Comments on “Utilitiarianism is an eternalism”

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A different take on utilitarian intractability

LapsedPacifist's picture

One quick comment: Ethics is nebulous and intractable, you claim, yes? And Utilitarianism ‘reduces it’ to a problem in computation (not to mention recording a perfectly accurate world-state) that is intractable itself.

Isn’t that rather the point? You can have perfect ethics once you have a God that’s at least omniscient. Humans can’t do utilitarian ethics, not properly. It is the ethical system for gods, and it is the only true ethics system.

Pity it is not suited at all for humans. Indeed, the lesson of utilitarianism is that you can see the path to Good but can’t walk it, not all the way. Not even most of the way. Utilitarianism, in other words, is the road from stage 4 to stage 5 in Kegan’s typology. It isn’t about being an imagined paragon of virtue, not about following any set of rules (which, even if it exists, may not be any more tractable for human use than predicting the future), it’s about doing what leads to preferred outcomes, except you don’t know outcomes so there’s no one solution. And then you reach stage five[1]—use everything because imperfect ethics are the only ones suited for an imperfect mind and rely on context and multiple approaches. After all, even in day to day, I find that considering a problem from several different ethical standpoints often allows me to get to a solution that, in retrospect, was a reasonably good one with a lot less sturm und drang. Pun intended. :)

[1] Or you go Ivan Karamazov for a while.

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