Plato’s suggestions, Christmas edition!

readingsOur regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

Do we live in the area of information overload? Turns out we have been doing that at the least since the time of Socrates. The real problem, argues this article, isn’t too much information, but the lack of a paradigm to sort it out and extract meaning from it.

Do Christians and Muslims (and Jews, for that matter) worship the same God? I seriously don’t have a bone in this fight, but it does highlight interesting things about theology and belief.

Roy Scranton argues that we (meaning, civilization as we know it) are doomed. And the best thing to do is to take a page from Nietzsche’s positive philosophical project.

30% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats want to bomb the (non-existent) city of Agrabah, where Disney’s Aladdin lives. Perhaps more problematically, 80% of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA.”

A very sobering history of American anger and xenophobia. It was there from the beginning, it’s as American as Apple Pie.

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Categories: Plato's Suggestions

64 replies

  1. Daniel, I hadn’t even thought of other objections to utilitarianism, like the ones you mention. To me, the “mechanical” objection is objection enough!

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  2. Eric:, there’s one other reason an unadulterated utilitarianism should be scary.

    Who decides what is the greatest good for the greatest number? That was another cornerstone, in a sense,of “Brave New World”: corporate masters allegedly knowing our contentedness for us.

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  3. Hi Brodix,

    Actually I believe that sensations generally do have corollaries, though concise TERMS don’t always exist in English. There is “thirst,” which can feel quite negative, though “non-thirst” doesn’t seem to have much of a term. “Lust” can feel quite frustrating of course, but as for the orgasmic way in which it’s released, I’m not sure what to call that. Regardless the words that we use do remain secondary.

    I didn’t actually realize that Socratic was objecting to the “objectivity” of my position above, but let me assure everyone that my theory does remain entirely “subjective.” I even call it “subjective total utilitarianism,” but let me explain…

    One of the two reasons for the failure of utilitarianism traditionally, I think, is that supporters have attempted to bridge the natural gap between separate subjects, and even though these are… wait for it… SEPERAT SUBJECTS! You’ve got Peter Singer for example, saying “To hell with anyone who tries to deny social happiness.” Well I say that a given society’s welfare will be the magnitude of its own utility over a specified period of time… just as it will be for a given person… or a given rat… or any other given subject. Each defined subject shall thus have its own associated welfare. Thus my theory does remain entirely subject based. I do find it amazing how novel such an obvious position seems.

    Then the second reason for the failure of utilitarianism, I think, is that traditional supporters have tried to call it “moral.” As famously demonstrated by Derek Parfit (and worse by me, though less famously), utilitarianism can be amazingly repugnant. Furthermore as Robin and Daniel did recently mention, morality is defined as an “intuition” based concept. So if it’s intuitionally believed that second sons must have their heads cut off, then this shall be “moral.” Wow! I do of course agree as defined, but this only demonstrates that using an intuition based concept in order to lead your life or structure your society, may not be all that sound.

    Socratic,

    You seem to have erroneously presumed the following position of me:

    “Who decides what is the greatest good for the greatest number?”

    I believe that particular ideology came from Jeremy Bentham. My own goes more along the lines of “The greatest good for any given subjact, will be its own greatest happiness.” But then worse is that you’re giving me the “Who decides…?” crap that my mother used to throw at me as a kid! I was never able to enlighten her, but “Who decides?” does remain quite inconsequential to my point. It’s somewhat like “What color are triangles?” though secondary rather than a mistaken category. Slow down and we can talk about politics later, though for now we do need to theorize the nature of ultimately good/bad for any given subject. Our psychologists will require such an understanding in order to anchor their still quite primitive field. Furthermore if you’d like to propose such a theory other than “happiness,” then I’d love for us to also discuss this.

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  4. Hi Brodix

    You are still making metaphysical assumptions there. How do you know there is such a thing as energy? And what would energy be if there were such a thing?

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