Utilitarianism and Ethics

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Utilitarianism and Ethics

Post by Chris.s » Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:16 am

The basis of utilitarianism philosophy (greatest-happiness principle) is a similar school of thought to the Epicureans. However utilitarianism is remarkably different in so much as it advocates an element of totalitarianism/authoritarianism to justify the means if need be, as Mill argued: "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any other member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” So taking this particular quote into context with utilitarianism’s founding principle; am I correct in understanding that if my happiness is being restricted by another's political (social) position, which is causing me harm (mental or physical), then force should be legally exercised?

In my view, utilitarianism has limitations depending on the timescales involved. A question: How can a perceived social construct like 'equality and equity' be beneficial for society if it ultimately may lead to negative outcomes under certain scenarios like; If it makes people happy to allow intellectually disabled people to procreate, drive cars, or become professors at university, under the umbrella of 'equality and equity', then how would this translate into productive benefits for society which has derived from happiness?

Just for clarification, I am not advocating any particular ethical position here. I am just interested to know how a utilitarian reconciles such ethical issues.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Utilitarianism and Ethics

Post by Immanuel Can » Wed Nov 01, 2017 1:47 pm

Chris.s wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:16 am
A question: How can a perceived social construct like 'equality and equity'...
That's an interesting phrase in itself. "Equality and equity" as mere "social constructs."

In other words, if what you are saying there is true, then nobody's got any absolute obligation to grant anyone else equity or equality, because they're socially-made-up, contingent, local and changeable values, not eternal verities.

That's heresy, in secular liberal thought. Secular libs want to say that everyone "owes" everyone (well, everybody secular liberals happen to like) "equality" or "equity." That's the whole rationale for grievance culture and "social justice": It's the idea that if you've got "more" than I do, you "owe" me!

But, we might ask, what evidence have we that people are, in any objective sense, "owed" to be "equalized"? :shock: Who "owes" us to overcome on our behalf all the inequalities that naturally come to us when we're born, and why?

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Re: Utilitarianism and Ethics

Post by Chris.s » Wed Nov 01, 2017 2:22 pm

Sorry, I am looking for an academic discussion.

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Re: Utilitarianism and Ethics

Post by wisdomlover » Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:28 pm

I can't help by defending utilitarianism, because I think I agree with you that it is not the right basis for morality.

It seems to me that after almost a century of debate, most professional philosophers of ethics have come to reject utilitarianism. The book Ethics Done Right by E. Millgram has a cogent critique.

My view is that
(a) happiness is a by-product or an indicator of being on the right track, not a goal. The goal, put very roughly, is something like what is captured by the concepts "flourish", "thrive", and "prosper".
(b) the agent has to be the intended beneficiary of the agent's actions. This could be considered "egoism", but understood in a way that most people don't get. Once you start to think about what will help you flourish, you immediately realize that you need to be involved with a group of other people.
(c) so morality winds up being this: the rules for a group of people to get along with one another, so that they each flourish.

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