Why Utilitarianism is Useless
The Moral System Without Morals
Utilitarianism: “the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority” (Oxford Languages).
Two utilitarian philosophers walk into a bar:
What is useful?
Many things are useful.
Ok, who decides which things are relevantly useful?
Well, it can’t be you, or me, cause what do we know?
So maybe it’s something everyone agrees on.
Pleasure works, everyone thinks that’s useful.
Sadists sure do.
Yeah, but they harm other people, which limits the majority's pleasure.
What if the majority are sadists?
Alright then, pleasure doesn't work.
How about limiting suffering?
That sounds useful, especially in a world of sadists.
Good idea, so we prevent all pregnancies to limit the suffering they cause.
But then there’d be no people.
Yeah, no one to do the suffering.
I don’t like that idea.
It feels wrong.
We have to decide on something.
Freedom is definitely useful.
Do sadists have freedom?
Will you shut up about the sadists!
They have rights too.
Not if they hurt people.
Well if it's not because of pleasure or suffering… could it be justice?
So we’d take their rights away because they deserve punishment?
Works for me.
But why do they deserve punishment?
Because what they did is wrong.
We haven't established that.
There must be some reason.
What if there were many?
All the values together, more worthy pleasure, less unnecessary suffering, more responsible freedom, etc.
What should we call it?
That’s a bit on the nose.
At least it’s clear what we mean.
So we believe that actions are right if they are Good for the majority of people?
Actually, that majority part is redundant now.
So we believe that actions are right if they are Good?
Glad we cleared that up.
You don’t sound so sure.
No… I am.
Are you lying?
How do you know?
It’s not Good.
How do you know?
Two useful philosophers walk out of the bar.