Discussion Summary on Singer

  1. What are your thoughts on the second premise in Singer’s argument? If you could alter the premise so that it is more feasible how would you do so?
  • The second premise of Singer’s argument by principle, in particular the stronger version is quite controversial. It states that if it is within our ability to stop something bad from happening without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, we ought to do it. In practice, Singer says we ought to give until we reach the level of marginal utility, the level which by giving more, a person would cause such much suffering to themselves or their dependents as the person would relieve thought their aid.
  • From our discussion, our group thought that the “essence” of Singer’s proposition is right, we have an obligation to help those in need if we have the means to do so. However the action Singer’s conclusion requires is really difficult to accomplish. Humans are engineered to be inherently selfish and it would be impossible to ask people to give to the point of marginal utility. We considered the idea of giving and helping others to the point of where we are only able to maintain Nussbaum’s ten central capabilities. But even so, we agreed that it would be difficult to persuade privileged people to give up their “excess” wealth and resources. 

2. Do Singer’s analogies work?

  • In Singer’s argument by analogy, Singer uses various situations to demonstrate that since it is morally wrong to so something in scenario A and scenario A and B are morally relevant, it is morally wrong to do that “same thing” in scenario B. In the child drowning in shallow pond analogy, since it would be morally wrong to not save the drowning child, it is also morally wrong not to donate money to an overseas aid organization if we have the means to. The point Singer is trying to illustrate is that distance or proximity is not a moral determinant and is therefore irrelevant in influencing our decision. We have just as much moral obligation to save the drowning child as to donate the money to save a poor child.
  • Our group thought that in reality distance does in fact play a role in moral decisions. If you see a child drown in a shallow pond, you are involved in the situation personally and you are in a situation where you can save a life. Whereas when you donate to an aid organization, you don’t witness the impact of your actions and there is a different level of personal obligation. In addition, both of these situations seem to advice us that the morally right thing to do is to contribute a temporary and surface solution without addressing the root problem. This connects to Kant’s view where if the intentions of our actions were morally good, the action would be morally right, regardless of the consequences. But how do we ensure that the money we donate actually helps those in need and that it isn’t squandered on flawed aid schemes or pocketed by corrupt individuals? If the money doesn’t actually help improve the lives of those in need, wouldn’t that be the same as not donating any money? 

Discussion Summary on Singer

In “The Singer Solution to World Poverty”, Singer introduces the example of Bob and his Bugatti, in which Bob parks his prized Bugatti on a railway track, and then is faced with the decision to either divert a runaway train to save a child; or save his car. In this scenario, Bob ends up letting the child die, and goes on to live a happy life with his Bugatti. Singer states following this depiction that “If you still think that it was very wrong of Bob not to throw the switch that would have diverted the train and saved the child’s life, then it is hard to see how you could deny that it is also very wrong not to send money to [charitable organizations]” (The Singer Solution to World Poverty).

Discussion Question 1: Do you think Singer’s “Bob and his Bugatti” example has reasonable moral applications to the real world?

When asked whether this conclusion was reasonable, my group was opposed to Singer’s hypothetical argument, of the opinion that the example was too black and white to apply to real world situations. We agreed that Singer’s points (that we should send money to people abroad in need) make sense even without these examples, and that the rather sizable jumps he makes from his examples to real world scenarios weaken his arguments in comparison to just discussing the real-world examples, which we almost unanimously were in support of. Considering these conclusions, I thought I would ask my group the following:

Discussion Question 2: Do you think these hypothetical examples have their place in Singer’s arguments, because they may convince some people to give to charities, and because you are still convinced by Singer’s conclusions even though you don’t accept the examples?

With this question, my group was in support of the inclusion of Singer’s hypothetical arguments, which give Singer wider appeal to a broader audience, and admitted that his case was strong enough to allow these examples to remain in his work. My group also was in favour of the way Singer followed the Bugatti example by including phone numbers to large charities, as the call to action forces the reader to consider the real-world applications of their agreement with Singer’s arguments. We agreed that Singer’s conclusions on how the affluent should donate until they are at the same level as the people they are trying to help is theoretically reasonable, however not practically realistic.

Upon the conclusion of our discussion, I found a point of argument in Singer’s articles that I hadn’t previously considered, which is that Singer himself admitted his examples were not realistically applicable to the masses when he made a moderate version of his principle point: “the more moderate version – that we should prevent bad occurrences unless, to do so, we had to sacrifice something morally significant” (The Singer Solution to World Poverty). So, it can therefore be argued that Singer knows his hypothetical examples are not reasonably and realistically applied to the masses.

Overall, I was very happy with my group’s discussion, and I gained a lot additional insight into how to read Singer. My conclusions were similar to my group’s, which were that Singer’s argument, that we should give much more money to charities than we currently do as a society, is justifiable even without his extreme examples. I am also in support of Singer’s inclusion of examples such as Bob and his Bugatti, as they are powerful and give his arguments that emotional impact one needs to engage the masses.


Discussion Summary for ‘living moral lives’ by Singer

I led my discussion around the ideas of Singer. Specifically, I wanted to get a sense of how strongly people aligned themselves with Singers ideology.

Q1: Do you think we are living morally wrong lives if we don’t follow Singers way of life?

How this questions relates to Singers main argument: it tries to directly dismiss his ideas and provokes us to think weather they are actually needed or not to live moral lives. By thinking about what would happen if we didn’t follow his ideas at all, it gives a gross sense of the worth of his ideas. Specifically, I wanted to see if people thought the drastic changes in our lives that Singer wants us to implement are actually needed. Basically, I asked this question to see if people really jived with Singers suggested way of living or if they thought one could live a moral life even without Singers suggestions.

My opinion: I think the changes Singer presents are quite drastic and his need for everyone to alter their lives so drastically are impractical. I do think that we would have a much better world if everyone followed his ways but I think Singer did not address how to actually bring about this change. His thinking is correct, and he presents us with a ‘more’ moral way to live life. However, because of human psychology and our evolutionary nature to thrive in small groups, it’s hard for humans to think globally in my opinion. This is my reasoning for why people would save the child when faced with the situation right in front of them but they often dismiss opportunities to donate to charities that are doing just as important work half way around the world.

Group opinion: My group responded by saying we (people in the first world) are in a state of ignorance because we rarely think about how we can help those in third world countries. We discussed how even a little bit of help on our part could go a long way. This is possible since our average wages in first world countries are relatively high and even donating a few percent of our wage is almost equivalent to the average wage in some countries. We thought that because of this fact, we do not need to alter our lives so significantly to help those less fortunate. In fact, donating even 1 percent of our income can go a long way. However, Singer wants everyone to donate ‘as much as possible,’ he says “a household making $100,000 could cut a yearly check for $70,000. Again, the formula is simple: whatever money you’re spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away.” (The Singer Solution to World Poverty, 1999) We all agreed that this is simply asking for way too much. This is especially true if everyone in the first world followed this practice. With this thinking, we came to a realization that no one person is singly responsible for everything. As long as we each do our part, we can continue to live our lives as we do (for the most part, forgoing about 1-2% of our income) while also helping so many people in need. Overall, we concluded that one can in fact live a life where they are helping those in need by not making such significant changes as required my Singers suggestions.

We also thought that it was important not only to start helping others but also to not live a life of ignorance. We thought of ignorance as a moral infraction. If we can become more aware of issues others are facing and more aware of the privileges we have, we naturally start thinking about creating a more equal world. For example, one of my group members brought up the point about how lucky we are to have access to education here, especially such top quality education. If we can realize that so much of the world simply doesn’t have access to education because of differing reasons, we not only start appreciating our circumstances but we strive to make the best impact on the world that we can by taking advantage of this education. Additionally, when we come across charities that aim to provide education to those in need, we become more open to donating if we know the value of such things.

In summary: It is important to be mindful of the circumstances of ourselves in relation to the those others are living in so that we are motivated to bring equality to this world. This requires a change in mindset but not a drastic shift in the way we live our lives that Singer proposed.


Q2: What version of Singers principle can be implemented in real life? The strong or moderate interpretation of his message?

Moderate interpretation was defined as ““If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it.”

Strong interpretation was defined as “If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby causing something worse to occur, we ought, morally, to do it.”

How this question is relevant to Singers argument: The questions tests to see if his conclusion should be interpreted as strongly as he presents or with slightly less strength. I wanted to ask this questions because I felt that even though Singer made excellent points and brought up excellent facts about the world, his conclusion was too strong given his arguments. In particular, I thought he asked for too drastic of changes from us in order to live moral lives.

Singers opinion: We know that singer himself “[sees] no good reason for holding the moderate version of the principle rather than the strong version” (Famine, Affluence, and Morality, 1972). Singer is confident in his stance and firmly believes that we should be abiding by the stronger principle all the time. I had told my group to keep this in mind as we continue the discussion.

My opinion: I do not agree with Singer. I’m more aligned with the moderate interpretation for the same reasons discussed below as part of my groups opinion.

Group opinion: I asked my group which interpretation they found to be more moral and if either was actually possible to implement in our lives. Everyone agreed that the strong interpretation was not possible to implement effectively in all of our lives. However, we all agreed the moderate interpretation was something that we can actually strive for and can achieve in our lives. The key difference between the two interpretations is that the strong interpretation asks us to prevent bad things from happening in every single case we encounter (as long as it doesn’t lead to something worse of course). We agreed that this simply asks too much from us. My group members suggested that our own happiness is also something we have to consider when making moral decisions because morality is about everyone (including us) and not just others. We all agreed that the moderate interpretation was a happy medium.

In summary: We all agreed that Singer makes excellent points and that we should actually alter our lives slightly to be more considerate of the rest of the world. However, we all agree that his conclusion was too strong given his arguments.

Discussion Summary for March 16, 2018

Q1. Referring to Singer’s analogy of a drowning child from “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”, is it realistic to think we can literally save a life so easily? Maybe the child is an orphan, and saving them would mean we need to help them find a home/support afterwards, or maybe we have a child of our own that cant be left unattended while we wade. How would the analogy work then?

I asked this question in attempt dissect the effectiveness of Singer’s argument.When Singer lays it out, it seems to obvious, “Yes of course! We’d save the child!”, but in reality, there are so many factors and consequences that colour our choices. I was not trying to make the argument that we shouldn’t save the drowning child, but instead, I wanted my group to consider instances in which the analogy would not be as effective as Singer puts it.

My group took this deeper than I thought they would! Beginning with the point, “what do we do with the child after we save them?”, the discussion actually veered towards why foreign aid is not the answer to everything. A thought-provoking point was brought up, as we discussed the implications of simply donating money. If we did that with everyone, we make the assumption that people are able to support themselves later… regardless of how much (or little) we’ve done. If we leave the child by the bank, then they need to figure out how to survive on their own. But assuming everyone is immediately willing to save the child, knowing they will become your responsibility, that is quite monumental. I can’t imagine an unanimous agreement with Singer if the argument was framed that way.
We also discussed donating in terms of helping the homeless. It was easily agreed upon that donating money directly is not the best idea, because we don’t know where the money goes, even if it may help. My group agreed that giving food, or other items, is better than cash.
In retrospect, I know remember Singer also mentioned donating other things is equally acceptable. But because he emphasized money specifically so much, it slipped my mind.

Q2. Is Nussbaum or Singer’s argument more convincing? Why? (There were some of follow-up questions that I thought of on the spot as well. I forgot to write them all down, but I will mention one in the summary below.)

Because I found Singer’s argument, on the surface level, to be easily digested and understood, I wanted to know if others felt this way. Based on what we discussed in class as well, Singer has a very solid argument (with exceptions to certain analogies), and I was wondering if my group felt the same! In regards to Nussbaum, as we didn’t discuss her as much in class, I wanted to know whether my group thought her reasoning was sound or not.

Someone brought up that even though Singer’s argument was really good, they were more swayed by Nussbaum because it seemed more like an overall call to action. This was interesting because I thought Singer’s articles were very pointed calls for action. However, the group member flushed out her idea more, stating that Nussbaum’s ideas relate more to the economy and structural issues, which made it more real for her. Overall, we agreed Nussbaum’s views were on a “macro” societal scale, whereas Singer’s were more of the “micro” individual scale.
To explain this a bit more, Nussbaum’s approach focused a lot on what a society should look like in order to have a good quality of life. There is not a lot an individual can do to change systematic issues, for example, a community where only boys can learn to read and write. This takes an united group to implement catalyze change on a large scale. This is what was meant by “macro”. On the other hand, Singer’s approach urges each of us to personally donate something we can afford to. Singer does not really talk about what the government should do, except something along the lines of “government campaigning is good too” in “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”. (I wanted to talk about this, but we ran out of time.) Singer’s urging is much more personal, and does not have a clear end goal in mind, aside from the eradication of poverty, or whenever everybody is equal in wealth and services.

I later asked, “Do you think Nussbaum and Singer’s ideas are exact opposites? Or could they complement each other?”
The answer was an unsure yes. But because Singer approaches the situation from a bottom -up personal scale, and Nussbaum comes from a top-down societal approach, we thought there was probably a way for everyone to contribute, in order to create a society where people are capable to do certain things.

March 16th Discussion of Singer& Nussbaum

Question 1: How valid is Singer’s metaphor of the drowning child and an observers obligation to aid it?

Singer argues that if we have the capacity to save a life, whether in front of us or not, we should do so. Ignoring our capacity to save a life without sacrificing anything of morally significance is a premise most people will not have any qualms agreeing to. I find there to be 2 falsities in this analogy.  It seems to me that Singer proposes monetary donations as the primary method of carrying out his philosophy.

When reading singer, I tend to picture foreign aid being the result of such donations. To continue with the metaphor of a drowning child, are we really pulling them out of the water, or simply throwing them food? Can problems of national starvation really be solved with donations? In our discussion group, we discussed the fact that simply donating money isn’t addressing the root problem of most conflicts, rather its a deferral of obligation to someone else. We also recognized that some conflicts do require sacrifices of moral significance to be solved. Much of the modern day peacekeeping undertaken today occurs in war zones, where people must risk their lives to make progress. We all agreed that Singer doesn’t really present arguments for any situation that does require substantial sacrifices of moral significance. If we were to add a shark into the pool with the drowning child, and argue that by going in, we might not be entirely saving the child, how would singers philosophy deal with this problem?

Question 2:In the situation of conflicting claims to rights, how do we determine who gets what?

We also had time to talk about Nussbaum’s theory of Capabilities. I very much like her philosophy that everyone should at least have the choice of action, but it seems there’s a high risk of bias. I proposed the example of gun control in the United States. If one individual claims a right to carry arms for their own safety, and another claims they should be illegal for the sake of their own safety, whom should we support?

Our discussion group again agreed (we were a small group) that it was a difficult case to make, and easier to look at under Canada’s framework. Only a select few people carry weapons in Canada, and there is general consensus that everyone is better off because of it. We did not come up with an answer for solving conflicting capabilities. If the question is applied to somewhere more dangerous than the US, for example regions of East Africa, the case for protecting oneself with weapons becomes even stronger. Though we all agreed that our society functions perfectly without guns for protection, we live in a very safe and stable society and our bias is clear. This is just one example of conflicting interests. The closest we could get was to look at the hypothetical disagreement under the guise of Utilitarianism, where all parties would feel safer/happier with 0 guns… unfortunately we all know the world isn’t that straightforward!

Kant, O’Neill Summary

Q1) “Justice is more fluid than absolute” (pg. 259) If stealing medicine to save a life is justified, where do we draw the line? Should the justice system incorporate moral reasoning into the way laws are enforced? (Examples- theft, drug addiction

How this relates to the reading: This weeks reading was very much regarding morals and as O’Neill states on page 260, “Kant’s scope is much broader than human rights.” He is talking about how the obligations humans have and they may not always correspond with laws and freedoms. This question also relates more to an American way of viewing health care as they have to pay extensive amounts of money sometimes to fill a subscription.

A1) My group came up with many great responses including that Kant would suggest the government help the person obtain a good standard of living instead of arresting someone for a non-violent or petty felony. Not that Kant would ever encourage stealing but stealing would be correct only if it was the absolute final resort and you felt the moral value of stealing exceeded the burden of breaking the law. In this case, laws are in place to protect people from being stolen from which violates personal rights. Programs have been set up now a days to save people from needing to steal. Kant would probably suggest stealing from a large corporation with lots of money (Shoppers Drug Mart) compared to a small business (family owned and run) would be morally better due to the fact that the workers of the huge corporation are still obtaining the same pay cheque compared to if that person had not stolen. Where as stealing from a small business is directly taking the money from the owner who probably doesn’t nearly make as much as a large company. The conclusion was stealing is never right but moral values may not always be the legal way to do things but they may outweigh the legal penalty. The enforcers of the laws should judge each case separately and hold the same level of standards for all people in all situations but the best answer isn’t always throwing them in a cell.

Q2) Say you stumble across a money clip with no ID and no cards or any way to know who it may belong too with a $50 dollar bill in it outside of the grocery store – is it morally better to turn it in to the manager of the store and not accept the money somebody may be looking for or use it to buy $50 dollars worth of groceries and donate them to a food bank?

I chose this question because if it was a wallet with an ID you could get it back to them fairly easily but can you trust the other people along the way? If the store manager decides to take the money for them self then its a lose-lose situation. If the possibility of an unmoral action is present then that action should not be followed through. This relates to the reading because on page 260 it states “There is no problem when we are deciding our own action:..” and “..there is no guarantee we can always work out which maxim will be scrutinized for purposes of what others do.”

A1) We discussed that donating it to charity ensures it is going to a good place and we all agreed it would have a slim chance ending up where it is supposed to. Kant would have a problem taking the money and donating to charity because he would be using the person’s money as a mere means to an end. (happiness) Even though the intentions were right, the money belonged to someone else and if the possibility of them getting it back was present then that may help that person fulfill their end goal. We also talked about how we would feel happiness knowing someone would benefit from the $50 dollars worth of food. Mill would have had no problem donating the money for that same reason, if someone was benefitting and you were feeling a sense of happiness as a result then that action should be pursued to the fullest extent.

Discussion Summary on O’Neill and Kant

Q1. In O’Neill’s interpretation of Kant’s categorical imperative, she expresses two crucial duties in discerning morally right actions, calling them actions of justice and beneficence, or perfect and imperfect duties respectively.  Which do you think is more important or takes priority in moral dilemmas or ambiguous situations such as those posed by O’Neill?

In her interpretation of the Kantian categorical imperative, O’Neill discusses the usage of perfect and imperfect duties regarding famine and poverty.  She characterizes the importance of considering others and to “act on maxims that treat others as ends in themselves” (260).  Furthermore, she references the act of using others as a mere means in relation to famine.  O’Neill discusses the Kantian perspective on respecting other people’s autonomy and rationality, stressing the concept that the autonomy of another country in famine or generally in need, must be respected as a maxim in itself to “lend some support to others’ plans and activities” (262).  Both these concepts of the categorical imperative are posed as essential to the morality of a maxim and action.  Nevertheless, situations may arise in which either of these are challenged in relation to the other.  By posing this question, I was interested in seeing varying opinions on the importance of each; treating others as ends in themselves, and not treating others as mere ends.  I wanted to observe whether the group could conclude that one aspect of this categorical imperative would trump the other, or if they would be seen as equal in value.

When presented to the group, most agreed that perfect duties or duties of justice were primary in addressing any situation.  As a group, we discussed various theoretical dilemmas that might challenge the two aspects of O’Neill’s perception of Kant’s categorical imperative.  We agreed that both treating others as means in themselves, and not treating others as mere means were both crucial in making moral decisions, but found that the later could be negated even within a maxim considered morally correct.  In essence, the group found that it was not essential to always treat others as means in themselves, but by breaking perfect duties and treating others as mere means, Kant’s categorical imperative would not hold.  Moreover, it was interesting to note that the group also agreed that other people, as the receiver of such actions, was more advantageous than self-directed actions.  We discussed how by treating others in such ways over the self, one could more readily encompass the morality and morally good actions, although we did not discuss the reasoning behind this phenomenon.  Nevertheless, the group’s ideas gave insight on more challenging situations regarding Kant’s concepts and how to handle them.

Q.2 Which form of Kant’s categorical imperative do you think is more useful to apply to different moral situations including the famine problem and other moral dilemmas?

In her article, “Kantian Approaches to Some Famine Problems”, O’Neill addresses the second form of Kant’s categorical imperative in contrast to the previous form that discusses the universability of various maxims.  Although both can be theoretically used to discern morally good actions from those of lesser value, they each come with advantages and disadvantages depending on varying situations.  O’Neill successfully utilizes Kant’s concepts of perfect and imperfect duties regarding poverty, stating that “duties are not, on the Kantian picture, limited to those close at hand…in an interconnected world, we may be able to affect the capacities for autonomous action of those who are far away” (265).  Evidently, by considering both perfect and imperfect duties, O’Neill argues that Kantian perspectives on the roles of both these duties can effectively serve as a source of moral action for famine across the world.  However, it is interesting to note that she does not truly discuss the concept of poverty in regards to Kant’s ideas of universability for the categorical imperative.  I was interested in seeing what others thought of the universability of maxims that may apply to the famine problem, as well as a discussion on which approach was more useful in application.

Interestingly, most of the group agreed that the universability of the categorical imperative was more straightforward to use regarding the ease that it could be applied.  We found that it was simple to apply the “universability test” to a wide variety of situations that might seem morally challenging, and it was applicable to many maxims that might arise.  However, the group found that the morality of each maxim based on this test was ambiguous.  Although a situation might arise that would essentially pass this universability test and render itself morally correct, it was difficult to come to terms with the actual moral correctness of this maxim.  One of the members of the group brought up an example regarding the expulsion of immigrants landed in a country from 2 years past to maintain economic stability.  Although it was theoretically possible for this maxim to pass the universability test, it seemed morally ambiguous as immigrants would then be removed from these countries for the good of the state.  Therefore, we agreed that the second for of the categorical imperative, as presented by O’Neill, was much more useful, although more difficult to actively apply.  Regarding this maxim specifically, the action would not be considered morally correct, as treating immigrants in this way would break the perfect duty; treating others as a mere means for economic value.  Ultimately, we reached this consensus, and agreed that both forms had both advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation.

Kant discussion summary

  • What if you forcibly prevented someone from committing suicide? Is that morally correct according to Kant? Doing so is acting out of a goodwill, and the Maxim of saving a life is universalizable. But on the other hand you did not give the person autonomy; you took away their choice of committing suicide.


  • In the classic example of lying to a murderer, Kant says :If you lie, you could be responsible for the person’s death, because your lie caused it. Had you told the truth, the murderer only is responsible for the murder. Is this contradictory to Kant’s first Categorical Imperative of if a maxim is universalizable? The maxim of your action is to “lie to save a life”, and this maxim is universalizable.


The first question presents a situation where Kant’s first categorical imperative formation (if a maxim is universalizable or not decides if an action is morally correct or not (The Kantian Perspective Fairness and Justice p.160)) contradicts his second categorical imperative (treat others as an end in themselves, which means giving them autonomy (Kantian O’Neil approaches some Famine problem p.259) ). If you are to prevent the suicide, you took away his/her choice of committing suicide. But on the other hand, preventing suicide as a maxim is universalizable, and you are acting out of good will. This example goes on to show how Kant’s philosophy is less ambitious compared to say Mill’s, making little effort in ranking the categorical imperative, or polishing them to make sure they are applicable in every case.



The second discussion question has to do with the problem of Kant’s first categorical imperative. (The Kantian Perspective Fairness and Justice p.160) How maxims sometime is too subjective to be used in making moral judgment in every case. In the case given by Kant to prove that lying is always wrong, where you are given the choice of lying to a murderer or not, he stated that the maxim of your lying is “to lie to get what you want”, but in this case the maxim could very well be “lie to save a life”, which is relatively more universalizable, because you won’t have to lie that often anyway, and thus lies are still believable.



Discussion summary:

In the first question we mainly agreed on that Kant’s philosophy is relatively less bullet proof, and this case does present a situation where his CI clashes. We also agreed that the main problem stems from the fact that the CI does not come with any further instruction on how they should be applied. We noted that Kant did specifically condemned the action of committing suicide, but he did not note if anyone else should interfere with one’s such decision.


In the second question, a response I received was that the universalizablility of the maxim “lie to save a life” is debatable, as if we always lie to murderers, murderers might not believe in lies anymore, which lead us to another conclusion, that the result of a maxim being universalized is very hard to predict in more complicated situation, and thus is not reliable.

Discussion Summary on Kant


1. Do you agree more with Mill or with Kant’s ethics on what actions are morally right and wrong? (consequences or motive) If Kant would you change anything about his ethics to make it more reasonable for yourself?

2. Can you think of an example of a purely moral action? Performing a certain action not because of interest or motivation?

Reasoning behind the questions:

I chose question one to understand what philosopher’s theory makes more sense to others and what they agree with more. While Mill judges acts on the amount of happiness they produce (Greatest Happiness Principle), Kant judges them based on the person’s motives and if they are a universal law (something everyone could do). Like many others, I can find faults in both and can question every scenario so I wanted to know what others thought was more reasonable and if they agree with one more than another. The following quotes from the text, Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals, helped me formulate this question:

“Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law·.” (pg.6)

“Act as though the maxim of your action were to become, through your will, a universal law of nature.” (pg.6)

I chose the second question as I myself pondered over and over trying to come up with one purely moral act. While I thought about it for a long time, I seemed to find myself questioning each scenario and could never come up with one purely moral act. The act would need to be completely moral, so no ulterior motive, as well not taking interest of themselves and the end consequences into consideration. While I found this quite difficult I wanted to see if anyone else could think of one. The following quotes from the text, Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals, helped spark this question:

“So we have to develop •the concept of a will that is to be esteemed as good in itself without regard to anything else, •the concept that always takes first place in judging the total worth of our actions…” (pg.2)

“One that is in accord with duty—is what he directly wanted to do, ·rather than being something he did only because it was involved in something else that he directly wanted to do.” (pg.2)

“With luck, someone’s desire for honor may lead to conduct that in fact accords with duty and does good to many people; in that case it deserves •praise and •encouragement; but it doesn’t deserve •high esteem, because the maxim ·on which the person is acting· doesn’t have the moral content of an action done not because the person likes acting in that way but from duty.” (pg.3)

“So an action’s moral value doesn’t lie in •the effect that is expected from it, or in •any principle of action that motivates it because of this expected effect.” (pg.4)

Discussion question one:

 The discussion started off with one person agreeing with Kant’s ethics more so than Mill’s. He said he agrees more with Kant because he does not agree with Greatest Happiness Principle. He continued to say that intentions matter and we can’t solely judge the actions based on the consequences it brings about. Happiness is too bias of a concept to allow it to judge morality he continued to add. He also agrees with universalization and thinks its more realistic that we have to consider whether everyone could do the action or not. Another person said he has no preference because he finds problems in both. Both of their ethics on how to judge morality do not have much significance with the outcome. He agrees with the other person in the group that happiness is not a just thing to judge as everyone can feel differently towards a certain action. While the one person agreed with Kant, he did say that if he were to change anything it would be to actually use a bit of utilitarism and consider the consequences a bit more and not only the intention. For example, he said that if someone meant to help but ended up killing a thousand people then the consequence should then be judge and not the intention. Like myself, both of the members of the discussion groups found faults in both the ethics on how to judge morality and combining the both could possibly make it more just on what is morally right and wrong.

 Discussion question two:

 This question was a bit more difficult for the group to formulate an answer. One person said that having children could be an example of a purely moral act because it is not for your own benefit. While there is some obligation to have children in a lifetime it can take away from your life so it doesn’t always benefit someone. When pondering on this example we did find that someone could argue that if your child becomes wealthy or gains power then it will benefit you in the end but again the intention was not to have a child for those reasons. Another example that was brought up was taking care of ill people. One drawback to this was that how do you draw the line between what one person might find satisfactory with that and one might not. It is difficult to know when everyone has a different opinion on everything and not one person will feel the exact same way as another person might. The last example brought up was after an attack on a city or country someone burying corpses could be a purely moral act. It is a horrific thing so not many people would find enjoyment out of it but some might question whether or not it is a moral duty to pay respect to those who died. A lot of the examples that were brought up really depended on who that person it and so many of the examples were argued. With saying that we could not think of a purely moral act, not out of interest or motive.