Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Utilitarianism is not an 'Ethical Theory'

Utilitarianism, to me, has always been a slipshod application of pseudo-mathematics to human behaviour. The basic premise is simple: "the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation," as one of its founders, Jeremy Bentham said.

However, the question of computing happiness, let alone 'greatest' happiness, has always been a problem — not to mention the problem of linking happiness to morals and legislation. This has always been the main failure of utilitarianism as a positive force.

It turns out that the story is worse than that. Daniel Bartels and David Pizarro, in their 2011 paper The mismeasure of morals: Antisocial personality traits predict utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas, published in this summer's Cognition, conclude that utilitarians are mostly (and largely) immoral people.

Here's the latter part of their abstract of the paper:
Participants who indicated greater endorsement of utilitarian solutions had higher scores on measures of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and life meaninglessness. These results question the widely-used methods by which lay moral judgments are evaluated, as these approaches lead to the counterintuitive conclusion that those individuals who are least prone to moral errors also possess a set of psychological characteristics that many would consider prototypically immoral.
It is a chilling conclusion. Whither morality then? Or at least, computational morality.

Labels: , ,


Blogger Crutch said...

Then without bringing religion to the picture, what can we adopt as a moral code?

Also, are the qualities listed more amoral or immoral?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 7:15:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

Some helpful articles gathered under a single roof can be found at the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. For example, the one about the definition of morality. By most definitions of morality, immorality has to do with deliberate choice of an action that harms others, as opposed to choosing not to make a choice (and in not choosing, possibly harming some) or choosing to make choices without considering others (amorality). Hence the stance taken.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 5:55:00 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home