Utilitarianism as the Root of All Evil?

October 4, 2010

I don’t think this video needs comment other than it is one more proof that utilitarianism as a source of ethics is a sick sick thing.

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6 Responses to “Utilitarianism as the Root of All Evil?”

  1. Beth Battista Says:

    This is by far one of the most disgusting things I have seen in a while. But even worse, there will be no consequences. This would have been seen as vile less than 20 years ago and now it is just a “diverse” opinion. 😦

    • W. Vida Says:

      Hi Beth, yeah pretty sick. It is stuff like this that shows me where the world heads when God is removed from social consciousness. One more reason to do the work that you and I are doing.

  2. Adam Says:

    I’m actually studying at University College, London – the home of utilitarianism. I consider myself a utilitarian since I think that our decision should be made based on consequences, namely, the amount of total extant suffering of each possible scenario. The crux of utilitarianism is that there is no good but desired mind-states. Virginia was wrong in two ways: first of all I don’t think many women would kill their baby, although we do hear about it in the news, that’s for other reasons. Secondly, I personally would not kill the child out of hopes of curing their condition later. Whether or not the mother has a right to kill her chronically suffering baby is not something I’m sure about.

    • W. Vida Says:

      Hi Adam,

      Utilitarianism is worthless as a moral system. Here is why.

      1) It is impossible to have a quantitative analysis of a moral dilemna. Maybe you can choose between being mean and being nice fairly clearly but consider some other situations. Is adultary moral? Well, it can mean a lot of pleasure for the two guilty parties but it also can mean pain for the offended party if she/he finds out. Is it moral only if it is found out? Is it moral to steal from a large chain store like Walmart? The pleasure for the individual criminal is much greater than the pain for the many stockholders.

      2) Who determines the equation? You may argue that stealing is wrong because eventually it will catch up with the criminal and also it will drag down society if everyone does it (causing pain for many) but that is just your opinion. But this issue gets even more complicated when criminal actions are removed from the discussion. Try the questions of alcohol abuse or being lazy or rude or inconsiderate. There are so many things that seem wrong to us but in the utilitarian system the rude person or the drunk or the lazy person could say when challenged for their actions, “I enjoy being rude more than I take pain in being disliked.” Your system has no way to tell a person that kindness is good, period.

      3) Your system opens to door to major human rights abuse. Utilitarianism is the choosen moral system of collectivists. Comunism used utilitarism to justify starving to death millions in an effort to promote the “greater good” of industrialisation. It opens the door in a way to dictators to violate human rights and feel as though they are doing good. I am convinced that Stalin and Hitler probably thought that they were doing good with their actions. This problem combined with #2 makes it impossible for anyone to challenge them as evil.

      4) It is the philosophy of pigs. Pigs avoid pain and seek pleasure. Humans sacrifice pleasure out of regard for God and fellow man. Humans do right even when it makes no logical sense. Humans believe in truth even when lying would make everything much easier for all involved. Humans refuse to do evil even when the whole world is pushing them toward it.

      Or at least they should. But if they embrace Utilitarianism they have no tool to do so.

      • Adam Says:

        Hi. It’s going to be difficult for me to respond to your points without explaining what I think happiness actually is. I take a Buddhist stance of suffering and happiness – very few people in the world are happy since most people mistake suffering for happiness. I am an ascetic utilitarian rather than a hedonist. We can break suffering/happiness down to two categories: “emotional” suffering, which is exclusive to more evolved forms of sentient life and “physical” suffering, which is what Mrs Ironside is referring to.

        1.) Yes, utilitarianism suffers mostly from numerical computation and the calculation of the net increase of happiness of alternative courses of action. I think that as our knowledge of science increases, we will be able to do these computations, especially with the advent of merging ourselves with computers. Currently, science is only at the stage of looking at neuronal responses to different stimuli – nowhere near close to calculating suffering/happiness choices in complex moral situations:
        (http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/124/8/1566.full)
        (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweetness#Examples_of_sweet_substances)
        In my philosophy, it is best to make sure physical suffering is eased first, so if the criminal was stealing food and the stockholders are very wealthy, then yes his theft was possibly moral. But, his theft may be a symbol of something else – a lack of a work ethic on his part, and this is likely to cause him suffering later on… So it’s very complex. As for the adultery example – I think that sex is just masked suffering, but perhaps adultery would be good on the basis of teaching the cheated individuals the futility of romance and sex, and leading them toward Buddhahood.

        2.) A rude person is most likely causing other people to suffer with his rudeness, so their collective suffering is very likely greater than his suffering in being disliked. And if it doesn’t – if he literally has the most intense feelings of bliss in being rude to people, then still, those he is rude to are wrong to care about it, in my philosophy. Caring about petty things such as etiquette is only going to cause you suffering.
        Kindness is good because it gives both parties an unconditional feeling of bliss. It seems evolution has made that the case.

        3.) Incidental occurrences mean little – it is much like saying vegetarianism is bad because Hitler was one. An idea is an idea, nothing else – it doesn’t matter who espoused it.
        And more importantly – a modern utilitarian could not be consistent in being a communist, since the happiness per individual is far higher in pro-market societies than statist ones. Just look at the difference between North Korea and South Korea or former east and west Germany.
        Also, Stalin and Hitler were not utilitarians, utilitarianism has only recently become popular, mostly adopted by *modern* Marxists – as I said, inconsistently. Ultimately all world leaders act on some sense of the greater good, so definitely not unique to utilitarianism. Christianity especially, given its definition of a “good war” – that the evil in taking part to resist evil is not as bad as the evil that would result etc.

        4.) Generally wrong, humans exhibit greed and charity. And they often comply with authority:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

      • W. Vida Says:

        Hi Adam,
        I think you are are missing the theme behind each point. Whether it is stealing or adultery or collectivism or mass murder you can’t just say, “that is wrong”. Instead you have to say, “here is a calculation of human happiness that I think makes the case (based on my understanding of Buddhist views of happiness) that that is wrong unless you can show me an alternative calculation that makes more sense.”

        That hardly provides a prophetic foundation from which to denounce kings and generals. Martin Luther King declared that racism was wrong. He didn’t make any calculations. He simply said that because we are equal in the eyes of God we should be equal under the law.

        Collectivism is by definition Utilitarianism. It elevates the good/happiness of the masses over the individual. It argues that while individuals are prone to greed and self interest, the state can provide the most good for the most people by I think you are wrong about the timing of the popularization of Utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill wrote “Utilitarianism” in 1861. Marx discussed the theory as he was developing his communist vision (and took “utility as a given”). And it is easy to see why. How do you calculate happiness? If there was a group of people (whether it is the unborn or the jews) that you are convinced is making a lot of other people very unhappy and you can wipe them out (maybe without informing them they were being wiped out), one could see how a tyrant could justify his actions using the theory. The happiness of mothers with unwanted babies exceeds the pain and suffering experienced by the unborn baby.

        What I am saying here is that utilitarianism is justifying another mass murder right under our noses right now – abortion.

        Utilitarianism is a worthless system for supporting morals.


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