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Utilitarianism caused by brain damage

  1. May 7, 2009 #1
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2009 #2
    Even if what the article says is true you don't need to feel bad about it either. It doesn't necessarily make a utilitarian argument untrue or morally incorrect. It's good that you would consider the correctness of your position, but I'm skeptical of changing your opinion on the grounds that someone says your brain isn't 'normal'. Any philosophy held too extremely is susceptible to similar mental blocks. Trust me, I know. The fact that you could even type that sentence suggests that your ability to make decisions is working fine.
  4. May 8, 2009 #3
    I think I maybe don't have a brain damage after all. I would have if I didn't have emotional opposition to utilitarian choices, but all I am doing is listening to reason instead of irrational feelings. It feels wrong, but I cannot find reasonable arguments to defend my feelings (but plenty to disregard them), and therefore I have no other choice than to remain utilitarian if I want to stay rational.
  5. May 13, 2009 #4
    There is nothing inherently rational about utilitarianism. Its based on a faulty pleasure/pain binary. It actually implicity ignores the rational in favor of the empirical.

    Feelings can be justified, but only via the empirical, not the rational.
    Feelings, emotions that direct action, and/or intuitions (pattern recognition) come to us from our instincts/conditioning. We can justify them as a generalization, or survival strategy. (The problem of induction prevents it from being rationally justified) It becomes more difficult when you get down to specifics. Instincts can kill us, or lead to atrocities, but they survive in us because they are generally beneficial, or once were. Relativism always results from the horizon of our knowledge.

    Pain is not evil. Its a survival mechanism. Blaming a wolf for causing a deer pain doesn't make sense, because causing pain is neither the goal, nor intent of the wolf... at least generally, its goal is to kill, its intent to feed itself.

    Utilitarianism is a useful ethical strategy, but adhering to it as a moral foundation leads to things like the tyranny of the majority and other ethical quandries.
  6. May 13, 2009 #5
    Maybe avoiding pain isn't rational, but if you accept that it is, utilitarianism is more rational than any other ethical system, because a universal perspective is more coherent than a subjective one.
  7. May 13, 2009 #6
    If a person has emotions, then it would be irrational to make a decision based on a purely utilitarian perspective that does not consider the potential negative or positive emotional impacts that an action would have on oneself. So your utilitarian perspective may be an indicator that you have subdued emotions compared to other people. If a person has no emotions, then utilitarianism is completely rational.
  8. May 13, 2009 #7
    Without emotions, utilitarianism is meaningless. Utilitarianism is about maximizing universal happiness and minimizing universal suffering. This requires one to take all emotional impacts into consideration. Without emotions, happiness and suffering don't exist.
  9. May 13, 2009 #8
    Universal perspective? Sounds like a contradiction in terms, unless you're invoking some type of god maybe?

    Pain is a indicator, which we wouldn't survive very long without. Demonizing it is not rational.

    And coherence ultimately relies on personal judgment (ie subjective). Occam's razor is useful, but it doesn't say a thing about what is 'true', let alone universally true. One can have a coherent view of the world, which is completely erroneous.
  10. May 13, 2009 #9
    Communism is brain damage. lol
  11. May 13, 2009 #10
    If you want to talk about ethics at all, you have to take all interests into considerations, not just your own.

    And I'm not saying that pain is always bad, I'm saying that we should try to minimize it.
  12. May 13, 2009 #11
    Taking them into consideration is not the same as giving them equal value.
    If you are saying we should minimize it, you are indeed ascribing a negative value to it.
    What does minimize mean? How much pain is ok? Who decides when pain is a positive thing?
    Every animal that lives, feels pain; sterilize them all, and you prevent future suffering...

    The problem with utilitarianism is that it doesn't really tell us much. Pain is bad, pleasure is good, are useful generalizations, but when you apply them to specifics, it becomes completely subjective. Everyone will give you a different interpretation of how much pain is acceptable, and what isn't, and who if anyone should suffer. Its not really a standard at all.
  13. May 14, 2009 #12
    If you want to differentiate, you have to back that up with reasoning. As long as there is nothing that suggests that the interests of some beings should count more than the interests of others, it's irrational to conclude that, for instance, my interests are more important than yours.

    Suffering is necessary because it prevents death, but unnecessary suffering is of no use. For instance, claiming that torturing prisoners is OK because suffering is not bad in an absolute sense, is completely ridiculous. We should try to prevent suffering wherever it is possible.

    That people disagree on a topic, doesn't mean that there are no ultimate truths. The problem with physics is that scientists never seem to agree on every topic, and so on...As long as the basic idea is true, we shouldn't dismiss the concept. Utilitarisnism isn't perfect, but it's the best solution anyone has come up with.
  14. May 14, 2009 #13


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    Tyrrany of the majority is not automatically a bad thing. For example, having all traffic signs in the USA posted in English is a good thing. (And they would be completely unusable if we tried to cater to all the minorities, or even just a few of them!)
  15. May 14, 2009 #14

    It's not automatically a good thing either, it's all relative. If in 100 years the muslim population in the US becomes majority, would it be ok to impose the sharia?
  16. May 14, 2009 #15
    True. Tyrrany of the majority is better if the alternative is tyrrany of the minority.
  17. May 14, 2009 #16
    Only those sharia laws that don't cause suffering.
  18. May 14, 2009 #17
    Fear of pain is natural, always giving into that fear is cowardice.
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