Making the World a Better Place Philosophy 1001, Dr. Cara Nine

Topics: Ethics, Morality, Happiness Pages: 19 (2489 words) Published: April 23, 2013
Making the World a Better Place

Philosophy 1001, Dr. Cara Nine
‘Better Place’?
‘Making the world...’?
Making the world a better place
There are two sets of philosophical questions:

1. What is ‘good’ or ‘better’? (That is, what does a ‘better world look like and why?)

2. What kinds of actions are ‘right’? (What are we justified in doing to bring about the good?)

Ideas of the good life

Desire Satisfaction Theory

Objective Goods Theory

Theories of Right Action



Virtue Theory

Protesting Unjust Government

Aiding an impoverished community


Letter to Menoeceus

By Epicurus (341-270 BC)
‘Hedonism’ in popular culture

Different kinds of desires.

Just to be clear...
“It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of merrymaking, not sexual love, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table...”

For Hedonism:
“For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear”

Intrinsic vs. Instrumental goods
Instrumental good

Intrinsic Good

For Epicurus, Happiness is secured by:
A tranquil emotional state.

Example: We should not fear death
Evidence :
Misery clearly hampers the good life; happiness clearly improves it.

But, is happiness what we want for our loved ones?
I recall a talk by a doctor who described a patient of his (who had perhaps had a prefrontal lobotomy) as ‘perfectly happy all day long picking up leaves.’ This impressed me because I thought, ‘Well, most of us are not happy all day long doing the things we do,’ and realized how strange it would be to think that the very kindest of fathers would arrange such an operation for his (perfectly normal) child. --Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness, p. 65

Desire Theory and Problems with Hedonism
Happiness is the only intrinsically valuable good.

A happy life is a good life.

The argument from evil pleasures
Hedonism’s response:
Happiness from evil actions IS as good as happiness from virtuous actions.

The Paradox of Hedonism
Happiness is like a butterfly—the more you pursue it, the more it eludes you.

Be still and let it come to you.

Paradox of Hedonism
1. If happiness is the only thing that directly makes us better off, then it is rational to single-mindedly pursue it.

2. It isn’t rational to do that.

3. Therefore, happiness isn’t the only thing that directly makes us better off.

Argument from multiple harms:
If hedonism is true, then you can be harmed by something only because it saddens you.

You can be harmed in other ways.

Therefore, hedonism is false.

False Happiness
Nozick’s Experience Machine
Experience Machine
Nozick thinks that the real life is clearly better, despite equal levels of happiness.

What makes the real life better?

Desires and The good
We desire for our lives to be based in reality.

This desire matters.

Other desires matter, too.

Desire Satisfaction Theory
The good life is getting what you want.

Something is good for you if and only if it satisfies your desires.

Good things about desire-satisfaction theory
Allows for a variety of ‘good’ lives.

Good things about desire-satisfaction theory
Prioritizes personal autonomy and avoids paternalism

Avoids objective values

“objective” = fixed independently of your desires and opinions

“subjective” = refers to your desires and opinions


Problems with the Desire Satisfaction Theory
Getting what you want may not promote your good

Desires based on false beliefs

Fix! The desire must be based on informed beliefs.

More Problems
Dis-interested or Other-regarding desires

Problems, cont.

I was playing great tennis... I’d finally taken my game to what felt like a notch above all my opponents’. It should have been great... But it wasn’t. It felt hollow—It reminded me of...
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