A recent discussion of the conflict between ethics and philosophy centered on the question of morality. It was prompted by a debate between two opposing schools of thought. Two sides, Moral Nihilism and Two-level utilitarianism, hold different viewpoints about what constitutes a moral act. Both have their supporters and detractors. Read on to learn more about each of these approaches. Here’s a look at the main differences between the two.
Those who believe that morality is a useless construct do not accept the notion that it is a fact. For nihilists, there is no such thing as right and wrong. This theory does not support morality or religion. However, a nihilist may consider an example of the wrongness of an action to be morally objectionable. The morality of such actions would be void.
The philosophy of nihilism has psychological and philosophical implications. In essence, it suggests that the existence of the universe and each individual human life is without meaning. If that is the case, there is no reason to believe in any morality or value systems. Morality and other value judgments may be based on the subjective perceptions of the individual. The philosophical implications of this view are numerous. Nihilism is often associated with atheism and is not compatible with the concepts of morality and ethics.
If the philosopher rejects morality, he might also argue for the existence of moral facts or beliefs. If moral facts do not exist, moral beliefs and practices are useless. According to this view, a human can do no good, and he is therefore morally unjustifiable. In contrast, morality can be justified if we regard it as an important aspect of our lives. However, the philosophers’ argument is not enough to reject moral nihilism.
Nietzsche’s view of morality is in direct opposition to Kantian ethics. Nietzsche believes that the flourishing of “the higher man” has intrinsic value. The higher types are solitary and deal with other humans only instrumentally. In this way, Nietzsche rejects morality and ethics, and advocates the destruction of life. Nietzsche’s view of morality is essentially antithetical to the ethical theories of his day.
On the other hand, a moral nihilist will oppose certain controversial events or social conventions. This is similar to saying that the sky is blue, but the sky is not blue. Moral nihilists will not question why people think that certain things are wrong. So, a moral nihilist should not try to argue for these views. However, he may find these objections reprehensible.
Varner defends the normative theory of utilitarianism, and emphasizes its relevance to our understanding of morality. While his arguments draw heavily on Hare, he does not entirely disown Hare’s utilitarianism, arguing that intuitive-level rules guide our behavior. Hare’s utilitarianism is a viable normative theory, since it explains why common morality, professional ethics, and laws are good. However, it does not make his case for utilitarianism any more compelling than Hare’s.
Some critics say that the two-level utilitarian position undermines an agent’s commitment to moral principles. Yet, a theist might obey moral principles, knowing that they are based on the will of God. Thus, two-level utilitarians know that the moral rules they follow on a daily basis are simply guides, not absolutes, and are not necessarily indicative of guilt.
Act utilitarianism is similar to rule utilitarianism, except that it does not treat heuristics as an ultimate ethical justification. Rather, it looks at the tendency of an action to increase well-being as its primary criterion. By contrast, rule utilitarianism considers whether an action is right or wrong only because it complies with rules. This kind of thinking may be counterproductive, but the consequences of the two-level utilitarian view are minimal.
Another variant of two-level utilitarianism is based on a hedonic calculus. The hedonic calculus describes the factors to be considered in determining whether an action results in happiness or unhappiness. The calculus allows utilitarians to make correct judgments about individual actions and government policies. The two levels of utilitarianism are incompatible with each other, but they do have the same fundamental value.
Using the concepts of pleasure and pain, two-level utilitarianism in philosophy and ethical theory is important to our understanding of moral values. The goal of utilitarianism is to act in a way that maximizes happiness for everyone. It ignores feelings, culture, and justice, and views the pursuit of happiness as the highest moral aim. This is sometimes referred to as hedonistic utilitarianism.
In a similar vein, utilitarians also reject ‘first-come-first-serve’. Rather than weighing the benefits of a particular action, utilitarians consider the consequences of that action, both direct and indirect. This principle enables people to make better decisions, because they benefit others. However, it can lead to counterintuitive conclusions when applied to ethics. One example is if a person borrows an umbrella from a roommate and then returns home only to find it missing. If the umbrella was lost, the roommate will most likely ask them if they had seen it.
Another example of two-level utilitarianism is the rule utilitarian. This approach allows people to be partial to some people. It can even generate rules limiting this partiality. For instance, rule utilitarianism is used to support a positive duty for well-off individuals to help strangers. Such a duty might arise if they have resources they can channel to others in need.
Among other things, two-level utilitarianism considers the age as a de facto measure of life span. While old people tend to die earlier, younger people tend to live longer, and hence, two-level utilitarianism favors saving the lives of the young. For this reason, it is relevant to the lockdown question, and has implications for evaluating current policies. So, the answer to the lockdown question may be determined by a different measure.
Classic utilitarianism, on the other hand, is a moral theory which requires political arrangements to satisfy the harm principle. In other words, power is exercised only when it does no harm. This principle is also the cornerstone of liberalism and libertarianism, although some Marxist philosophers have used it to justify Socialism. Although there are many critics of this view, it remains an important moral theory and has influenced numerous moral philosophers throughout history.
As utilitarians, we should be concerned with political groups and public policies. The benefit of a group is the sum of its members’ interests. While we should try to achieve the highest happiness possible for everyone, it is not necessary to save everyone’s life. But we should strive to preserve what is necessary for our existence. In other words, if we can save some lives, it is a virtue. We should avoid harm and make the world a better place.