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Utilitarinism, aesthetics, metaphysics and epistemology

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IN YOUR OWN WORDS, and as well composed, detailed, and coherent as possible.

One: For utilitarians, what is the reasoning behind the principle of utility, and how does John Stuart Mill answer the objection that it is incompatible with traditional notions of justice?

Two: For Friedrich Nietzsche, how is it that artistic expression in general (and tragedy in particular) can overcome the metaphysical problem of pessimism?

Three: To Nietzsche, how is it that the death of God opens the way for the â??overmanâ?? And what sort of being is this â??overmanâ? for whom Nietzsche calls?

Four: For John Dewey, what is philosophical naturalism, and how does he believe that it can surmount long-standing difficulties in the debate over epistemological certainty?

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Solution Summary

This post discusses the principle of utility, Nietzsche's artistic expression as a solution to metaphysical problem of pessimism, Nietzsche's understanding of the death God and the overman, Dewey's philosophical naturalism and critique of epistemological certainty.

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Problem (see Questions and Answers following Q's below):

IN YOUR OWN WORDS, and as well composed, detailed, and coherent as possible.

Q One: For Utilitarians, what is the reasoning behind the principle of utility, and how does John Stuart Mill answer the objection that it is incompatible with traditional notions of justice?

The Principle Of Utility

Utilitarianism is based on the belief that everyone desires happiness and pleasure (negatively, it implies avoiding pain or unhappiness). In other words, we naturally experience pleasure when we perform certain biological functions or intellectual activities. From this simple fact that everyone desires happiness, the utilitarians concluded that morality could be understood in terms of the happiness principle. The good is achieved when there is more pleasure and less pain. Therefore, the principle of utility states that an act is good if it produces pleasure or happiness and wrong if it produces pain or unhappiness. This principle is born out of the belief that happiness is the greatest good. The rightness or wrongness of an act is therefore to be judged by its consequences. Some utilitarians believe that pleasure and pain are objective states that can be quantified. Terms like intensity and duration imply that pleasure can be measured quantitatively, perhaps on a scale from 1-10. This is known as hedonistic calculus. The more pleasure an act produces, the more right it is. Note though that Mill distinguished between quantitative and qualitative pleasures, showing preference for the latter which he called the "higher happiness." He famously stated that it is better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.

Classical utilitarians represented by Bentham and Mill are also called altruists because in attempting to answer the question: "Whose pleasure counts the most?" stated that the standard of right or wrong should not be the agent's own happiness but rather the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number. A good action increases the number of people experiencing pleasure while a bad action increases the number of people experiencing pain. Utilitarianism is therefore sometimes called the "greatest happiness
for the greatest number".

Mill and Justice:
In chapter 5 of his book Utilitarianism, Mill shows the connection between utilitarianism and justice. He addressed the objection that happiness cannot be the supreme value because we do, in fact, put justice as a value above happiness in so many situations. The point of Mill's argument against this objection is that although justice is quite high in the ranking of human values, it is nonetheless a value that does not rule but rather serves the happiness principle. Mill distinguishes between morality and expediency by arguing that morality deals with the realm of duties we think people ought to do or be punished for not fulfilling. But justice is demarcated from other areas of morality because "Justice implies something which it is not only right to do, and wrong not to do, but which some individual person can claim from us as his moral right." As a matter of right others can demand that I don't injure them or that I repay them what I promised. The problem is not in the notion but rather in the enforcement. Enforcement depends on expediency, Mill argues. He uses equality as an example. The notion of equality ...

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