Ancient Greece Ancient Greece was the birthplace of Western philosophical ethics.
Utilitarian Justification Utilitarianism is the moral theory that holds that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by the balance of good over evil that is produced by that action.
Philosophers have argued over exactly how the resulting good and evil may be identified and to whom the greatest good should belong. Jeremy Bentham identified good with pleasure and evil with pain and held that the greatest pleasure should belong to the greatest number of people.
John Stuart Mill, perhaps the most notable utilitarian, identified good with happiness and evil with unhappiness and also held that the greatest happiness should belong to the greatest number.
This is how utilitarianism is most often discussed in the literature, so we will follow Mill in our discussion. When attempting to determine whether a punishment is justifiable, utilitarians will attempt to anticipate the likely consequences of carrying out the punishment.
If punishing an offender would most likely produce the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness compared with the other available options not taking any action, publicly denouncing the offender, etc.
If another available option would produce a greater balance of happiness over unhappiness, then that option should be chosen and punishment is unjustified.
Clearly, crimes tend to produce unhappiness, so in seeking to promote a state of affairs in which the balance of happiness over unhappiness is maximized, a utilitarian will be highly concerned with reducing crime. Traditionally, utilitarians have focused on three ways in which punishment can reduce crime.
First, the threat of punishment can deter potential offenders. If an individual is tempted to commit a certain crime, but he knows that it is against the law and a punishment is attached to a conviction for breaking that law, then, generally speaking, that potential offender will be less likely to commit the crime.
Second, punishment can incapacitate offenders. If an offender is confined for a certain period of time, then that offender will be less able to harm others during that period of time.
Third, punishment can rehabilitate offenders. Although utilitarians have traditionally focused on these three ways in which punishment can reduce crime, there are other ways in which a punishment can affect the balance of happiness over unhappiness. For example, whether or not a given offender is punished will affect how the society views the governmental institution that is charged with responding to violations of the law.
The degree to which they believe this institution is functioning justly will clearly affect their happiness. Utilitarians are committed to taking into account every consequence of a given punishment insofar as it affects the balance of happiness over unhappiness.
Objection and Response Perhaps the most common objection to the utilitarian justification of punishment is that its proponent is committed to punishing individuals in situations in which punishment would clearly be morally wrong. McCloskey offers the following example: Suppose a utilitarian were visiting an area in which there was racial strife, and that, during his visit, a Negro rapes a white woman, and that race riots occur as a result of the crime, white mobs, with the connivance of the police, bashing and killing Negroes, etc.
Suppose too that our utilitarian is in the area of the crime when it is committed such that his testimony would bring about the conviction of a particular Negro. If he knows that a quick arrest will stop the riots and lynchings, surely, as a utilitarian, he must conclude that he has a duty to bear false witness in order to bring about the punishment of an innocent person A utilitarian is committed to endorsing the act that would be most likely to produce the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness, and, in this situation, it appears that the act that meets this criterion is bearing false witness against an innocent person.
But, so the argument goes, it cannot be morally permissible, let alone morally mandatory, to perform an act that leads directly to the punishment of an innocent person.
Therefore, since the utilitarian is committed to performing this clearly wrong act, the utilitarian justification must be incorrect.
The standard utilitarian response to this argument demands that we look more closely at the example. Once we do this, it supposedly becomes clear that the utilitarian is not committed to performing this clearly wrong act.
Furthermore, the sensible utilitarian will not attach much weight to the possibility that framing the man would stop the riots. Since well confirmed generalizations are more reliable than hunches, happiness is most likely to be maximized when individuals give the vast majority of the weight to such well confirmed generalizations when making moral decisions.
Therefore, since the relevant well confirmed generalization tells us that at least a few people the innocent man and his family would be made miserable by the false testimony, the utilitarian would give much weight to this consideration and choose not to bear false witness against an innocent man.
This type of response can in turn be challenged in various ways, but perhaps the best way to challenge it is to point out that even if it is true that the greatest balance of good over evil would not be promoted by punishing an innocent person in this situation, that is not the reason why punishing an innocent person would be wrong.
It would be wrong because it would be unjust. The innocent man did not rape the woman, so he does not deserve to be punished for that crime. Because utilitarianism focuses solely on the balance of happiness over unhappiness that is produced by various actions, it is unable to take into account important factors such as justice and desert.
If justice and desert cannot be incorporated into the theory, then the punishment of innocents cannot be ruled out as unjust, so a prohibition against it will have to be dependent upon the likelihood of various consequences.
This strikes many theorists as problematic. Retributive Justification Regarding retributive theories, C.Israel news features every important moment from the Jewish State involving politics, celebrities, and innovation.
This is the hard hitting, fast paced news that represents the Jewish nation in an. For a recent statement on participation in capital punishment, see American Medical Association, Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, "Physician Participation in Capital Punishment," Journal of the American Medical Association (): Bishops against capital punishment, the opposition expressed by individual bishops in their home states against reinstating the death penalty, and the extraordinary interventions of Pope John Paul II and the Florida bishops seeking to prevent the execution in Florida last week.
J. L. Mackie - Ethics~ Inventing Right and Wrong (, ) - Free ebook download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read book online for free.
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Because he accepts a Straussian framework that sees modernity rather than Christianity as the major turning point of Western history, Rod Dreher underestimates the influence of Christian and classical thought on the American founding.
Within the Christian worldview framework, sociology focuses both on society as a means for human cooperation in accordance with God’s will, and on the individual as .