outclast
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Does anyone know how I can apply the utilitarianism to IVF? Like the hedonic calculus, higher and lower pleasures etc.
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serebro
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(Original post by outclast)
Does anyone know how I can apply the utilitarianism to IVF? Like the hedonic calculus, higher and lower pleasures etc.
Well, Utilitarians want to get the most pleasure from their actions.

Act Utilitarianism (Bentham) would use the Hedonic Calculus to see if IVF is beneficial.

Duration: IVF will create a lot of long lasting pleasure in the future for a person if successful as they get a child

Richness (brings about other pleasures): IVF helps to concieve a child, which will consequently give a parent a lot of other pleasures such as seeing their child grow up and having a family.

Purity (does it cause pain): It depends. IVF could lead to pregnancy and birth, which are painful. Apart from this, there isn't much pain. There could be the emotional pain of IVF failure too.

Intensity:
IVF can give significant pleasure to a person if successful, particularly if they desperately want to start a family

Certainty: IVF is not that successful, therefore the chance of pleasure is rather uncertain.

Extent (who else will it affect): Gives the parents and their families pleasure from having a child. The baby and its potential life are also affected (in a good way). However, Utilitarians may consider how overpopulated the earth is and that some are suffering. You would also have to consider the surrogate mother (if applicable) or the sperm donor (AID).

Rule Utilitarianism (Mill) would make this more simple and consider the higher pleasure of having a child. It pleases the mind and the pain caused in pregnancy and childbirth would not affect a mother's ability to enjoy Higher Pleasures in life.

Preference Utilitarianism (Singer) would support the cases made by Act and Rule Utilitarianism but also try to consider the minority. In this case, the unused embryos are experimented on or destroyed, both of which cause pain. Therefore, Singer would be less in favour of IVF, though not entirely against it. He would certainly agree however if IVF was developed enough to have a high success rate and did not lead to leftover embryos.

You might also want to consider the consequences of not having IVF. A woman who desperately desires a child may feel depressed, which could lead to suicide and a great deal of pain. They might also try to live promisciously out of desperation to conceive, which brings the risk of STDs. There also some cases of hysterical pregancies where women (and occasionally men) mimic pregnancy like symptoms out of the desire to conceive. This can cause quite a lot of pain and prevent a person from carrying out day-to-day activities.

Ultimately, it depends on a person's judgement, as is often the case with Utilitarianism being relative and subjective. There might be some that believe the pain of childbirth, low success rate, and destruction of embryos is not worth having IVF, while the majority would rate the pleasure of having a child and its consequences as worthwhile and extremely pleasureable for a person than not at least trying IVF.

Sorry this is long by the way. Hope it helps.
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outclast
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(Original post by serebro)
Well, Utilitarians want to get the most pleasure from their actions.

Act Utilitarianism (Bentham) would use the Hedonic Calculus to see if IVF is beneficial.

Duration: IVF will create a lot of long lasting pleasure in the future for a person if successful as they get a child

Richness (brings about other pleasures): IVF helps to concieve a child, which will consequently give a parent a lot of other pleasures such as seeing their child grow up and having a family.

Purity (does it cause pain): It depends. IVF could lead to pregnancy and birth, which are painful. Apart from this, there isn't much pain. There could be the emotional pain of IVF failure too.

Intensity:
IVF can give significant pleasure to a person if successful, particularly if they desperately want to start a family

Certainty: IVF is not that successful, therefore the chance of pleasure is rather uncertain.

Extent (who else will it affect): Gives the parents and their families pleasure from having a child. The baby and its potential life are also affected (in a good way). However, Utilitarians may consider how overpopulated the earth is and that some are suffering. You would also have to consider the surrogate mother (if applicable) or the sperm donor (AID).

Rule Utilitarianism (Mill) would make this more simple and consider the higher pleasure of having a child. It pleases the mind and the pain caused in pregnancy and childbirth would not affect a mother's ability to enjoy Higher Pleasures in life.

Preference Utilitarianism (Singer) would support the cases made by Act and Rule Utilitarianism but also try to consider the minority. In this case, the unused embryos are experimented on or destroyed, both of which cause pain. Therefore, Singer would be less in favour of IVF, though not entirely against it. He would certainly agree however if IVF was developed enough to have a high success rate and did not lead to leftover embryos.

You might also want to consider the consequences of not having IVF. A woman who desperately desires a child may feel depressed, which could lead to suicide and a great deal of pain. They might also try to live promisciously out of desperation to conceive, which brings the risk of STDs. There also some cases of hysterical pregancies where women (and occasionally men) mimic pregnancy like symptoms out of the desire to conceive. This can cause quite a lot of pain and prevent a person from carrying out day-to-day activities.

Ultimately, it depends on a person's judgement, as is often the case with Utilitarianism being relative and subjective. There might be some that believe the pain of childbirth, low success rate, and destruction of embryos is not worth having IVF, while the majority would rate the pleasure of having a child and its consequences as worthwhile and extremely pleasureable for a person than not at least trying IVF.

Sorry this is long by the way. Hope it helps.
Thank you, this is really helpful! X
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LessThanaClue
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I don't know which forms of Utilitarianism you have looked at, but I focused on Act, Rule and Preference.

For Act Utilitarianism (Bentham)i was taught you use the hedonic calculus (giving a +1 for pleasure, a -1 for pain and 0 for somewhere in between) and see if its overall score:

- Purity (How free it is from pain?) = +1
It is very easy to argue that IVF offers more pleasure than pain (giving people the opportunity to have children when they naturally cannot). However you could bring into argument the fact many spare embryos may be produced, which are destroyed which could increase pain. I wouldn't say this could ever be a -1 though, but a 0 if you want.

- Remoteness (How soon will the pleasure occur?) = 0
IVF treatments are not always 100% effective and can take a long time to organise etc.

- Intensity (How intense is the pleasure?) = +1
I don't think anyone could argue that wanting a child and being offered the opportunity to have when you natural cannot isn't an good thing

- Certainty (How likely is the pleasure to occur? = 0
Once again, IVF treatments are not always 100% effective, and can end up costing couples a lot of money for no results.

- Duration (How long will it last?) = +1
Unless your kid turns out to be the next Joffrey Baratheon you'll probably get long term enjoyment from them.

- Extent (How wide are the effects?) = +1
This is a tricky one. Ultimately it is only the parents that are affected, however you could take into account other family members (grandparents, aunts etc.), which would mean a +1. A 0 may be more suitable however as there are many people (Roman Catholics) that do not agree with IVF due to the spare embryos etc.

- Fecundity (Will it lead to further pleasures?) = +1
Most parents would agree that having a kid is an enjoyable thing all throughout life.

Overall: +5
(The problem with this is that it is slightly subjective, there are so many different factors you can take into account when using the hedonic calculus, it would probably produce different results for each individual situation)

_______

Rule Utilitarianism (Mill) this is the lower and higher pleasures you were talking about.
This primarily focuses on the need for set absolutes within society to prevent the whole 'best for the masses' thing being abused (Sadistic Guards example) and the fact you don't always have time/resources to carry out the hedonic calculus.
Mill focused on the well-being of individuals and the quality of a pleasure of quantity, so I cant really see what reason there would be to disagree with IVF (other than the destruction of spare embryos - however that is more to do with sanctity of life and is probably bets to leave out). He would probably state that it is up to the individual to decide.

In terms of lower and higher pleasures, IVF treatment would supply a person with the ability to experience a higher pleasure they would not naturally be able to, so Mill's utilitarianism would probably support this.

_____

Preference Utilitarianism (R.M.Hare)
This guy is basically about happiness being subjective and as long as everyone's preferences are being met within a situation then it is fine.
This may again become problematic due to the topic of spare embryos, as it is unlikely that their preferences are being met. However, this depends on when human life is considered to have begun, so it may not be important.


Sorry this is such a long post by the way, but Utilitarianism is such a large section of Ethics.
Hopefully this helped a little bit.
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outclast
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(Original post by LessThanaClue)
I don't know which forms of Utilitarianism you have looked at, but I focused on Act, Rule and Preference.

For Act Utilitarianism (Bentham)i was taught you use the hedonic calculus (giving a +1 for pleasure, a -1 for pain and 0 for somewhere in between) and see if its overall score:

- Purity (How free it is from pain?) = +1
It is very easy to argue that IVF offers more pleasure than pain (giving people the opportunity to have children when they naturally cannot). However you could bring into argument the fact many spare embryos may be produced, which are destroyed which could increase pain. I wouldn't say this could ever be a -1 though, but a 0 if you want.

- Remoteness (How soon will the pleasure occur?) = 0
IVF treatments are not always 100% effective and can take a long time to organise etc.

- Intensity (How intense is the pleasure?) = +1
I don't think anyone could argue that wanting a child and being offered the opportunity to have when you natural cannot isn't an good thing

- Certainty (How likely is the pleasure to occur? = 0
Once again, IVF treatments are not always 100% effective, and can end up costing couples a lot of money for no results.

- Duration (How long will it last?) = +1
Unless your kid turns out to be the next Joffrey Baratheon you'll probably get long term enjoyment from them.

- Extent (How wide are the effects?) = +1
This is a tricky one. Ultimately it is only the parents that are affected, however you could take into account other family members (grandparents, aunts etc.), which would mean a +1. A 0 may be more suitable however as there are many people (Roman Catholics) that do not agree with IVF due to the spare embryos etc.

- Fecundity (Will it lead to further pleasures?) = +1
Most parents would agree that having a kid is an enjoyable thing all throughout life.

Overall: +5
(The problem with this is that it is slightly subjective, there are so many different factors you can take into account when using the hedonic calculus, it would probably produce different results for each individual situation)

_______

Rule Utilitarianism (Mill) this is the lower and higher pleasures you were talking about.
This primarily focuses on the need for set absolutes within society to prevent the whole 'best for the masses' thing being abused (Sadistic Guards example) and the fact you don't always have time/resources to carry out the hedonic calculus.
Mill focused on the well-being of individuals and the quality of a pleasure of quantity, so I cant really see what reason there would be to disagree with IVF (other than the destruction of spare embryos - however that is more to do with sanctity of life and is probably bets to leave out). He would probably state that it is up to the individual to decide.

In terms of lower and higher pleasures, IVF treatment would supply a person with the ability to experience a higher pleasure they would not naturally be able to, so Mill's utilitarianism would probably support this.

_____

Preference Utilitarianism (R.M.Hare)
This guy is basically about happiness being subjective and as long as everyone's preferences are being met within a situation then it is fine.
This may again become problematic due to the topic of spare embryos, as it is unlikely that their preferences are being met. However, this depends on when human life is considered to have begun, so it may not be important.


Sorry this is such a long post by the way, but Utilitarianism is such a large section of Ethics.
Hopefully this helped a little bit.
Yes, thank you, it's much more clear now! I was slightly confused as to how I could apply Mills utilitarianism to IVF in terms of higher and lower pleasures in particular but this was really helpful
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