In the Ancient Greek world (the world of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, often regarded as the birthplace of philosophy) a “symposium” was a banquet held after a meal, an “after party” of sorts that usually included drinking, dancing, recitals, and engaging conversations on the topics of the day.
For our purposes in this course, the Symposium discussions will not involve dancing, recitals, or a banquet, but they will provide food for thought on current ethical issues and direct application of the ethical theory discussed in each of these weeks.
It is almost impossible these days to turn on the news or log onto social media without encountering a controversy that cries out for ethical discussion. For these Symposium discussions, your instructor will choose a topic of current ethical interest and a resource associated with it for you to read or watch. Your task is to consider how the ethical theory of the week might be used to examine, understand, or evaluate the issue.
This week, you will consider how utilitarianism applies to a controversy, dilemma, event, or scenario selected by your instructor. It is a chance for you to discuss together the ethical issues and questions that it raises, your own response to those, and whether that aligns with or does not align with a utilitarian approach. The aim is not to simply assert your own view or to denigrate other views, but to identify, evaluate, and discuss the moral reasoning involved in addressing the chosen issue.
Your posts should remain focused on the ethical considerations, and at some point in your contribution you must specifically address the way a utilitarian would approach this issue by explaining and evaluating that approach.
If you have a position, you should strive to provide reasons in defense of that position.
Choose one of these objections and briefly explain the core idea in your own words.
- Reflect on the theory:
Present a scenario (real or imagined) in which a committed utilitarian would probably make one choice, but someone who finds this objection compelling would probably make a different choice. (In other words, put yourself in the mind of someone making that objection, and you’re imagining a scenario in which that person would likely make a certain ethical judgment but a utilitarian would make a different ethical judgment.)
- Reflect on yourself:
In your view, does considering this situation strengthen and support the objection (thus showing a weakness to utilitarianism), or does it help strengthen utilitarianism by showing how a utilitarian could respond to that objection?