Term Paper: Elements of Moral Philosophy by James Rachels

Pages: 4 (1298 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Philosophy  ·  Buy This Paper

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] This connects with the argument that human beings live in a social system. In a social system, one’s welfare or success is to a large extent dependent on how one treats others and how others treat the individual.

There are other circumstances in which achieving impartiality in promoting the interests of others may not be possible. Rachel explains that though impartiality is crucial in promoting morality, people may be driven by other equally acceptable motives, such as love and loyalty (178-179). He argues that human beings would be much worse off if such motives were eliminated. Whereas such motives may not be moral, they promote not only general welfare, but also individual happiness. There is considerable merit in this argument. For instance, as a person, I am concerned about my friends not necessarily because I seek to promote their interests, but because they matter to me. Being loyal to my friends is a noble motive as it advances general welfare and my personal happiness at the same time. For Rachels, seeking to eliminate such morally praiseworthy motives is an attempt to forge a world without friendship, love, and similar ideals – the outcome of which would be undesirable.

Even so, it is important that our motives have general welfare in mind. In other words, we should pursue motives that advance general welfare. This is referred to as motive utilitarianism (Rachels 180). However, a major shortcoming inherent in this view according to Rachels is that it ignores rules or acts. Also, the view pays insufficient attention to motives. Owing to this limitation, Rachels advocates for what he terms as “multiple-strategies utilitarianism.” This view acknowledges that different routes can be used to achieve maximum general welfare. For instance, a legislator may vote for a bill not necessarily because he or she is concerned about general welfare, but because he or she is concerned with enhancing the living conditions of his constituents. Also, the legislator could be concerned about complying with the law as well as delivering his or her promises.

From the perspective of multiple-strategies utilitarianism,” achieving personal happiness and promoting other people’s welfare at the same time may be difficult or even impossible (Rachels 181). This assertion is largely sensible. For instance, we may not always fulfill our promises, and at times we may have to hurt others. Also, it would be morally wrong to spend money on luxuries while there are many homeless, poor, and sick people around us. How then can we solve this dilemma? According to Rachels, individuals should choose the combination of “virtues, motives, and methods of decision-making” that best works for them given their “circumstances, personality, and talents” (181). A combination that maximizes an individual’s happiness while optimizing general welfare simultaneously is the best plan for that individual. It is important to note that though there may be similarities, one’s best plan need not be identical to another person’s best plan due to differences in personality and circumstances such as socioeconomic background. For example, one may be fond of vacationing, but another person may not find fulfillment in vacationing. Accordingly, the lives of these two individuals may be characterized by different virtues, personal relationships, and motives.

Even so, one’s best plan must promote the interests of all equally. I agree with Rachels that we are moral agents. We have an obligation as social creatures to promote the welfare of those around us. In this regard, our moral obligation is not limited by place and time. For instance, we have a duty to preserve the environment for our future generations. Also, the pursuit of our interests should be done with consideration of other creatures we share the natural ecosystem with, particularly non-human animals. On the whole, a satisfactory moral theory is one that advocates for general welfare and diverse ways of achieving general welfare.

Work Cited

Rachels, James. The Elements of Moral Philosophy.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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" Elements of Moral Philosophy by James Rachels."  Essaytown.com.  October 31, 2017.  Accessed November 13, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/elements-moral-philosophy-james-rachels/8329796.