Man is, by nature, a social being. Living together in harmony is and must be the goal of every individual. The Social Contract Theory is a set of rules that are necessary to make social living possible. In the scenario that my neighbour is homosexual or is engaged in prostitution that is consensual, my stand is to respect their personal choice. So long as they are not disrupting social harmony and not doing any harm to any other person, then the least that I can do is to give the respect that is due them by virtue of their being a human being.
I believe that homosexuality is the sexual orientation that a person has decided to take. There may be some factors – which I or anyone else in his immediate community is not aware of – that contributed to that homosexual tendency of his. I will never be in the position to make moral judgements about his choice. I am convinced that a person who has homosexual tendencies may still function in society as any other “straight” person would – or perhaps even better for that matter.
Manifestations of homosexuality used to be taboo in society because of the limited knowledge and understanding of people about the dynamism and mystery of human nature. However, through time, my outlook towards life and people has opened wide and I have recognized that even those groups of people that society has pushed to the margins of community can actually be an asset to the entire society. Stereotyping and judging rashly had led many people to label homosexuals as “bad” or “immoral” or simply “off”. But we must consider that their sexual orientation does not make them less of a person, who can function and contribute to the wellness and quality of social life.
With regard to prostitution, I believe that people who are engaged in it are actually in it for several motivations that only they would know and understand. Whatever their specific needs are, they must have been very compelling to make them engage in the business of “selling” their bodies. Though I do not agree with that choice of source of income, still I am firm that I – nor anybody – can ever impose any judgement on them. If I had a friend, a neighbour or an acquaintance who is into prostitution, the least I can do perhaps is to help her/him look for other sources of income. I can enlighten the person’s mind that prostitution is not the only way to address his needs. But still, the last choice would be hers/his. And whatever choice the person makes, I will give the respect that she/he deserves.
The Utilitarians’ fundamental principle is to do everything for the sake of the Greatest Happiness. Their view of laws is based on the foundation that laws are made to promote the welfare of the members of society. With this as the starting point, laws must therefore not restrict the freedom of the people to the expense of their happiness. The main criterion for following laws is whether the behaviour will lead to the greatest good and the least harm to everyone concerned.
With regard to the benevolence of God, I consider the Utilitarians’ view as something beautiful, elating, and highly spiritual. They hold the belief that God is a caring and loving God. His benevolence is seen in actuality – in reality – and it is not kept in lip service, which limits God’s benevolence to mere words. God’s benevolence is seen in action, which is stronger than just being uttered in words.
With such views on laws and the benevolence of God, it is not surprising therefore that Utilitarians see the practice of active euthanasia not as an immoral act, but as an act of charity. If resorting to intervention to end one’s life is needed in order to pursue the person’s happiness, which is the highest good, then active euthanasia must be done.
Applying the Utilitarian principles to the case of Freud’s request to his doctor to end his life, the deed was morally right. Freud’s happiness was the main object of concern. If judgement would be based on Christian tradition, Dr. Max Schur performed an immoral act because he ended Freud’s life, the life of an innocent person. In fact, in the light of Christian tradition, Freud too was immoral because he wanted to be in control of his life, which is a big sacrilege to the Christians’ belief that only God can take away the life He has given.
In the light of Utilitarian principles, the deed of ending the life of Freud through the use of lethal injection as the active intervention was the right thing to do. Utilitarians’ strong and real belief in the benevolence of God justifies their judgement. If Dr. Schur was after the happiness of Freud, much more would God have wanted it. From this perspective, the doctor even became God’s instrument to make Freud’s sought-for happiness a reality.
It is a known fact that marijuana brings pleasure and relaxation. People who use marijuana have testified that smoking it really enhances the pleasure of activities that involve the senses, such as eating, drinking, and engaging in sexual activities. Because of these elating effects of marijuana, smoking it gives more meaning to the person’s daily activities. For such merit, I must say – based on Utilitarians’ way of thinking – that there lies the intrinsic good of this particular illicit and illegal drug.
Definitely, just like smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, using marijuana has its consequences. It is innately addicting because of its addictive ingredients; it can cause cognitive damage, as drug studies have proven; and it can bring damage to the person’s respiratory system. These negative effects of heavy use of marijuana can lead to the person’s being unproductive in society and hamper his normal daily functions. These destructive consequences would eventually lead to the person’s unhappiness, which then makes marijuana something immoral, based on the Utilitarians’ way of moralizing.
Personally, I would judge this phenomenon according to the balance that the person can hold. If smoked only occasionally, I would think that marijuana is acceptable. However, the user’s voluntary control must be firm. Based on experience, self-control is not so easy to be had. Therefore, I would rather go for avoiding it completely than run the risk of falling into addiction that would eventually lead to unhappiness.
“Utilitarians suggest that having a soul, being able to reason, or being a member of our species is not the fundamental criteria for including a being in our moral community.” This claim runs parallel to their foundational principle of morality, which is happiness. The capacity and the ability to experience happiness and unhappiness is the core criterion in determining a living being’s part of the moral community. In this light of thinking, nonhuman animals, pets for instance, can pass this criterion. Animals can feel suffering as much as pets can feel and even give affection.
Considering the welfare of animals in our moral deliberations is therefore justified. I believe that Utilitarians are right in saying that humans must treat animals humanely. However, killing animals as the necessary way to provide meat as food to humans is not something that I consider to be cruel.
Yes, nonhuman animals do count. They matter in our social life, in keeping the society in harmony and a pleasant place to live in. Slaughterhouses have gained a rather infamous reputation because of their known cruel and brutal practices. Therefore, laws have to be stronger so as to protect the dignity of the animals’ sacrifice to be food to human. The industry of killing animals for the sake of a better quality of life of humans has to have stronger Utilitarian beliefs. As long as the industry’s humane treatment of animals is secured, I believe that it is morally right for animals to be given up in the service of humans. I do not agree with Peter Singer’s urge for us to become vegetarians which he claims to be a demand of morality.
. With everything we have read, talked about, and discussed, I believe that the greatest learning I had was how beautiful life is and how good God is. Our discussions gave me deep insights about morality, doing good for yourself and for others with the intention of pursuing the Highest Good. I believe that morality does not depend of religion but rather on the faith and beliefs that the person holds true. My reading of the course materials we’ve had gave me the insight that faith unites, but religion divides.
2. From all the topics we have covered, what struck me the most was the chapter on Utilitarianism. Though I understood very well the arguments they presented and I think they have a very logical way of thinking, I would still find it hard to decide as they would should I find myself in those particular scenarios. For instance, active euthanasia – if I were put in that situation and my mother would request to be injected a drug to hasten her stay in life, it would be so hard – perhaps I wouldn’t be able to agree and give in to her request. That was the hardest point in our discussion. It was difficult for me to complete but their idea and logic but I understood perfectly well where the argument was coming from.
3. One big question remains in me after all the readings and discussions. The question may not be related to the content but I am wondering who in this earth is a complete Utilitarian in all its aspects. Who and where are they? What is their lifestyle like? I have this notion that a full-fledged Utilitarian has his strong convictions permeated in all aspects of his life and even in his daily decisions. That is something that I would like to witness.
4. Our lessons have greatly influenced my own life. It made my conviction firmer that actions cannot be blindly judged as black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. Every individual I encounter, no matter how absurd their actions may be or how immaculately holy the actions may seem to be, has a whole set of beliefs that prompted him to behave in such a manner. Persons cannot be judged based on their actions alone without looking into their intentions. I think now that intentions matter more than actions, in terms of evaluating morality.