A Defense of Utilitarianism
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Utilitarianism is a moral system proposed by Jeremy Bentham. To quote him: "The most good for the most number should be the guilding principal of conduct".
I will hold the position that Utilitarianism is correct, and my opponent will hold that Utilitarianism is incorrect. Other moral systems will not be discussed in this debate.
It is adviced that my opponent has at least a basic understanding of Utilitarianism other then what's in the description before accepting the debate.
I look forward to a lively debate!!!
I a) Utilitarianism never states that one must shut off logic.
When you are absorbed in your happiness at the maximum state, can you truly say you can think logically?
1b) Utilitarianism isn’t a blind obsession with happiness
But it is: We seek pleasure, as well as survival. So why does survival beat happiness in this case? Life is more important than happiness if Pro concedes this point.
1d) Maximizing happiness only means making happiness, not reaching infinite happiness
If the maximal state of happiness exists somewhere, then we will always be in doubt that we are making the most happiness possible. This point stands.
II The monster’s happiness would come from its sadistic nature, and sadistic happiness is the lowest of them all.
And how do you know? How do you know it's not some omnibenevolent God? You say sadistic happiness is the lowest level, so now is BDSM (and similar self-harm) bad? You continuously assign lower and higher happiness arbitrarily. What makes something lower or higher happiness?
The imperfection of the human condition to make mistakes, and to not be able to predict the entire future, does not dispute the idea of Utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism as a moral system cannot be debunked by our inability to perfectly carry it out.
Oh. So you're saying, the consequences of our actions don't matter? Is it now about intentions? If I desired to be happy and planted a tree if succeeded, I say would usually raise my happiness. But the tree died. And now I'm not happy. So if my inability to predict whether the tree will make me happy, does not matter, that means that regardless of results, only my intention mattered. And intentional based morality is the opposite of utilitarianism.
III the best sexual satisfaction is intercourse, and the best emotional satisfaction is being in love, being emotionally healthy, and having friends and family. Achieving emotional satisfaction is more important than achieving sexual satisfaction.
Besides the countless grammatical errors, Pro has made an empty assertion. If everyone is satisfied simply being in love and do not bother having sexual intercourse, humankind will go extinct, preventing further emotional satisfaction. The higher pleasures are contradictory here.
IV All we have to do is see how many benefits come out of a situation, and see if these benefits are a higher, or lower well.
And how do multiple lower goods stack up against a singular higher good? Is it a number? The measurement is ambiguous.
The mantis (to my knowledge) cannot even contemplate the philosophy of Utilitarianism, so to say that it’s Utilitarian for the mantis to kill its mate is absurd, they don’t even understand the philosophy.
So now you're saying, if you can't understand Utilitarianism, you can do whatever you want. That goes to show that mere knowledge can impact whether utilitarianism is valid or not.
What one should do with one’s life is not a moral decision, so this argument doesn’t even attack Utilitarianism, it just highlights the differences in people’s wants.
Each person works together to become a society. If I murder someone this is a severe attack and threat to society itself. If I pass a bill that is enforced by the government, this severely influences society as a whole. It can become a moral decision if it imposes on other people, or you have to vote on a collective decision. That is the point I am trying to make.
The birth of children is always good.
Pro has failed to answer whether he believes in Act utilitarianism or Rule utilitarianism. This is a problem in his entire argument.
Pro has dropped the rights of the minority. By our rights declared inherent to human beings, you cannot justify killing an innocent to save many. With this argument alone, he loses the entire debate.
V. this is not a criticism of Utilitarianism, it’s a criticism of the human condition.
By Pro's logic, the human condition of "seeking pleasures" cannot be logical either. If Utilitarianism results in paradoxical situations where people are not obligated to follow it (as the majority's maximal pleasure will still be greater than the minority), then the reduction to egoism is justified. Humans seek their pleasure more than they care about other people's pleasure. As such, the grounding foundation of utilitarianism defeats utilitarianism, when we take a closer look.
Pro would want everyone who has the resources, to donate to the poor and people in need. But the raising of empathy to such a level is practically impossible and has no rational basis. Merely because we seek pleasures does not mean we will be able to reduce our pleasure to realize another person's pleasure may be equally important as us.
Since I have more space to breathe, I will stack on another argument to defeat Pro's stance.
VI. Utilitarian Judgements Fail to Reach Utilitarian Result
Linking back to V as well, a study proves the selfish nature of man and the inability to view the whole perspective of utilitarianism, thus defeating the idea. By using multiple different scenarios to test the subjects, the researcher finds that they are more ruthless and less utilitarian. "‘utilitarian’ judgment was associated with a broadly immoral outlook concerning clear ethical transgressions in a business context, as well as with sub-clinical psychopathy."  (all quotes under here are from the same source)
Also, the "utilitarian" approach contradicted the ideas of the overall gain. The fact that you specifically said we seek pleasures, gives the impression that ourselves matter the most. This links to the second study from the article: "‘utilitarian’ judgment was associated with greater endorsement of rational egoism, less donation of money to a charity, and less identification with the whole of humanity, a core feature of classical utilitarianism".
And just as pro failed to endorse the idea of saving five while killing one, the nature of humanity has encouraged our inaction. Once more, we are not obligated to save others. The suffering caused by our inaction, the negligence, was not as strong as lesser suffering directly caused by the action. " we found no association between ‘utilitarian’ judgments in sacrificial dilemmas and characteristic utilitarian judgments relating to assistance to distant people in need, self-sacrifice, and impartiality, even when the utilitarian justification for these judgments was made explicit and unequivocal."
If anything, the "utilitarianism" conclusion only justifies psychopathic attitudes and the personal gain is still inherently in the person's mind, making it impossible to come upon such a judgment. When viewed in the third person, the general guiding rules are viewed differently in terms of fairness, merely due to the way they are worded.
"These transgressions often involved violations of fairness rather than of harm norms, further suggesting that the observed disposition to ‘utilitarian’ judgment reflects a broader antisocial tendency rather than a specific deficit in aversion to causing ‘personal’ harm, much less a genuine concern for the greater good."
This is further proved by the second study, which shows that the utilitarian judgments are ironically less concerned for "greater good" -- the ideals of "so-called ‘utilitarian’ judgment are often driven, not by concern for the greater good, but by a calculating, egoist, and broadly amoral outlook". I could delve into studies 3 and 4, but I'd just be repeating myself.
The result is this: Pro may endorse the utilitarian judgments in specific situations -- I will personally run over one person, to save five -- but he is unable to prove that the guiding principles will allow us to reach the utilitarian result -- I will reduce 10,000$ from my bank account to helping out a charity, poor people. Or, he may prove that we can reach Utilitarian results, through being selfless. But when you place yourself less than others, that means your life is not worth as much, destroying the fundamental nature of Utilitarianism. Therefore, Utilitarianism at the small (specific situation relating to yourself) cannot be said to apply to the big (overarching problems in society). This contradiction will be the fall of Utilitarianism.
I will end my argument with a single critical question that Pro will find difficult to answer:
Yes, we seek pleasure. But do we seek it over all other things? After all, in essence, the only thing necessary for survival are food, sex, shelter (and implicitly, your life). Nowhere is happiness required. Why is happiness or welfare then, the answer to everything?
- (also blest),
- (also savoury),
Firstly, he tries to reassert the idea of pleasurable states being what is good and desirable based on its definition. But he fails once again to consider its origins. There is a reason that Mill alludes to general happiness. It is the overarching ideal that guides our decision. When we stub our toe we feel pain, the opposite of gaining the pleasurable state. And when we accomplish something that we consider good, we receive a reward in our head, the pride, and satisfaction of gaining such ideals. As such, the emotional feedback of happiness is definitively important to sustain the very ideas that we live upon. Keep in mind that, some people are suffering so much that they feel that they must end their lives, weighing their horrible future against stopping it in the middle. Jarrett makes an overly broad statement and thinks "whatever is agreeable is good", which still goes in circles around the idea and fails to think of the impacts. For example, his definitions list delicious as pleasurable, yet cannibalism is heavily considered immoral, despite being a delicacy in some areas. The actual implementation of this would also be problematic, and the invisible economic costs compared to the pleasure gained is simply impossible to balance and weigh. Not to mention our feedback system for our taste is still similar to dopamine given by the brain. Unless Pro comes up with a better standard than "happiness" (which at least is proven to exist with chemical feedback in the brain), then he must still yet address arguments I-VI as a whole.
Jarrett tries to negate egoism by saying we must all think of decisions in a third-person perspective, but this is completely unreasonable. Jim deciding for Jim himself is completely different from Jim deciding for Mary. Jim says he values himself the most because his evolution has been hard-wired to protect himself. It is perfectly reasonable for him to be selfish and save his own life over Mary (assuming Mary is a stranger). Even if Mary could live longer, produce more pleasurable states, blah blah blah, the self-sacrifice is unjustified. We are not robots, and we do not expect the obligation for the unknown to outweigh the obligation for the known. If Pro is correct that knowledge should be valued, then inherently knowing about your own lives holds power/"good" greater than the other person -- whom you lack knowledge of -- and hence you should still be selfish and save yourself. Which defeats utilitarianism.
May I remind voters, that pro also has failed to address, time and time again throughout this debate, how slavery may be justified on the minority for the greater good of the majority according to utilitarianism. Jarrett wants to give the majority of the overall benefit of the doubt, but through this, he ignores each individual's rights and desires. Many decisions are made only by one individual. Certainly, Jarrett's ideals may succeed if everyone acts as one within a society. But when a person has to think of his wants, he must consider himself as an individual before thinking of the overall "greater good".
Secondly, Jarrett contradicts himself by saying utilitarianism says whatever is good for society is good, but then goes back by stabbing himself in the foot by saying murder can practically never be justified because it has the worst consequences the vast majority of the time. But if I miraculously find one single exception where one person killed will save 100 people, say, in a ticking time bomb situation of killing a terrorist, then I should do it. Jarrett already admitted greater good for a greater number of people is good according to utilitarianism. So I ask Jarrett and the voters to relook through Jarrett's assumptions. It seems more likely to me that virtue theory applies here: that the characteristic of depriving someone of liberty, life, etc. is inherently bad and should be avoided at all cost, and is a bad action even if the consequence is good. Because it seems absurd to suggest that murder can be good in some situations, especially since Jarrett already admitted in the vast majority of situations it is bad. His act utilitarianism is falling apart because he is already mistaking it for rule utilitarianism (or vice versa).
Finally, Jarrett tries to say that utilitarianism can still be judged upon the reasoning for seeking desire, but fails to answer my question: Is "good" good because we desire it, or because we achieve it? It seems ridiculous that I can wish to push evil onto you and still "do good actions" so long as you achieve pleasurable states, perhaps through pure accident. It seems absurd that even robots without knowledge, or even Jarrett's denial about praying mantises, can still "do good actions" or be considered moral agents, despite lack of knowledge of utilitarianism and understanding pleasurable states. Not to mention lack of choice to do otherwise and difficult to ascertain true consciousness.
Conclusion: Jarrett claims powerfully in the opening that evil actions are never performed under utilitarianism, but contradicts himself. First, he says that yes, you can kill one to save many. Next, he says, depriving someone of life is the very worst thing you can do. So which is it? Can I kill one to save many, no matter the situation? Even if the family as a virtue or good may be greater than strangers as a good (as virtue theory would argue)? Even if myself may be a greater good than yourself? (As I cannot mentally gain a stranger's knowledge, life, or "goods" that are oh-so-wanted by my natural state) Or would you say that killing a person is wrong, even if the outcome can be good?