Thursday, February 17, 2022

Utilitarians Are Wrong

I recently read a defense of thin utilitarianism (Holden's Cold Takes 1, 2) that argued that since we leave the house in pursuit of mild pleasures at the risk of something bad happening, then some number of mildly good things offsets a bad thing (e.g., Y days at the beach offset getting mangled in a car accident).

I don't know how many of the people making that argument have ever actually been mangled, but I can say that the torturous, wish-I-was-dead events that have happened to me have happened when I was safely at home - even while tucked in bed. Lung collapses, Crohn's attacks, falls that broke my neck and smashed my face - these all "just happened," not in "payback" for or the "cost" of pursuing some minor (or major) pleasure. 

Again, however, this is a question of intra-personal trade-offs - does pleasure in one person offset suffering in that person. I still find it immoral to think it preferable for one person to suffer torturously so X others could avoid a slightly stubbed toe, or have a nice breeze on their face for a second. (More here.)

Many utilitarians seem similar to libertarians -
divorced from reality and lost in theory.

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