Week 4 Discussion: Utilitarianism
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Read/review the following resources for this activity:
- Textbook: Chapters 7, 8
- Minimum of 1 scholarly source (in addition to the textbook)
Initial Post Instructions
The principle of utility involves maximizing happiness as a desirable outcome of decisions. Although it does not get directly said, there is an inverse intention to minimize the undesirable outcome of disaster. Utilitarian decisions are directed toward outcomes—that is, the consequences of decisions.
We need to look at results. We first look at the actual results of an action. We judge if it was the best possible result. We can judge the actual results in comparison to other results that reasonably could be said to have been possible.
If we do not yet have the actual results of an action, we do not know if it is moral or not. We can talk hypothetically about what might happen, and then what that would show about the morality of an action. However, if we do not know what the action had as its consequences, we cannot yet say if it is moral or not.
Initial Post Instructions
For the initial post of this week’s discussion respond to one of the following options, and label the beginning of your post indicating either Option 1, Option 2, or Option 3:
Option 1: You are a nurse on a floor with only elderly patients. Every day, each patient tells you about how much pain they are in and asks you to help them. They want you to inject them with something to end their lives. If the patients die, the beds on that floor would be freed up for other patients. The hospital is at 100 percent capacity. There is no other hospital for 30 miles. Other patients may be not receiving care due to a lack of free beds. What is the moral thing to do here? Why is that the moral thing to do? What would an utilitarian say is the moral thing to do? Why would they say that? Compare and contrast the utilitarian approach with that of an ethical egoist or social contact theorist
Option 2: A new social media app is offering itself to you for free. If you upload a picture to it, the app will show how you will look at 10 years. John Doe, a friend of yours, says not to use the app as it will then possess your biometric facial data. Jane Doe, another friend of yours, says that she heard the app shares the facial data with a security firm that helps the government detect terrorists at airports. Should you use this app? Why or why not? If John Doe is right, would an utilitarian say it is right to use the app? Why or why not? If Jane Doe is right, would a social contract theorists say it is right to use the app? Consider the role the Fourth Amendment at play here.
Option 3: You are a nursing student at the XYZ College. It has a 50 percent acceptance rate (half the applicants do not get in). XYZ is a public college. XYZ has decided to implement an affirmative action policy. The college has few students over the age of 50. To encourage more students of that age, every student 50 or older will receive a bonus point. A student’s admission is dependent on having 11 points. One earns points for a GPA above a certain score, ACT/SAT score above a certain number, having a letter of recommendation, etc. XYZ also lacks LGBT students, Muslim, and African-American students and is considering offering a bonus point for any student fitting those categories. What is the key moral conflict for XYZ? What social values should XYZ promote here? What diverse populations are involved here, and what are their interests? Do you think XYZ’s social action is the correct solution to lack of diversity? Why or why not? Factor the ethics of egoism and utilitarianism into your answer.
Follow-Up Post Instructions
Respond to at least one peer. If possible, respond to one peer who chose an option different than the one you chose. Further the dialogue by providing more information and clarification. Make sure that you add additional information and not repeat the same information already posted on the discussion board as you further the dialogue.
- Minimum of 2 posts (1 initial & 1 follow-up)
- Minimum of 2 sources cited (assigned readings/online lessons and an outside scholarly source)
- APA format for in-text citations and list of references
I chose option number two: An app that is potentially using your biometric facial data for unknown purposes and/or acquires the data for a security firm geared at detecting terrorists. This is an interesting question of ethics because it is a violation of human privacy but could potentially be used for a reasonable purpose.
The fourth amendment essentially is the right to privacy and security against unreasonable search and seizures (U.S. Const. amend. IV). Under this amendment the collection of peoples private information without explicit cause, including physical information such as biometric data, could be interpreted as a violation of rights. And I agree with that viewpoint. People have a right to retain privacy over all aspects of themselves including intellectually and bodily, and as such any collection of this data without explicit permission from the individual and proper cause for doing so is immoral. Even if the data were to be used for “good reason” who is to say such technology and information would always be used for “the greater good” and would not fall into the hands of people or corporations that would use it for nefarious purposes. People have a right to know their information is private.
A Utilitarian believes that “That principle requires us, in all circumstances, to “maximize happiness”—in other words, to produce the greatest total balance of happiness over unhappiness, or of pleasure over suffering” (Rachels & Rachels, 2019). Fundamentally a utilitarian sees anything that is unpleasant as unjust, however just taking a photo for fun to see a potential age progression of yourself is in no way unpleasant, regardless of the potential for biometric data to be taken from the photo. And as such I feel as though a utilitarian would not have an issue with the app.
The social contract theorist believes “To escape the state of nature, we must find a way to work together. In a stable and cooperative society, we can produce more essential goods and distribute them in a rational way” (Rachels & Rachels, 2019). Because of this I believe that a social contract theorist would believe that the reward of potentially catching terrorists outweighs the violation of privacy and a cooperative approach would be the most beneficial.
I choose option 1
If the patient would like to end their life, it would be best to consult with the doctor and the doctor will be the best solution for the patient. Furthermore, what I can do in this case is to ask the doctor to increase the dose of pain medication to help the patient feels more comfortable. In this case scenario, I would not grant the patient’s wish to end their lives because it will be a violation of the code of nursing ethics and against the law.
Utilitarianism is a theory of morality, “which advocates actions that foster happiness or pleasure and opposed actions that cause unhappiness or harm” (Tardi, 2020). Utilitarians would say in order to make the patient suffering from an illness and be happy it would be best to give them an injection to end their life. In addition, a utilitarian would also mention ending this patient’s life to make the other patient receive the best care. I would not agree with the utilitarian.
Secondly, the concept of ethical egoism is “each person ought to pursue his or her own self-interest exclusively” (Rachel & Rachel, 2019). In this case, the patient acting on their own interests by asking the nurse to end their lives but not considering the consequences the nurse will encounter.
Thirdly, the idea of social contract theory is this “morality consists of the set of rules, governing behavior, that rational people will accept, on the condition that others accept them as well” (Rachel & Rachel, 2019). The social contract theorist would allow the nurse to inject the medical to the patient to end their life in order to save other patients who are waiting to get treatment.