I don\’t agree with it all

But an interesting argument all the same.

If we are to be truly utilitarian, the pleasure of a woman who is able to adopt a baby must be included in our calculations along with the relief of a woman who is able to abort one she doesn\’t want.

12 thoughts on “I don\’t agree with it all”

  1. This column, along with comments such as this one:
    “No – the greatest good is served by preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place.”

    Highlights a problem with utilitarianism I’ve yet to be able to grasp. The philosophy speaks of greatest good/greatest number, but unless you have a room of ideological clones, there will never be a consensus on what constitutes “good”. The discussion therefore keeps turning to arguments of “My way is the best, so do as I say”.

  2. Ah but that argument is racist since only a few people, it seems, want to adopt black babies. And “racism” trumps everything else.

  3. The problem with utilitarian arguments is that they are are rational arguments & if folk were rational very few children would be conceived at all.

  4. “I am anti-abortion; might as well get that out of the way at once. Instinctively, when I learn that a friend is pregnant, I rejoice with her, and when I learn she has had an abortion, I grieve. I don’t think it should be illegal, and I don’t think that it’s murder. But it’s always a defeat for humanity, even if sometimes the smallest defeat possible under the circumstances.”

    If there is a greater capsule summary of my views on abortion than this it will be a long time coming. Distilled essence: hate it; don’t wanna ban it.

  5. since only a few people, it seems, want to adopt black babies

    Even if you discount the slebs acquiring families wholesale, I thought the black adoption problem, in the UK at least, was that not enough black families wanted to adopt (black or white) and that the (predominantly white, middle class, lefty) social services insisted that a black baby growing up with a non-black family was eeeevil.

    Yes, few families are prepared (or able, in a practical sense) to adopt babies with drug dependency, feotal brain damage etc but, unlike the US, that area of our underclass is still predominantly white (although highly geographically variable.)

  6. Well if you’re truly utilitarian, you wind up advocating killing healthy people so their organs can save the lives of multiple people in need of an organ donation. So no one is really truly utilitarian.

  7. @ Tracy W: Only if you’re giving a shockingly large discount to the utility of knowing that you and your loved ones don’t face being carved up at any moment. There are problems and conflicts in Utilitarianism but this isn’t one of them.

  8. Mr Civil Libertarian-

    To be fair to Bentham, IIRC he didn’t advocate the greater “good”, it was the greater “happiness”; which is still intrinsically impossible to measure objectively, but is at least reasonably easy to define.

    Of course, it still runs into the fundamental utilitarian problem that if killing X Jews makes Y Germans happier…

  9. Falco – however, under an killing-for-organs plan, each dead healthy person will save multiple lives. And presumably these people all have loved ones. So any dis-utility from knowing that you or your loved ones might be carved up at a moment’s notice are offset by the benefits to the organ-needers and their loved ones, who gain all the utility from being saved from dying on a waiting list. As there are more of the second group, the utility calculation is in favour of killing healthy people for their organs.
    (Although we presumably would prefer to kill orphaned healthy loners for their organs before social butterflies from big families).

  10. If you made donating organs compulsory for any natural death in the first place (which would be a great idea, whether or not your Benthamist) we would not have this discussion as you could effectively choose your kidney from a medicine-glass cabinet. There’s plenty, there’s enough for everyone!

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