Thursday, 12 June 2008

Desire Utilitarianism

Recently Alonzo Fyfe provided a pointer to this site stating
Readers interested in an alternative presentation of desire utilitarianism (or 'desire consequentalism' as he calls it) are encouraged to check out No Double Standards
Apart from being happy at this acknowledgment, I have thought about my alternative labeling and this post discusses why I have reverted to Alonzo's label Desire Utilitarianism.

Motivations for calling it Desire Consequentialism
First, it is a consequentialist theory - all utilitarian theories are. Secondly I wanted to avoid confusion over reading this as Act Utilitarianism, since it is not, nor is it Rule Utilitarianism, by calling it consequentialism I hoped to avoid this.

Most importantly, I have held the position in this blog that one does not need to be an expert on specific subjects, in order to use the products of such research, and this certainly goes for moral philosophy. As I have said before, if you need to study moral philosophy to know how to behave ethically, we are all in a lot of trouble! Now, not being nor having any pretensions to be a moral philosopher, I was looking for the best available theory I could endorse, if one existed. I have found that in Alonzo's work. I was worried that my take on this could have errors of my own making and could mislead people as to its power. Well this is always a risk, but if an effective theory is developed, others are going to use it and errors can be introduced. So I have recapitulated many of Alonzo's ideas in my own words with whatever other concepts I had that I deemed relevant. This led me go through various names for this theory, so till now, calling it Desire Consequentialism.

Different Types of Consequentialism

According to the peer reviewed Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy there are three types of consequentialism in terms of who are the affected people, and rewriting this in terms of Desire Fulfillment value theory we get:
  1. Ethical Egoism:an action is morally right if the affected desires of that action are more favorable than unfavorable only to the agent performing the action (only the agent's desires count).
  2. Ethical Altruism: an action is morally right if the affected desires of that action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone except the agent (only everyone else's desire count).
  3. Utilitarianism: an action is morally right if the affect desires of that action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone (everyone's desires without exception).
Clearly everything I have been arguing for is over the third view. Logic and objectivity have no bias to favor one over another, the default being everyone. Additional assumptions and arguments need to be made to select one or a group over everyone. So what I am arguing for is a version of Desire Consequentialism, namely Desire Utilitarianism, and that is what I will call it from now on.

I am getting very busy and so cannot keep up a 5 days a week essay or semi-essay effort here. If you are interested in the ideas I do recommend Alonzo Fyfe's Atheist Ethicist blog. Unfortunately I have not found anyone who provides an equivalent analysis on UK specific issues, something that I might hope to, time permitting, do in the future. If anyone can recommend any blogs not already listed on my sidebar covering UK topics somewhat like this please add this in the comments. For the time being, I will blog any news items, more likely UK ones, that I feel are not getting good coverage in the atheosphere.