Act Utilitarianism By Shafer-Landau's Ethical Theory

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Brennan, Warren – PHI220 DL01 – Short Paper 1
Utilitarianism, as presented by Shafer-Landau, is an interesting ethical theory in that it presents the idea that at times it is immoral to act in a manner that we’ve been taught is moral. I will argue that Act Utilitarianism is a sound ethical theory and that it’s precepts are utilized in modern society despite many public figures making pronouncements against this behavior. Act Utilitarianism is sound because it allows its supporters to resolve conflicts that other ethical theories struggle with. It also fits within the norms of recognized moral behavior on a day to day basis while being based upon the idea of treating every individual’s well-being equally.
In his writings, Shafer-Landau, explains
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First is the idea of impartiality. All people who will be affected by an action have their individual well-being measured. Shafer-Landau states that no preferential weight is given to individuals due to wealth, race or any other aspect. Everyone will be treated as unique and equal in calculating the net result. This means that we look out for society vs. favoring our friends, family and selves. Secondly, Act Utilitarianism confirms most of our existing moral theory’s because it looks at the overall net balance of goodness, it sees that acts like random rape, murder and theft result in a net negative and thus are against the morals of an Act Utilitarian. Thirdly, Act Utilitarianism enables us to resolve conflicts that other ethical theories struggle with. The example we read given in the text was about lying to a friend. While normally we would look at lying to a friend as morally wrong, if we are lying to protect their feelings and the overall net result is positive, then Act Utilitarianism supports lying. Lastly, Act Utilitarianism support moral flexibility. While many ethical theories have hard rules about never acting in certain ways, Act Utilitarian find that it is immoral to be bound by a rule if the net result of breaking that rule is for the positive benefit. The example Shafer-Landau gives is the Donner Party, where cannibalism enabled the survival of people who would have

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