiness.
In terms of two-level utilitarianism, act utilitarianism can be likened to the 'critical' level of moral thinking, and rule utilitarianism to the 'intuitive' level. Basic Argument: 1. The logic of moral terms like "ought a. Moral judgments are by their nature universalizable (they are more than simple imperatives, they commit one to making the same ought judgment in all circumstances that share the same universal features; moral thinking is a rational pursuit). 2. Facts about human nature and commonly held human preferences (human condition): a.
b. 3. Human basic preferences tend to be uniform Humans vary on their ability to think critically and act on what they determine to be moral principles. Warrants a two-level version of utilitarianism. Regarding the Intuitive Level (Kantian/Rule): The Intuitive Level is composed of prima facie principles or rules derived from the logical features of moral language (universalizable ought claims) and general facts & commonly held moral preferences. They are also informed by 2 nd level principles. Thus, a morally right action is an accordance with a moral rule whose general observance would create the most happiness. Prima facie principles are beneficial when there isn't time for critical thinking, or when one can't trust one's critical thinking.
The Intuitive level is also informed by Critical Level when it comes to unusual cases, etc (rule utilitarianism). The Intuitive level also involves general facts & preferences commonly held by humanity.
These rules are generated by the logical features of moral language; they are by nature universalizable. This means that moral judgments are more than simple imperatives for they commit one to making the same ought judgment in all circumstances that share the same universal features (e.g., let no one _________ at least, under such and such experience). Three Kinds of Intuitive Principles: According to Dr. Gary Varner, a proponent of this view, notes: Common Morality Professional Ethics Personal Morality
Three Kinds of Intuitive Level Principles: Common Morality emerges when members of society face similar problems. This is expected because of the universal features of the human condition as evidenced in the common moralities of various cultures at different times and places. Professional Ethics emerge because of the similar kinds of situations repeatedly certain roles experience; agreements on basic standards of conduct take place. Personal Morality. Dr. Varner writes, And insofar as individuals differ in their abilities to reason critically under various circumstances, critical thinking will lead different individuals to train themselves to adhere to different sets of intuitive level rules, including "metaprinciples" for deciding when to engage in critical thinking and when to stick unquestioningly to one's intuitive level principles. Regarding the Critical Level (Act Utilitarian): When you encounter (1) an unusual situation, (2) determine that two prima facie
rules contradict each other, (3) or where the normal rules would specify a course of action that is clearly not the most beneficial, changing ones mode of moral thinking to the critical act utilitarian level is necessary (utility needs to be maximized). Act utilitarianism is a necessary compliment to rule utilitarianism because in some cases an individual might pursue a course of action that would obviously not maximize utility. Conversely, act utilitarianism is criticized for not allowing for a 'human element' in its calculations, i.e. it is sometimes too difficult (or impossible) for an ordinary person with imperfect knowledge to calculate the action of maximal utility Description of Model: Each person shares the traits of the following to limited and varying extents at different times: Archangel: Prole:
1. Only uses critical moral thinking; no intuitive principles are needed. 1. Human weaknesses to an extreme degree. 2. Superhuman, god-like powers of knowledge, thought, and no human weaknesses. 2. Must rely upon intuitions and sound prima facie principles all of the time. 3. Unbiased, ideal observer who can immediately scan all
potential consequences of all possible actions in order to frame a universal principle form which it could decide an appropriate action for the situation. 3. Incapable of critical thought. 4. The set of intuitive moral rules must be simple, general, easy to memorize, and use. Advantages declared about this view: It offers a non-consequential outlook on the intuitive level; it is not a pure picture of utilitarianism. It accommodates the kind of claims, duties, and rights that might be held to be part of a deontological morality.
It is compatible with consequentialism at the critical level and is a source of those guides at the intuitive level. Because of the intuitive level, a number of classical objections have been, according to many, successfully rejected. Objection # 1: Not enough time to carry out calculations needed to maximize pleasure. It is often claimed that one could never in practice be a utilitarian because one could never actually have enough time to carry out the minute calculations involving happiness ratings and probabilities that a utilitarian must take into account. This objection is answered by invoking the intuitive level of moral thinking. Objection # 2: Special Pleading: Second, some critiques claim that utilitarianism leads
inevitably to special pleading, since at every step along the way in the utilitarian calculus one may take ones own happiness into account more than others. This objection is replied to in the very same way as the last. The intuitive level keeps special pleading from happening, at least keeps it from happening as much as any other moral theory does. For we have these intuitive principles that apply to almost every case, and that are ingrained in our moral consciences. So, when I see something in the store that Id like to have, I dont have to go through a calculus about it. I just know that unless this situation constitutes a moral dilemma (i.e. unless there is a contradiction between intuitive moral principles) I shouldnt steal. There is no room for special pleading there. Objection # 3: Utilitarianism fails to account for moral tragedy A third critique sometimes aimed at utilitarianism is that it fails to account for moral tragedy. There seem to be cases, this argument
goes, wherein we have two mutually exclusive duties to fulfill and therefore cannot fulfill one of our duties. This is tragic. R.M. Hare responds to this problem by saying it isnt a problem because thats what the critical level of moral thinking is there for. He quotes a humorous line from Anthony Kenny (who was himself quoting from someone else, I believe a pastor of a church): If you have conflicting duties, one of them isnt your duty. In other words, if you have conflicting duties youve encountered a moral dilemma. And moral dilemmas require critical moral thinking. Once you get down to critical moral thinking youll see that one of the things you supposed was your duty really wasnt. 4th Objection: Internal Conflict: Fourth, utilitarians have been accused of implying that answers to certain moral quandaries are obvious when in fact, even if the utilitarian solution ends up being right, it was not at all obvious. Bernard Williams, for one, makes this critique by invoking the wellknown example of Jim, a scientist travelling through a South American country who accidentally stumbles into the center of a
village only to see 20 natives lined up against a wall firing squad style and the local enforcer Pedro about to mow them down. On seeing Jim, Pedro tells him that he was about to shoot these innocent people just to make an example to the townspeople, but since the town is so honored to have the presence of the foreign scientist, they will have a celebration. If Jim will just take Pedros gun and shoot one innocent person, the 19 others can go free. On utilitarian grounds it is clear what the right answer is, whereas, Williams argues, we have a great deal of internal conflict about what the right answer is, and that this cannot be captured by the utilitarians position. 4th Objection: Internal Conflict: Hare would respond to this argument by insisting that the utilitarian could in fact explain the cause of the internal conflict that makes the decision seem less than obvious. It is precisely because intuitive principles have, for good reason, been so deeply ingrained in our moral psyche,
that we experience a great deal of internal psychological discomfort whenever one of these principles (like Dont kill innocents) has to be violated. And the more intense the principle isa principle about lying is likely to be less psychologically intense than a principle about killingthe greater this internal conflict. That is why the Jim/Pedro scenario would not appear obvious to anyone, including the utilitarian. Objection # 5: Counter-Intuitive: Fifth and finally, the utilitarian is often accused of have to advocate conclusions that are clearly counterintuitive. Another case from Bernard Williams, that of George, can exhibit this critique. George is a capable nuclear physicist. He is contacted by the federal government who is asking him to come to work for a company that is in the business of providing materials for nuclear warfare to the government . Now George does not believe in nuclear warfare because of the tremendous damage it does, not
only to the environment but indubitably to innocent civilians as well. George is about to turn down the job offer when one of his friends makes the following utilitarian argument. Look, George, if you dont take this job someone else will. And the probability is quite high that this someone else will not have all the scruples you have about nuclear war. Thus, it would be better for the overall good that you take the job, because if you did you might be able place some restraints on the practice of nuclear war. Given the utilitarians position, this would seem to be the required course of action. But, according to our moral intuitions, Williams argues, this taking the job would still be wrong for George. Hares Response to 5th Objection: Hare would respond to this type of criticism as follows. First, he would want to ask a whole bunch of questions about the scenario as its set up. He has a whole procedure through which a utilitarian can work whenever he or she is confronted with one of these fanciful
scenarios that are supposed to show that utilitarianism is absurd. But if the scenario survives that process intact, then Hare is willing to say that, yes, the conclusion is counterintuitive, but our intuitions are only for common cases and this isnt a common case. Therefore, when it comes to a moral dilemma, that we would in the end settle on a counterintuitive conclusion does not count as a counterargument to utilitarianism. Problems: Hare disregards metaphysics altogether (serious metaphysical, meta-ethical problems). Hare fails to solve the problem of moral intuition; it is not clear that moral intuitions are derivative of rule-utilitarian thinking. Remains utilitarian because rules are not imbedded foundationally. 2-level view is incompatible: Critical level pulls in one
direction and the constraints on the intuitive level pull in another. Iris Murdochs criticizes Hares Kantian notion on the basis that we have a fat, relentless ego which corrupts our nature at its root. Humans are by nature selfish. If so, how can the will be a creative source of good?
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