Sunday, December 19, 2021


 We might ask the question of why we value human life as something valuable in itself, as opposed to the preservation of life as something that will sustain the overall balance of pleasure over pain. With animals, we consider animal pain to be something to avoid, but animal death is not taken as seriously, even by the likes of Peter Singer.

Strictly speaking, for utilitarians, life is not a value. If you kill someone, and you spare them or the world a pleasure-pain deficit, then it is a good act. If you kill someone, and it hurts the balance of pleasure over pain, then of course it's a bad thing.

so a pure utilitarian could say of the pro-life movement, "The trouble with your pro-life movement is that it places an inordinate value on human life." Someone from Utilitarianland might say "In our society, if there is a homicide, we calculate utilities to see if the homicide produced an overall benefit or an overall deficit. If we determine that the homicide was beneficial, we don't punish it. Why do you punish homicides without checking to see if the homicide maximized utility.

Of course the utilitarianism practiced in utilitarianland is Act Utilitarianism.


Starhopper said...

Our methods of waging war have traditionally been rather utilitarian. Extreme example: "Let's nuke Hiroshima to avoid all the casualties that would result from invading Japan."

You could say the same thing about Sherman's 1863 March to the Sea. "Make Georgia howl!" he said, thinking it would eliminate the possibility of there being a protracted war. (In retrospect, he was right.)

bmiller said...

The Utilitarianism argument against pro-lifers sounds like every pro-choice argument I've ever heard if you replace the word "homicide" with "killing the unborn".

Victor Reppert said...

Some pro-lifers like this kind of argument better than the typical pro-choice arguments, in that it doesn't discriminate against the unborn. They say "If you're going to defend homicide, be consistent."

bmiller said...

All pro-choice arguments are all utilitarian so I don't get the distinction. I don't expect utilitarian arguments to be consistent. Except to acheive desired ends by whatever means are necessary.

One Brow said...

All pro-choice arguments are all utilitarian so I don't get the distinction.

Most of the pro-choice arguments I hear are based on personal rights. Perhaps you are confusing rights with reasons?