Is it moral to behave only in terms of fearing punishment? For example, suppose the only reason a person has for not behaving immorally is the fear of divine punishment. Since his actions yield the same results as another non-immoral person who has no fear of divine punishment, why does it matter what reasons give the same results?

Your question: "Is it moral?", can be asked about the conduct and the person. As you describe the case, the conduct is moral (i.e., morally above reproach), but the person arguably is not because he has no concern for the rights, needs and interests of other people. What does it matter, you ask, if the results are the same? Just think about living with someone who genuinely cares about you versus with someone who behaves the same way out of fear that, if she is not nice to you, she will be punished by losing out on the benefits of your mother's fortune. Or think about a whole world in which any consideration people show one another is motivated solely by a selfish concern over rewards and punishments. The value of human civilization cannot lie exclusively in right conduct -- robots could be programmed to produce that more reliably than human beings -- it must lie, in large part at least, in the nobility of human motivations.

I am an economist who wants to extend his philosophical horizon over the summer. I am looking for a constructive philosophical approach to counter utilitarianism. I feel that utilitarianism is often not satisfactory but I can't say exaxtly why. So far, my reading list consists of Kant's Groundwork and Rawls's Theory of Justice. What else would you recommend?

Here a few classics that shaped the debate when it was at its peak... J.J.C. Smart and Bernard Williams: Utilitarianism: For and Against (Cambridge UP 1973). Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams (eds.): Utilitarianism and Beyond (Cambridge 1982), esp. Rawls's essay. Ronald Dworkin: “What is Equality? Part II: Equality of Resources” in Philosophy and Public Affairs 10/4 (1981), 283-345 (also in Ronald Dworkin: Sovereign Virtue (Harvard 2000)). G.A. Cohen: “Equality of What? On Welfare, Goods, and Capabilities” in Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen (eds.): The Quality of Life (Oxford 1993). Amartya Sen: “Evaluator Relativity and Consequential Evaluation,” in Philosophy and Public Affairs , 12/2 (1983), 113-32.

If cause suffering is bad and life is in part suffering, procreate is inherently bad?

Well, with the symmetrical argument you could conclude the opposite: If causing happiness is good and if life is in part happiness, then procreating is good. Both conclusions seem inadequately supported. It matters how much suffering and how much happiness one's offspring is likely to face. And there are other valuable and disvaluable things besides happiness and suffering: knowledge, culture, art, science, sports and love may all be good things a future person will experience -- good even if they are unaccompanied by happiness. And there are also contributions this future person will make to the lives of others -- good and bad contributions. So the question whether it's bad to procreate requires a more complex weighing up of considerations than is suggested by your argument.

Is it abuse, if the person ( allegely abused) does not consider it abuse? If the person is an adult and feels ok with it is it abuse?

Not necessarily. The fact that the adult in question feels OK with the treatment she receives does not show that her feeling is based on a sound judgment. Not long ago, black citizens of the US were routinely treated as inferior creatures: they were scolded for drinking from the whites-only water fountain, for sitting in the front of the bus, and so on. Some blacks, deeply conditioned to feel inferior in a white society, may have felt OK with such abuse ("oh gosh, yes, I am so sorry, I didn't realize this is the whites-only water fountain"). But this hardly shows that there was no abuse going on when blacks were told off in the ways described.

Greetings. In regards to the situation of Jean Baptiste Clamence in La Chute (The Fall) of Camus, can we say that "doing nothing means also doing something"? Being more specific, for instance if one has witnessed something "bad/evil" which s/he could have done something about and chose to do nothing for avoiding a row of enormous, maybe even deadly consequences like a chain reaction for other people's lives if he chose the opposite; should we consider him as "acting in bad faith or guilty"? Of course in the second option things would get worse also for him too. But by doing nothing, this time he will have to carry the burden alone like Clamence. The content of bad/evil can be understood as subjective, but i meant a valid moral perspective in general by using that term. (E.g., killing a random person in the street)

We often do nothing in such situations without recognizing this failure to act as a choice, and perhaps even really without making a choice not to act (see Hilary Bok: Acting without Choosing ). Bad faith is manifested not in doing nothing, but in the failure to acknowledge our responsibility for doing nothing. Whether we make a conscious choice or not: we have a choice, we are fully responsible for what we do and we ought to face up to this responsibility -- or so I understand Camus' point here. Doing nothing in the face of an impending bad/evil is sometimes the right thing to do (for example, when intervening would afford little protection to those under threat relative to the costs and dangers to which it would expose third parties) and sometimes at least permissible (for example, when the dangers and cost of intervention to oneself would be high relative to the protection one might afford to those under threat). If, in La Chute , Clamence would have run a serious risk of dying by jumping...

According to Utilitarianism as I understand it, an action should be judged by its outcome. I can't understand how this argument has any credence. How is it possible before the action is undertake to be able to know its outcome? We can not tell the future. Even to do with things that are very straightforward the influences and flow on effects from the near distant future to the far future would be astronomical in number. Which raises the further question how do you judge where to draw the line in terms of future ramifications, is it once removed effect, twice, thrice?? It seems completely illogical to me to call it a philosophy.

It is true that you often cannot know the outcome of alternative courses of conduct beforehand. But you can typically assign reasonably accurate probabilities, at least a little time forward. We do this all the time when we make decisions -- between two holiday destinations, perhaps, or about whether to accept a job offer or have a child. Utilitarians ask us to do the same sort of thing but then to evaluate in terms of the happiness of all those affected (including oneself). We are to choose the course of conduct that we have good reason to believe will produce the highest probability-weighted expected happiness. The probability-weighted expected happiness produced by a particular course of conduct (C) is calculated this way: one identifies the possible outcomes of C, evaluates each outcome in terms of happiness, multiplies each outcome's happiness by that outcome's probability (subject to one's having chosen C), then sums the products. You are right that one can do this with tolerable accuracy...

Is one who spreads a contagious disease unconciously held responsible for the victimes? Or under what circumtances should he be held responsible?

If the choice is to impose the cost either on the infectors or on the infected, the former rule seems preferable because it gives suitable incentives to potential infectors to find out whether they have a contagious disease and, if so, to avoid infecting others. This reason might be overcome in special cases where the infectors are very much poorer than those they infect. There is a third option, probably better, namely to cover such costs through universal health insurance. This saves the research and litigation expenses associated with determining who the infector is. One could then still pursue cases of gross negligence through the criminal justice system.

Should I save bad people? For example, if a murderer is drowning and I have the ability to help him, do I do it? I do not have the right to judge whether he/she is worthy or unworthy so what should my reaction be? Sure, he/she could go through the trial process but why should I risk my life for someone who might not be worthy of saving?

We might distinguish three levels of help by reference to the cost or risk to the helper. There is help you are legally require to give, for instance under the "Good Samaritan" laws of your state. Then there is the help you are morally required to give, which would typically go beyond the first category. Finally there is the help you are not legally or morally required to give, help "beyond the call of duty" or supererogatory help. The law typically requires only help that imposes little cost or risk on the helper. Standing safely on the deck of a boat, you may be legally required to toss a life preserver to a drowning swimmer, for example. Here the law will not excuse you if you fail to help on the ground that you believe the drowning swimmer to be a murderer. This is indeed not a judgment you should be making, but one you should leave to the trial process, as you say. In regard to supererogatory help, on the other hand, you are surely free to discriminate. If trying to save a drowning swimmer...

Where in philosophy does the question of "cost" arise, if at all? If someone presents us with a "moral imperative," is it even permissible to ask "what does it cost?" or do we simply abdicate that answer to economists and psychologists?

The question of cost arises in different accounts of morality in different ways. Consequentialist accounts may center around the moral imperative to act so as to make the outcome best. Here cost is factored in by considering how a candidate course of conduct will affect various people, including the agent. I shouldn't try to help a stranger, for example, if the cost to me and third parties of doing so is larger than the benefit to the stranger and other beneficiaries.And I should not help this stranger if doing so came at the expense ("opportunity cost") of something even better I might do instead. Duty-focused moralities often say very little about cost. They may issue the moral imperative not to lie, for example, without addressing the cost that such abstention might impose on the agent and on others. Kant was famously taken to task for this by Benjamin Constant (see also Sartre's much later story "The Wall"). Some duty-focused moralists have addressed the question of cost by delimiting the...

In one famous trolley case, it seems clear that the driver should divert the trolley to the spur, killing one while saving five. In another, it seems clear that a bystnader should not push the fat man off the bridge, again killing one to save five in the trolley's path. But what is the justification for my intuition? Do you see any relevant, principled difference between the two cases that would explain why I should divert the trolley yet refrain from pushing the fat man?

The difference many find morally significant lies in the agent's state of mind. Both bystanders -- B1 and B2 -- intend to save the five; but B2 intends to accomplish this by having the trolley hit the fat man so as to stop it. The fat man getting hit is part of B2's intention: if the fat man somehow lands off-track or hits the track only after the trolley has passed, then B2's plan has failed. By contrast, the intention of B1 does not include anyone being harmed: if B1 diverts the trolley and the single person on the side track is nonetheless saved somehow, B1's plan has still been successfully executed. Another way of putting the point is this. Harm that an agent intends as a means toward achieving the aim of her action counts more strongly against the permissibility of this action than harm that this agent merely foresees as a side-effect of achieving the aim of her action.