Comments on “Utilitiarianism is an eternalism”


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.

Add new comment


This page is in the section Rationalist ideologies as eternalism,
      which is in Non-theistic eternalism,
      which is in Eternalism: the fixation of meaning,
      which is in Meaning and meaninglessness,
      which is in Doing meaning better.

The next page in this section is Perfection Salad.

The previous page is ⚒︎ Bayesianism is an eternalism. (That page introduces its own subsection.)

General explanation: Meaningness is a hypertext book. Start with an appetizer, or the table of contents. Its “metablog” includes additional essays that are not part of the book.

To hear about new content, Subscribe by email subscribe to my email newsletter, Follow Meaningness on Twitter follow me on Twitter, use the Syndicate content RSS feed, or see the list of recent pages.

Click on terms with dotted underlining to read a definition.

The book is a work in progress; pages marked ⚒︎ are under construction.