Utilitarianism and You!

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten the chance to write, at any length, about something that isn’t completely school related this semester. I suppose this is somewhat school related considering some of these ideas are ones I picked up in some of my classes. I believe they are crucial to understanding our society and why we behave the way we do.
Every one of us makes decisions, daily, based upon what the best thing for us. It’s human nature to want what is best for yourself so that you can better survive. Instinctual. That’s understandable. The problem is, now we have taken it a step too far, and it’s hurting our society and creating a society in which no one will truly be safe. What most of Americans have adopted now is Utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism is a system of ethics in which the moral thing to do is what happens to cause the most happiness or well-being to the most amount of people, regardless of what it does to the minority.
This can be and has been a very dangerous set of ethics especially for those in power, and who better to use those ethics than those in power? After all, the majority isn’t going to get rid of a government that is on their side, are they?
We use these ethics most of all during war. Justifying the deaths of thousands of civilians is a very difficult thing to do, and, even more so when most of the country doesn’t know why we are bombing civilians in the first place. The only way to ease the minds of the masses is to tell them that regardless of how many people they are killing, they are giving happiness and safety to countless more. And that, is a very dangerous route to go, in the long run.
This system of morality our government and citizens have unknowingly subscribed to is run by the idea that what is moral is what is in the best interest of the majority. So, a question arises: suppose there are five people tied to a train track and a train is on its way down the track. You are standing next to the track and see a very large man standing next to the track as well. Now, this gentleman is so large and off balance that if you push him he will fall onto the track and stop the train from killing the five people. What do you do?

oh shit

If you’re a human you would probably run away because the thought of shoving someone to their death is terrifying. However, for those of you who fully subscribe to Utilitarianism you would be immoral not to push the guy into the path of the train. Now, I know that most of you don’t believe it’s morally obligatory to push someone in front of a train, but, I do want to say that there are people who do…and we usually call them senators and politicians.
This isn’t an anti-government rant, I am only saying that because in order for senators and politicians to justify: going to war, completely trashing your colleagues, and being perfectly okay with facilities like Guantanamo Bay and the tactics that Black Ops uses in order to extract information…you have to be Utilitarian.
Because, lets all face it, they wouldn’t be in office if they weren’t okay with it. They might say they aren’t, but they know that it’s far too late now to just end all of those things. We will all just have to get used to the fact that we have dug ourselves into a gigantic, bullshit-filled hole that we bathe in daily.

This next part is going to sound preachier than Kirk Cameron on Bill Maher. In order for all of us to get rid of this system that ingrains us with the moral imperative to harm the minority for the good of the majority we have to consent to an idea of an objective good. Which, is something I’m really surprised, given the large amount of bible thumpers in this country, hasn’t been more vehemently outspoken. Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “Let he who has sin cast the first stone?”, when asked what they should do with an adulteress? He stood up for the minority instead of making the majority happier. Instead of having the demon possessed man executed, he removed his affliction. Healed people who had been singled out from society. Jesus was the exact opposite of Utilitarian. But, instead of being against war, many religious people are completely for it! If I asked anyone in my church back in 2004 if we were justified to go to war there was a resounding, “Yes!”, that roared louder than any prayer I’ve heard. For some reason, zealous believers think God wants us to go out and kill people for him. Because, after all, Matthew 25:40 says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Funny-Jesus

A Christian should be petrified about going to war unless Jesus Christ himself comes down out of the clouds and says, “it’s cool”. The eternal ramifications, according to the New Testament, could be catastrophic.
I digress, for the few of you who don’t believe in a God for you to get your objective good, I don’t think it can be much more difficult than the maxim, “do unto others as you would want them to do to you.” This isn’t a Christian idea, or a Buddhist one, or Hindu, or Platonic, but, rather, Humanistic. The easiest way to know whether you are morally obligated to do something or morally obligated to avoid doing something can easily be found in that single phrase.
Put yourself in the fat guys shoes. Even if it meant saving five people, do you want someone else deciding your fate for you, simply because the majority would be happier?

Do you want to be the fat guy in front of the train?
Do you want to be the fat guy in front of the train?

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2 thoughts on “Utilitarianism and You!

  1. The fat man thought exercise is my absolute favorite from my studies, it was nice to see it cited in your blog. I like where you started to go in dissecting the Christian ideals in relation to going to war, I think you were onto something but the thought needs to be developed further. That idea can play deeply into the concept of the hypocritical Christian as well and I think at the root of everything is representative of a person who is consumed by their subjective reality without ever stepping into the objective realm. It represents a person ruled by their ego feeling and not the underlying energy of the human race itself.

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