#1
By definition Utilitarianism is the theory "that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness". It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can only weigh the morality of an action after knowing all its consequences." -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism

So my question is that by this definition does that mean that Roman Gladiators are morally right? and that slavery is right? If all that something must do to be right is to please the majority of the people involved, right?

Is there another part of Utilitarianism I missed?
Danelectro 1959 reissue

Quote by G.Krizzel
Music is just wiggly air. Accept it or leave it.


Also please visit this thread and help me tab out an album!!!
thread.
#3
"To give a clear view of the moral standard set up by the theory, much more requires to be said; in particular, what things it includes in the ideas of pain and pleasure; and to what extent this is left an open question. But these supplementary explanations do not affect the theory of life on which this theory of morality is grounded‑namely, that pleasure, and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends; and that all desirable things (which are as numerous in the utilitarian as in any other scheme) are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain." (J.S. Mill,Utilitarianism")

Is he saying that the Theory of Utilitarianism is trumped by the Theory of Morality, and if so, why did he and his partner create the philosophy in the first place considering another theory trumps it?

Or is he just saying that in the morality theory there is no other desirable end than avoiding pain and that maximizing pleasure therefore his standard is defined more clearly?
Danelectro 1959 reissue

Quote by G.Krizzel
Music is just wiggly air. Accept it or leave it.


Also please visit this thread and help me tab out an album!!!
thread.
#4
Quote by 801Current
and that slavery is right? If all that something must do to be right is to please the majority of the people involved, right?


Many more slaves than slave owners.


J.S Mills father was a utilitarian and drove Mills to a mental breakdown, right? It sounds like a pretty horrible way of approaching life. You can't try to know everything consequence of an action before doing it and be able to live life at the normal rate.
CuSO4

"I don't have an instrument, I don't have a great voice, I just have some nice clothes maybe." paul rutherford
#5
Quote by Deadlock Riff
utilitarianism can go suck one.



What the **** man this is a serious thread

...


Quote by Deadlock Riff
People in the pit take my post way too seriously.



...
Danelectro 1959 reissue

Quote by G.Krizzel
Music is just wiggly air. Accept it or leave it.


Also please visit this thread and help me tab out an album!!!
thread.
#6
Utilitarianism is quite misunderstood. Your actions must increase the marginal utility and happiness for EVERYONE that the decision involves. Slavery, by definition, cannot be utilitarian.
Quote by denizenz
I'll logic you right in the thyroid.

Art & Lutherie
#7
Quote by Hereiwas
Many more slaves than slave owners.


J.S Mills father was a utilitarian and drove Mills to a mental breakdown, right? It sounds like a pretty horrible way of approaching life. You can't try to know everything consequence of an action before doing it and be able to live life at the normal rate.



Well in a hypothetical sense where there are less slaves, also the gladiator one is my main point.

There were thousands of people cheering on just a few guys to kill eachother, by this theory is that then a morally right act, because these few men are suffering for the pleasure and enjoyment of thousands?
Danelectro 1959 reissue

Quote by G.Krizzel
Music is just wiggly air. Accept it or leave it.


Also please visit this thread and help me tab out an album!!!
thread.
#8
Quote by darkstar2466
Utilitarianism is quite misunderstood. Your actions must increase the marginal utility and happiness for EVERYONE that the decision involves. Slavery, by definition, cannot be utilitarian.


Not by this definition

The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.
-John Stuart Mills

He says they are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness. So it doesn't mean that everyone has to be happy just the majority. Otherwise the philosophy would be flawed in the situation where total happiness was unattainable.

EDIT:

I understand that by this definition everyone involved should have the most positive outcome attainable for it to be right, but what about a situation where there is no that possibility, the definition says you want the best proportional outcome in the situation. You could argue that the gladiator sport was a necessity to keep the majority happy and entertained, so in some sense was it morally right?

Or in another situation where you are attacked by a bear and not everyone can escape, the philosophy can still be used even thought there is a not a positive outcome for all involved
Danelectro 1959 reissue

Quote by G.Krizzel
Music is just wiggly air. Accept it or leave it.


Also please visit this thread and help me tab out an album!!!
thread.
Last edited by 801Current at Apr 14, 2012,
#9
Quote by 801Current
Well in a hypothetical sense where there are less slaves, also the gladiator one is my main point.

There were thousands of people cheering on just a few guys to kill eachother, by this theory is that then a morally right act, because these few men are suffering for the pleasure and enjoyment of thousands?



I guess, maybe?

You could argue that it isn't a very useful form of entertainment and that it probably doesn't actually make the people watching very happy. I think that is why Mills wrote On Liberty, to give more power to the individual to make themselves happy, though I haven't read it in a long time.

Perhaps the gladiator example doesn't hold out because a Utilitarian is still an individual. If the gladiators are being forced to do it for the "greater good" (not sure that that is the phrase to use) then we are really talking about Authoritarianism, i suppose. Utilitarians individually decide that they want to make sure that what they do is beneficial to the most people, even if that sacrifices their own enjoyment. If a man decided to be a gladiator that would be okay in a utilitarian society, i guess. Both people would need to decide to do it, of course.
CuSO4

"I don't have an instrument, I don't have a great voice, I just have some nice clothes maybe." paul rutherford
Last edited by Hereiwas at Apr 14, 2012,
#10
Quote by 801Current
What the **** man this is a serious thread

...

...



i was being serious with that one.

"overall" happiness just doesn't seem like the proper action imo. id rather much be for the "everyone receives an equal amount happiness" other than "this one group has all the fun but the other has nothing, but overall theres more happy".

Also can you really measure happiness?
People in the pit take my post way too seriously.

MyAnimeList
7-String Legion

If you have a question PM me and I will always get back to you.
#11
Slavery (gladiators are slaves too) and utilitarianism are incompatible. All individuals must at the very least be free, for utilitarian actions to have any meaning. Mill and Bentham were against slavery and for women's suffrage, etc.!
Quote by denizenz
I'll logic you right in the thyroid.

Art & Lutherie
#12
Quote by Hereiwas
I guess, maybe?

You could argue that it isn't a very useful form of entertainment and that it probably doesn't actually make the people watching very happy. I think that is why Mills wrote On Liberty, to give more power to the individual to make themselves happy, though I haven't read it in a long time.

Perhaps the gladiator example doesn't hold out because a Utilitarian is still an individual. If the gladiators are being forced to do it for the "greater good" (not sure that that is the phrase to use) then we are really talking about Authoritarianism, i suppose. Utilitarians individually decide that they want to make sure that what they do is beneficial to the most people, even if that sacrifices their own enjoyment. If a man decided to be a gladiator that would be okay in a utilitarian society, i guess. Both people would need to decide to do it, of course.


You could argue that, but you could also argue that it is much more enjoyable to see someone kill another rather then just win in a fight, therefore even more morally right.

Well let's look at it from the stand point of the person in charge of Rome, they need their people entertained and satisfied. So when someone came to him with the idea saying we will take a few people and they will fight and die for the masses.

I can see the Authoritarian part, but let's take out the fact that they were forced.

People are 'forced' in a sense to do things they do no want to do, we could say that the potential gladiators are lower class citizens trying to earn a living and society has given them no other option, so they accept this, although they do not want it. Just as in the situation where someone would have to be eaten by a bear, someone has to do it for the group to survive, but they don't want to, but it's for the greater good.

So in this situation where these men have agreed to fight to the death for a mass audience's enjoyment, is it morally right for the one in charge to say yes to its happening?
Danelectro 1959 reissue

Quote by G.Krizzel
Music is just wiggly air. Accept it or leave it.


Also please visit this thread and help me tab out an album!!!
thread.
#13
Quote by Deadlock Riff
i was being serious with that one.

"overall" happiness just doesn't seem like the proper action imo. id rather much be for the "everyone receives an equal amount happiness" other than "this one group has all the fun but the other has nothing, but overall theres more happy".

Also can you really measure happiness?


So in a situation where everyone is trapped and to get out a bear must be distracted you would say that everyone must be eaten by the bear rather then one person to save the rest?

You can't measure happiness, but you could scale outcomes of situations from the most postive to least positive; which related to happiness.
Danelectro 1959 reissue

Quote by G.Krizzel
Music is just wiggly air. Accept it or leave it.


Also please visit this thread and help me tab out an album!!!
thread.
#14
Quote by Deadlock Riff


Also can you really measure happiness?



I guess living standards, quality of education, allocation of scarce resources and things like that are the kinds of indicators.

For instance, if I was a utilitarian I guess I would not buy records on vinyl because its a waste of oil for the wax, wood for the cardboard packaging, petrol for the transportation, capital for the printing etc, and I would instead download music. But I'm not, so I don't. Again this is where Utilitarians are individuals.

A utilitarian government would probably be highly democratic as well, so I think that there probably wouldn't be a problem of utilitarians demanding the benefit of many and the suffering of some.

edit:

Quote by 801Current
So in a situation where everyone is trapped and to get out a bear must be distracted you would say that everyone must be eaten by the bear rather then one person to save the rest?
.


I think you're coming at this from the wrong angle (the Roman example too). If the one who gets eaten decides that he wants to sacrifice himself he is being utilitarian, if the group decide to make him they are, in the words of Mills, excercising a "tryanny of the majority". It isn't utilitarian, really, its just horrible. Utilitarians are individuals. You can't really say "I am a utilitarian, so overall, i think it is best that you die to save me."
CuSO4

"I don't have an instrument, I don't have a great voice, I just have some nice clothes maybe." paul rutherford
Last edited by Hereiwas at Apr 14, 2012,
#15
Quote by 801Current
So in a situation where everyone is trapped and to get out a bear must be distracted you would say that everyone must be eaten by the bear rather then one person to save the rest?

You can't measure happiness, but you could scale outcomes of situations from the most postive to least positive; which related to happiness.



survival situation =/= happiness average
People in the pit take my post way too seriously.

MyAnimeList
7-String Legion

If you have a question PM me and I will always get back to you.
#16
Quote by darkstar2466
Utilitarianism is quite misunderstood. Your actions must increase the marginal utility and happiness for EVERYONE that the decision involves. Slavery, by definition, cannot be utilitarian.

Not act utilitarianism. Otherwise you'd never be able to do anything.
#17
I also think that Mill had a really hard-to-follow writing style, and that its easy to misunderstand what he is saying. You should re-read those passages you quoted and check you're asking the right questions.
CuSO4

"I don't have an instrument, I don't have a great voice, I just have some nice clothes maybe." paul rutherford
#18
Quote by 801Current
So in a situation where everyone is trapped and to get out a bear must be distracted you would say that everyone must be eaten by the bear rather then one person to save the rest?

You can't measure happiness, but you could scale outcomes of situations from the most postive to least positive; which related to happiness.


So in a community largely composed of Neo-Nazis you'd say they were perfectly justified in violently expelling Jews in the community so long as it brought more overall utility? Or do you think surgeons should have the right to kill those with no family, against their will, to save those who do have families? To give just two common and simplistic rebuttals.

The intuitive sense of "more good is obviously better than less good" does not lend itself to a utilitarian theory.
Quote by Nosferatu Man

T-shirts are a sign of degeneration and decline.
#19
My beliefs are very different than the vast majority or people's, but in my opinion utilitarianism should only be used circumstantially, not all the time, and not completely unused. It can be useful at times.
#20
Quote by darkstar2466
Utilitarianism is quite misunderstood. Your actions must increase the marginal utility and happiness for EVERYONE that the decision involves. Slavery, by definition, cannot be utilitarian.


This.

John Stewart Mill wrote on how the general happiness of everyone would contribute to your own overall happiness. This is his justification for caring about the pleasures and pains of others as well as your own.
Quote by Scutchington
I like this guy, he's UG's Greek, and he just told your ass in two paragraphs. And I once spent 5 minutes watching his avatar.


A Brain Malfunction

We'll Never Admit As Defeat
#21
I was just posting the quote a long with my thoughts on what it meant, I have read it multiple times and it seems that it could have two meanings and that one qualifies Utilitarianism and one defends its basic ideal.

I was just going to see what you guys thought about the quote as well as my thoughts on it, I am writing an essay about it so I just wanted my ideas critiqued before I use all of them.

I understand that in other writings that Mills says that there are exceptions to the philosophy as well as defended it against these arguments, but all I was given to argue for or against was this one quoted prompt.

I'd say one of the biggest criticisms of the philosophy is that he was educated and basically spoon fed this philosophy by his father.

I think that the general idea of Utilitarianism is obviously a great idea, but it's too general.
Danelectro 1959 reissue

Quote by G.Krizzel
Music is just wiggly air. Accept it or leave it.


Also please visit this thread and help me tab out an album!!!
thread.
#22
If I wanted to learn something or have any real sort of discussion I wouldn't have came onto UG...and into The Pit.

EDIT: Actually sounds rather interesting, btw.
Quote by neidnarb11890
the chinese take-out place my family always ordered from gave you chopsticks, so as a kid it was fun to try & eat with chopsticks
now i just use a fork, 'cuz nothing is fun anymore & i just want to shovel food into my mouth to fill the void
#23
Earlier you guys said that in a society that forces people into slavery it would no longer be Utilitarian because these people were forced into slavery. So what about when there is a disagreement in a totally Utilitarian society let's say that everyone thinks that one direction should be taken while one guy thinks otherwise because logically he thinks that another way will lead the society to more happiness (a utilitarian thought). But everyone else thinks the other way will, but then for the people in this society to achieve what they believe is the common good of all they must force this man to come with them. He doesn't want to go because the other way seems more promising, but if the majority leaves him behind they are not anymore working for the common good.

I guess you could say that in this case it could be for the greater good of both for the society to part, but I am just wondering if they did take the man with them would they instantly become authoritarian or are they still Utilitarian because they are working for the common good?
Danelectro 1959 reissue

Quote by G.Krizzel
Music is just wiggly air. Accept it or leave it.


Also please visit this thread and help me tab out an album!!!
thread.
#24
The ends don't always justify the means.
“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”


-Max Planck

☮∞☯♥
#25
Quote by guitarist41
If I wanted to learn something or have any real sort of discussion I wouldn't have came onto UG...and into The Pit.

EDIT: Actually sounds rather interesting, btw.



I know I was thinking of joining like philosophy forum or something, but I have had good discussion in The Pit before


UG is just like my home forum, being a guitarist I just feel more homey here. I don't like joining a ton of forums :/
Danelectro 1959 reissue

Quote by G.Krizzel
Music is just wiggly air. Accept it or leave it.


Also please visit this thread and help me tab out an album!!!
thread.
#26
Quote by metal4all
The ends don't always justify the means.



Yes, not always, but what about in a situation where ends are really good, but the means are really bad.

In boxing people risk their lives to fight one another, the ending is that one is victorous and both are injured and even possibly dead. In a situation where there is no compensation, this seems almost insane.

But in an effort to achieve happiness; money, fame, etc. people box all the time.

This is not really a greater common good example, but it applies:

"The Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness."
Danelectro 1959 reissue

Quote by G.Krizzel
Music is just wiggly air. Accept it or leave it.


Also please visit this thread and help me tab out an album!!!
thread.
#27
The biggest issue I've always taken with Utilitarianism is that I don't think a person can ever know the true extent of the consequences of their actions. They can often predict the direct and obvious consequences, but even the smallest actions can make very large differences over the course of time.
#28
Quote by 801Current
Yes, not always, but what about in a situation where ends are really good, but the means are really bad.

In boxing people risk their lives to fight one another, the ending is that one is victorous and both are injured and even possibly dead. In a situation where there is no compensation, this seems almost insane.

But in an effort to achieve happiness; money, fame, etc. people box all the time.

This is not really a greater common good example, but it applies:

"The Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness."
That's a bad example. Th means aren't really bad in competitive sports when the players willingly consent. Morality isn't something to be defined by happiness in my opinion. I'm not sure what you're trying to argue or what sense that quote makes as I'm slightly drunk but I always like intelligent debates as we learn from others' points of views.

A simple example of the ends not justifying the means would be nazi research of hypothermia on innocent prisoner subjects.

IMO, I don't care what the end is if the mean is morally wrong.
“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”


-Max Planck

☮∞☯♥
Last edited by metal4all at Apr 16, 2012,