Assignment #2 – Applying the Theory of Utilitarianism to a Case Study

This assignment requires you to use the second skill I said you would be developing in this course, the ability to make your own well-constructed argument. Start by reading Case #1 on page 91 (this is a real case addressing the same issue described in the example on page 29). Now, I want you to build a utilitarian argument that supports the Schaibles (the religious couple in case 1). I suspect that for some of you it will be difficult to write an argument that supports the parents, but that is part of the challenge, to understand someone whose moral reasoning might be very different from your own. You will start your argument with the standard of utilitarianism (premise 1). Then, you will list both good and bad consequences (pains and pleasures) of the Schaibles’ actions (premises 2-5). You will then weigh the pains and pleasures in premises 2-5 against each other (premise 6). Finally you will write your conclusion which says that what the Schaibles did was right because the good consequences outweigh the bad. We will work up to full paragraphs in assignment #3 next week, but this argument should only be 7 sentences long, and it should look like this: Premise #1: The right thing to do is that which creates the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Happiness is gaining pleasure or relieving pain. Premise #2: List a pain caused OR pleasure lost by the Schaibles’ actions and say to whom it was caused. Premise #3: List another pain caused OR pleasure lost by the Schaibles’ actions and say to whom it was caused. Premise #4: List a pleasure caused OR pain relieved by the Schaibles’ actions and say to whom it was caused. Premise #5: List another pleasure caused OR pain relieved by the Schaibles’ actions and say to whom it was caused. Premise #6: Weigh the good consequences listed in premises 4 & 5 against the bad consequences listed in premises 2 & 3 to show that the good outweighs the bad. Conclusion: According to utilitarianism, what the Schaibles did was right because it brought greater happiness to a greater number. When you write your argument, you can just copy premise #1 and the conclusion as they are written. So, what you are required to do is to create the content for premises 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. Different people will come up with different pains and pleasures, but the two important things are: 1. Read the directions for premises 2-5 carefully so that you are listing both good and bad consequences of the Schaibles’ actions – that is what makes it a dilemma. If the consequences were all good or all bad, there would be no debate; it is because both pains and pleasures were produced that it requires moral reasoning (in this case applying the theory of utilitarianism) to know how to respond. 2. Be sure to include pains and pleasures to people other than the immediate family, since Mill’s version of utilitarianism requires you to consider the happiness of all who could possibly be affected. Look again at the case about “Johnny” from the bottom left through the top right of page 37 for an example of the many people whose happiness might be affected and in what ways by that particular case. You should do the same with the Schaible case.

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