While I wait for Basim code to run, I thought I'd write what will be the first of many pieces on ethics and doing what's right. I'll get to more applied stuff later, but as a foundation I'm going to write a series of pieces on utilitarianism.
I am a utilitarian. Basically, this means that I believe the right action is the one that maximizes total "utility" in the world (you can think of that as total happiness minus total pain). Specifically, I am a total, act, hedonistic/one level (as opposed to high and low pleasure), classical (as opposed to negative) utilitarian; in short, I'm a Benthamite. In future posts I'll argue for all of those choices; I'll also try to respond to the Repugnant Conclusion and the Utility Monster, and argue that Decision Theories are silly.
Before I delve into all of that, though, are there any particular arguments people want me to respond to--either well known attacks, or just things you've thought of? Arguing for utilitarianism inevitably degenerates more into defending it from attacks and attacking other philosophies than actually articulating utilitarianism, partially because of how self evident of a philosophy it is. So, if you have any questions, comments, complaints, arguments, or expressions of agreement, post them in the comments or send me an email, and I'll address them either in the comments or in a future post.
p.s.--If you're interested in checking out utilitarianism more, I highly recommend http://felicifia.org/.
I'd most love to see discussions of positions within utilitarianism (why Benthamite versus other positions), discussion of the Utility Monster, discussions about practical utilitarianism (what ought we do now?), and views on meta-ethics.ReplyDelete
Cool; I'll start off doing positions within utilitarianism and move on to utility monster et al.; I'll write about practical utilitarianism afterwards. To the extent that I discuss meta-ethics, it'll probably be in the context of different types of utilitarianism.Delete
Sam, I'd also love to hear your take on the "1000 Sadists Problem" (see: http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2007/05/1000-sadists-problem.html). This doesn't worry me at all because I think I have my own easy solution, but I think it would be nice to hear more thoughts on this one.Delete
I may write more on it later, but initial impression:Delete
First, it's unlikely that the saidsts gain that much pleasure from it compared to the amount lost by the sufferer and if they do then you're basically looking at utility monsters (response here: http://measuringshadowsblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-utilitarian-boogeymen.html). Second, utilitarianism is in fact going to be more likely to object to such acts than other people are. The sadists problem is generally phrased in terms of types of oppression that have gone out of style but replace them with meat eaters and you have an example of a time when utilitarianism condemns the sadists but most people actually are ok with them (so long as they're on the right side of the oppression).
I'm an amoralist (http://tinyurl.com/7advgq5), but high- and low-pleasure utilitarianism is the form I think I'd choose, were I a utilitarian. The reason is that then I can at least conceive of a way of measuring utility across individuals (perhaps even across species, as you desire). So, I'd like for you to address the question of how interpersonal measurement of utility is accomplished under your perspective.ReplyDelete
By the way, I'm curious about your amoralism. I haven't looked through your blog much so it's possible that I'm asking questions you've already answered, but: is it that you think that the universe does not endow a particular morality with truth, or that discussion of right vs. wrong is meaningless? FWIW I agree with the first statement, and am admittedly troubled by it...Delete
Alright, cool; I'll definitely talk about high-low pleasure vs. hedonistic utilitarianism.ReplyDelete
A theme that has come up for me personally in relation to utilitarianism is that it tends to make interpersonal judgments. How does utilitarianism deal with the subjectivity of persons?ReplyDelete
Cool, I'll try to get to this in a non-rigorous post about what utilitarianism really means.Delete