Interactive Quiz on Hedonistic Act-Utilitarianism

 

Douglas W. Portmore

 

Copyright 2007 by Douglas W. Portmore. Some Rights Reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. See full licensing details here.

 

Directions: Answer the following questions according to what hedonistic act-utilitarianism (HAU) entails—answer either “Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True.” HAU is the view according to which an act is morally permissible if and only if it produces at least as much hedonic utility as any other available alternative act would. The hedonic utility of an act equals the total amount of pleasure it produces minus the total amount of pain it produces.

 

1.    An act is morally impermissible if it causes someone tremendous pain.

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

 

2.   An act is morally impermissible if it produces, in the aggregate, more pain than pleasure. In other words, an act is morally impermissible if it has negative hedonic utility.

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

 

3.    It is morally permissible to torture an innocent baby in certain circumstances.

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

 

4.   The effects that our actions will have on people’s welfare millions of years from now are just as important as their immediate effects.

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

 

5.   It is morally impermissible to listen to Metallica on the car’s CD player if the other three people in the car would get more pleasure from listening to The Beatles. Assume that listening to Metallica and listening to The Beatles are the only two available options.

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

 

6.    If an act produces pleasure for many and pain for no one, then it isn't wrong.

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

 

7.   In deciding how to build our prisons, the comfort and welfare of the inmates who will live in them is just as important as the welfare of the taxpayers who will pay for them.

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

 

8.   In an effort to help his patient, Dr. Smith injects Jones with a shot of penicillin after dutifully asking him whether he’s allergic to penicillin and hearing Jones say that he isn’t. Nevertheless, it turns out, unbeknownst to Jones even, that Jones is severely allergic to penicillin, and, consequently, he dies as a result of the injection. Assuming that there would have been more hedonic utility had Dr. Smith not injected Jones with a shot of penicillin, it follows that what Dr. Smith did was wrong.

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

                                                               

9.   If you promised a kid ten bucks to wash your car and he did as promised (he washed your car and did a nice job), you should give him the ten bucks.

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

 

10. Mr. Smith has an extra $500 this month after paying all his bills. He uses that $500 to buy his son a set of encyclopedias to help with his son’s schoolwork.  But had Smith instead used that $500 to buy some stranger’s kid a set of encyclopedias that would have produced slightly more hedonic utility. What Mr. Smith did was wrong.

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

 

11. In deciding to adopt either an exercise routine that involves swimming or one that involves running, Mr. Johnson is morally required to make the choice that produces the greatest hedonic utility. Assume that, according to HAU, Mr. Johnson ought to adopt one or the other of these two exercise routines, and that one produces more hedonic utility than the other, although only for Mr. Johnson.  

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

 

12. Anyone who acts wrongly by, say, spending money on her own loved ones when she could have instead produced more hedonic utility by donating that money to some hunger relief organization is a morally bad person, deserving of both blame and punishment.  

 

Necessarily True” or “Not Necessarily True”?

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.

 

”Not necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, it’s the aggregate that matters. An act that causes one person pain and many others pleasure may, in the aggregate, produce more hedonic utility than any other available alternative act would.

 

Question 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

”Necessarily true” is incorrect. On HAU, it’s the aggregate that matters. An act that causes one person pain and many others pleasure may, in the aggregate, produce more hedonic utility than any other available alternative act would.

 

Question 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.

 

“Not necessarily true” is correct. According to HAU, whether or not an act is permissible can only be determined by comparing its outcome with that of its alternatives. If all the alternatives have negative hedonic utilities as well, then it will be permissible provided that it is the one with the lowest negative hedonic utility.

 

Question 3 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Necessarily true” is incorrect. According to HAU, whether or not an act is permissible can only be determined by comparing its outcome with that of its alternatives. If all the alternatives have negative hedonic utilities as well, then it will be permissible provided that it is the one with the lowest negative hedonic utility.

 

Question 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.

 

“Necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, the ends justify the means, and thus any type of act can, in principle, be permissible and will, in fact, be permissible if it produces at least as much hedonic utility as any other available alternative act would.

 

Question 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, the ends justify the means, and thus any type of act can, in principle, be permissible and will, in fact, be permissible if it produces at least as much hedonic utility as any other available alternative act would.

 

Question 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.

 

“Necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, all effects matter no matter how remote in space or time.

 

Question 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Not necessarily true” is incorrect. On HAU, all effects matter no matter how remote in space or time.

 

Question 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.

 

“Not necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, it’s “one hedon/dolor, one vote”—not “one person, one vote.” (A hedon is a unit of pleasure, and a dolor is a unit of pain.) Suppose, then, that whereas you would get, in the aggregate, 10 hedons from listening to Metallica and 0 hedons from listening to The Beatles, the other three people in the car would each get, in the aggregate, 4 hedons from listening to Metallica and 5 hedons from listening to The Beatles. In this case, it would be morally permissible to listen to Metallica, since doing so would produce more aggregate pleasure than listening to The Beatles would—22 hedons versus 15 hedons.

 

Question 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Not necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, it’s “one hedon/dolor, one vote”—not “one person, one vote.” (A hedon is a unit of pleasure, and a dolor is a unit of pain.) Suppose, then, that whereas you would get, in the aggregate, 10 hedons from listening to Metallica and 0 hedons from listening to The Beatles, the other three people in the car would each get, in the aggregate, 4 hedons from listening to Metallica and 5 hedons from listening to The Beatles. In this case, it would be morally permissible to listen to Metallica, since doing so would produce more aggregate pleasure than listening to The Beatles would—22 hedons versus 15 hedons.  

 

Question 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.

 

“Not necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, it’s not necessarily sufficient to produce pleasure for many and pain for no one; one must maximize the amount of hedonic utility, producing as much hedonic utility as one can.

 

Question 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Not necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, it’s not necessarily sufficient to produce pleasure for many and pain for no one; one must maximize the amount of hedonic utility, producing as much hedonic utility as one can.

 

Question 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.

 

“Necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, everyone’s pleasures and pains count, and count equally, regardless of desert.

 

Question 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Not necessarily true” is incorrect. On HAU, everyone’s pleasures and pains count, and count equally, regardless of desert.

 

Question 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.

 

“Necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, the agent’s motives or intentions are irrelevant; it’s only the effects of the agent’s action and their alternatives that matter.

 

Question 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Not necessarily true” is incorrect. On HAU, the agent’s motives or intentions are irrelevant; it’s only the effects of the agent’s action and their alternatives that matter.

 

Question 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.

 

“Not necessarily true” is correct. HAU is entirely forward-looking. What happened in the past is irrelevant in determining what one morally ought to do. So whether or not you should give the kid the ten bucks depends, not on whether you made a past promise to do so, but rather on whether your doing so would produce at least as much hedonic utility as any other available alternative act would.

 

Question 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Necessarily true” is incorrect. HAU is entirely forward-looking. What happened in the past is irrelevant in determining what one morally ought to do. So whether or not you should give the kid the ten bucks depends, not on whether you made a past promise to do so, but rather on whether your doing so would produce at least as much hedonic utility as any other available alternative act would.

 

Question 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10.

 

“Necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, everyone’s pleasures and pains count equally, regardless of one’s relationship to the potential beneficiaries. The hedonic utility of one’s friends and family members is no more (and no less) important, on HAU, than that of complete strangers.

 

Question 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Necessarily true” is correct. On HAU, everyone’s pleasures and pains count equally, regardless of one’s relationship to the potential beneficiaries. The hedonic utility of one’s friends and family members is no more (and no less) important, on HAU, than that of complete strangers.

 

Question 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.

 

“Necessarily true” is correct. According to HAU, morality is pervasive. Every practical decision and choice is open to moral assessment, even those that have no ramifications for anyone but the agent.

 

Question 12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Not necessarily true” is incorrect. According to HAU, morality is pervasive. Every practical decision and choice is open to moral assessment, even those that have no ramifications for anyone but the agent.

 

Question 12

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12.

 

“Not necessarily true” is correct. As it stands, HAU evaluates only actions, not agents. So it entails nothing about whether such a person is morally bad or deserving of blame. HAU does entail that we should act in ways that impose punishment if and only if doing so produces at least as much hedonic utility as any other alternative act would, but it’s not necessarily the case that punishing such a person would produce more hedonic utility than not doing so.

 

Finished! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Necessarily true” is incorrect. As it stands, HAU evaluates only actions, not agents. So it entails nothing about whether such a person is morally bad or deserving of blame. HAU does entail that we should act in ways that impose punishment if and only if doing so produces at least as much hedonic utility as any other alternative act would, but it’s not necessarily the case that punishing such a person would produce more hedonic utility than not doing so.

 

Finished!