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Happiness, Approbation, and Rational ChoiceStudies in Empiricist Moral Philosophy

Lottenbach, Hans Konrad (2011) Happiness, Approbation, and Rational ChoiceStudies in Empiricist Moral Philosophy. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh.

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    Abstract

    In these studies I investigate paradigmatic empiricist accounts of three notions of moral philosophy: desire for happiness, moral approbation, and rational choice.In the first chapter I situate John Locke's account of the desire for happiness in his general account of the mental faculties. I argue that in Locke's Essay the uneasiness of desire is to be interpreted neither as a perception of an idea nor as a volition, but as an act of a separate faculty of feeling. Only if the uneasiness of desire is understood in this way, will it be possible to make sense of Locke's claim that it constantly accompanies the perception of ideas. Understanding desire as an act of feeling will also clarify what kind of knowledge of happiness Locke assumes we have when we desire happiness. In the second chapter I examine David Hume's account of the origin of the sentiment of moral approbation. Hume seems to give a general empirical explanation of this sentiment; but this explanation of the origin of moral approbation faces apparent counterexamples: the approbation of what Hume calls ‘useless' or ‘monkish' virtues. I argue that Hume's own treatment of these counterexamples demands a restrictive interpretation of what he labels his ‘experimental method,' and an understanding of his moral philosophy as a self-enforcing genealogy of morals.Taking as a starting point a thesis of David Gauthier's about the status of expected utility theory, I discuss - in the third chapter - whether an empiricist and subjectivist theory of value is compatible with an account of rational choice that leaves room for some form of autonomy. I argue that if autonomy presupposes an activity of practical reason, the maximization of expected utility cannot be the principle of rational choice. In each of these studies I attempt to bring into the open insufficiently acknowledged elements in empiricist moral philosophy: the role of non-experiential consciousness in Locke's account of the universal desire for happiness, the restriction of the experimental method in Hume's genealogy of moral approbation, and the assumption of the determinacy of the notion of expected utility maximization in Gauthier's theory of rational choice.


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    Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
    Creators/Authors:
    CreatorsEmailORCID
    Lottenbach, Hans Konradlottenbachh@kenyon.edu
    ETD Committee:
    ETD Committee TypeCommittee MemberEmailORCID
    Committee ChairEngstrom, Stephenengstrom@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberEdwards, Anthonytedwards@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberAllen, Jamesjvallen@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberThompson, Michaelmthompson@pitt.edu
    Title: Happiness, Approbation, and Rational ChoiceStudies in Empiricist Moral Philosophy
    Status: Unpublished
    Abstract: In these studies I investigate paradigmatic empiricist accounts of three notions of moral philosophy: desire for happiness, moral approbation, and rational choice.In the first chapter I situate John Locke's account of the desire for happiness in his general account of the mental faculties. I argue that in Locke's Essay the uneasiness of desire is to be interpreted neither as a perception of an idea nor as a volition, but as an act of a separate faculty of feeling. Only if the uneasiness of desire is understood in this way, will it be possible to make sense of Locke's claim that it constantly accompanies the perception of ideas. Understanding desire as an act of feeling will also clarify what kind of knowledge of happiness Locke assumes we have when we desire happiness. In the second chapter I examine David Hume's account of the origin of the sentiment of moral approbation. Hume seems to give a general empirical explanation of this sentiment; but this explanation of the origin of moral approbation faces apparent counterexamples: the approbation of what Hume calls ‘useless' or ‘monkish' virtues. I argue that Hume's own treatment of these counterexamples demands a restrictive interpretation of what he labels his ‘experimental method,' and an understanding of his moral philosophy as a self-enforcing genealogy of morals.Taking as a starting point a thesis of David Gauthier's about the status of expected utility theory, I discuss - in the third chapter - whether an empiricist and subjectivist theory of value is compatible with an account of rational choice that leaves room for some form of autonomy. I argue that if autonomy presupposes an activity of practical reason, the maximization of expected utility cannot be the principle of rational choice. In each of these studies I attempt to bring into the open insufficiently acknowledged elements in empiricist moral philosophy: the role of non-experiential consciousness in Locke's account of the universal desire for happiness, the restriction of the experimental method in Hume's genealogy of moral approbation, and the assumption of the determinacy of the notion of expected utility maximization in Gauthier's theory of rational choice.
    Date: 29 September 2011
    Date Type: Completion
    Defense Date: 25 July 2011
    Approval Date: 29 September 2011
    Submission Date: 05 August 2011
    Access Restriction: No restriction; The work is available for access worldwide immediately.
    Patent pending: No
    Institution: University of Pittsburgh
    Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
    Refereed: Yes
    Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
    URN: etd-08052011-124650
    Uncontrolled Keywords: consciousness; ethics; pleasure and pain; practical reason; theory of ideas
    Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
    Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 14:57
    Last Modified: 11 Jan 2012 13:52
    Other ID: http://etd.library.pitt.edu/ETD/available/etd-08052011-124650/, etd-08052011-124650

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