Utilitarianism, impartially consider'd

PXL_20221112_092804668 Utilitarianism, eh. I've previously described it as "broken" on the grounds that there is and cannot be any utility function to optimise, though now I come to it I can't find out where, though the Rawls stuff comes close.

ACX directed me to AXIOLOGY, MORALITY, LAW from 2017 which seems largely correct. And thus to rule utilitarianism, which also seems sensible, though most sensible when not clearly distinguished from classical liberalism1.

So Hayek on Hume is helpful, perhaps. Everyone wants Hume on their side. But perhaps more particularly Mill, in this case. And yet it is a rather weak version of Utilitarianism: Mill formulates a single ethical principle, the principle of utility or greatest-happiness principle, from which he says all utilitarian ethical principles are derived: "The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals utility, or the greatest happiness principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure." Use of "greatest-happiness" is regrettable, as this is (as before) just broken. But "tend to promote" is more defensible.

Yes, this is a rather weak post. I'm gathering my thoughts.

Ukraine war: Poland says missile deaths an unfortunate incident

It's amazing how quickly a given event can go from being an international outrage to being a regrettable accident.


1. In which context, the Preface to the Second Edition of Hazlitt's Foundations of Morality is relevant: "If I have anywhere written a sentence which seems to imply that individuals are or should be always actuated by exclusively egocentric or eudemonic motives, I would now modify or withdraw it. I would emphasize even more strongly than I do in the section which runs from page 123 to page 127 that though the ideal rules of morality are those best calculated to serve the interest of everyone in the long run, there will nevertheless be occasions when these rules will call for a real sacrifice of his immediate interests by an individual, and that when they do so this sacrifice must be made because of the overriding necessity of maintaining these rules inviolate. This moral principle is no different from the universally acknowledged legal principle that a man must abide by a valid contract even when it proves costly for him to do so. The rules of morality constitute a tacit social contract. Is the moral philosophy advocated in these pages "utilitarian" or not? In the sense that all rules of conduct must be judged by their tendency to lead to desirable rather than undesirable social results, any rational ethics whatever must be utilitarian. But when the word is used it seems most often to arouse in the minds of readers some specific nineteenth-century writer's views, if not a mere caricature of them. I found it extremely discouraging to have my ideas characterized in one so-called scholarly journal as "straight utilitarianism" (whatever that may mean) even though I had pointed out (p. 359), however facetiously, that there are probably more than thirteen "utilitarianisms," and in any case had unequivocally rejected the "classical" ad hoc utilitarianism implicit in Bentham, Mill and Sidgwick, and espoused instead a "rule-utilitism" as earlier propounded by Hume. The review just cited only reinforced the conviction I expressed (also on page 359) that the term Utilitarianism is beginning to outlive its usefulness in ethical discussion. I have called my own system Cooperatism, which seems sufficiently descriptive".


Merchantilism and Denialism impartially consider'd

Sawyer, 1972, impartially consider'd

Coronavirus days: the Imperial model, impartially consider'd

Throwing Soup at Art Shifted People’s Views of Climate Protests—But Maybe Not In The Right Way - William in agrees with Mann shocker

* Surviving and Thriving in Tech's New Winter

* The Foundations of Morality by Henry Hazlitt

* The Enlightenment Project

On morality (2008)

Book Review: The Righteous Mind


Copleston on Marx

* Tradition and the Individual Talent by T. S. Eliot


Phil said...


Electric cars for Saudi Arabia, but pushing for gasoline for the rest of the world.


Massive spending on influencing the rest of the world.

William M. Connolley said...

Well, Saudi practically gives oil away locally, so buying solar and selling more oil abroad makes sense. Indeed, solar in empty desert makes sense too, so this isn't bad news: if they build a pile for themselves they can just keep going and build it for export too.

Phil said...

Solar isn't the issue, as solar mostly doesn't compete much with oil outside the Kingdom, at least now.

Sure, Saudi Arabia burns a lot of oil for electric power, almost 40% of electric power in the Kingdom comes from oil. Some islands, and smaller isolated places (like in Alaska) also rely on oil.

The issue is the future. With electric cars exploding in market share, solar/wind/nuclear can displace most of the oil used for transportation. Not only that, electric cars drive nicer, produce less local nasty air, don't make your garage smell like partly burnt hydrocarbons.

I can see why king bonesaw is nervous. Can't you?

So when are you getting an electric?