What if instead of providing homeless shelters, food, and work programs for all homeless people around the country, we murdered them and harvested their organs so that we could save the lives of thousands of hard working people who needed organ transplants? Haha - just kidding. But many think that this is what the idea of utilitarianism is all about - doing actions that have a consequence that will do the most good for the most people – in this case taking organs from people who do little for their community and giving them to people who do much for their community. But it’s not quite as simple as organ stealing as you might think.
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In the mid-18th century the philosopher and statesman Jeremy Bentham was born in England. This guy was straight up hippie for his time. He believed in freedom of speech, abolition of slavery, women’s rights, gay rights - I mean this is stuff that some people don’t even believe in today. He also founded the idea of utilitarianism - the main principle being that “the right action is the one that produces the most overall happiness.”
But here’s where the misunderstandings come in. First we have to define what Bentham and other utilitarian’s consider happiness or pleasure. Some might think that this means they can watch porn, smoke weed, and eat Oreos all day. But that would be wrong. You see the utilitarianism people have distinguished two types of pleasure. A higher pleasure - related to our intellect and a lower pleasure - related to our senses. You see it is not just how much pleasure we receive, but the quality of it as well – kind of like anything in life. 10 ok cookies might not be as yummy as 1 extremely f*cking delicious cookie. In utilitarianism the delicious cookie is intellectual pleasure, and is more highly valued than physical pleasure – the ok cookie. So if you’re thinking about watching porn, try reading a book about Particle Physics or Paleomagnetism instead. At the same time our happiness is not just a selfish individual kind of happiness, but rather communal. Everyone’s happiness counts the same and there is no room for prejudice or discrimination – it is the total amount of happiness that the masses has that counts.
Think of it like this – the action that you do that gives the most amount of people happiness is the best action you can do – which might mean you actually make sacrifices to your happiness in order to make others happy. So to put it into mathematical terms it might look like total amount of happiness in all people + the right action to get the most amount of people happy = utilitarianism.
But there are problems to this idea. First, we don’t all agree on what makes us happy. For one person, it might mean having a loving family, for another it might mean playing World of Warcraft all day long, and for another it might mean living in a cave somewhere in India.
The second problem is after miraculously coming up with a consensus as to what happiness is it’s even harder to figure out what the right action is to arrive at such happiness. There is a famous thought experiment that goes something like this. There is a train speeding down the railroad. There is a switch up ahead. On one side you have five people tied to the tracks and on the other you have one person tied down. You are in a position to switch the track so the train runs over the one person rather than the five people. Would you do it? The utilitarian would perform the action that creates the most amount of happiness and would switch the track. One life taken is better than five, right? But what if that one guy was a philanthropic humanitarian and the other five were just a**holes? Well, sh*t then you might have some disagreements. Could you reform the douchebags to become better people so that they could do more good than the one guy? Or maybe after this experience the one good guy becomes an a**hole because he realizes that in spite of his good guyness he still was tied down to a train for some unknown reason and now wants to start living for himself.
I think one of the things you fail to mention in this video is that 'utility' can be measured in more ways than collective happiness for the most individuals. Maybe instead the system is striving for economic prosperity, the preservation of the species, raised living standards, extending human rights.
1:29 - Bentham did NOT believe in any sort of higher or lower pleasures. He simply used his Hedonic calculus to determine which action would produce the most happiness. Mill, on the other hand, did believe that there were higher and lower pleasures ("It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied", Utilitarianism, 1861)
"We don't all agree on what makes people happy." Not being a victim of institutionalized racism makes people happy. And it creates a society that is not on the brink of civil war, thus more happiness for everyone.
Hey, great video, but there's something I want to point out ...
There are not a few thousand workers / slaves underpaid by a few million consumers ... in fact, there are hundreds of millions of underpaid workers / slaves by a few million consumers.
The masses are the workers of the third world countries, not the consumers of the first world countries.
despite this, good work!
Like your videos, but your anti-labor opinions are shocking. Workers in Developing nations work for relatively little wages compared with us because it's better than the even lower wages in the home country. Unless something is done through coercion, choosing to work in one labor market over the other be prima fascia evidence of them seeing benefit in the situation. The role of this in lifting the masses out of abject poverty is well documented. You seriously undermine yourself with this point.
I'm honestly stuck on this issue. On the one hand you're completely right. It provides money to those communities that would be poorer without factories. But on the other hand there are shocking stories of suicide, loneliness, depression, etc. about many people who live in these places and only have one choice of employment - the factory that is in their city. My bias though is generally to see the welfare of the individual as more important than the monetary gain they get. This is a nuanced issue and can't be solved in a short video - let alone decades of debate.
Nicely produced video, but there are some serious issues worth pointing out:
*1.* John Stuart Mill's view regarding higher and lower pleasures is a minority position among contemporary utilitarians. Most side with Bentham, who Mill characterised as saying that _"quantity of pleasure being equal, pushpin is as good as poetry."_
*2.* The fact that we don't all agree about what makes us happy is not a problem for utilitarianism. Utilitarians don't need to _"miraculously come up with consensus about what happiness is."_ People express their preferences in many observable ways - how they vote, what they purchase, where they choose to live etc. Utilitarians take differences in preferences into account when they decide what's best. Economists and politicians do the same thing when they recommend public spending designed to satisfy different demands within their communities.
*3.* The fact that it isn't always easy to figure out how best to maximise happiness also poses little problem to utilitarianism. We all have to make prudential choices in life. Sometimes we get things right, sometimes we don't. Utilitarianism simply makes moral decision making similar to prudential decision making. We do our best to make the world a happier place. That's the most we can reasonably expect to do; i.e. to do our best.
*4.* The fact that some people use what they *think* is utilitarian reasoning to do things like fund less important medical research or exploit workers in poor countries to get cheap coffee merely illustrates that such people aren't capable of good utilitarian reasoning. Interestingly, that's why some leading utilitarian thinkers including Henry Sidgwick, Peter Singer and Katarzyna Lazari-Radek think that it may not be the best theory to teach ordinary people. That may seem elitist, but when you look at the poor quality of reasoning people often use in online forums, I suspect that they are right. Even the presence of the coffee example at the end of this video raises doubts about the author's understanding of utilitarianism and utilitarians. Contemporary utilitarians are at the forefront of efforts to reduce global poverty and income inequality.
John Thomas I searched the comments only to see if my thoughts on this video were actually composed by someone and found your comment.:) well constructed. Of course it is good that the video creator uploaded this video as airing wrong or incorrect opinions offers the opportunity for correction and growth. I believe your comment is the correction afforded by this, again well argued.
Because utility can be measured in different ways. Human life itself can be valued under utilitarianism because a homeless person could help others, or in the long term become an even bigger contributor to society than those waiting for organ transplants.
3:53 FALSE ANALOGY: Nobody is forcing those poor people to work growing coffee for Starbuks, they do it because it's the best available alternative to them in that place at the moment, they would be worse off if they didn't have that alternative, for example, no jobs at all, if you were desperate to make money, would you prefer a low-paying job than no job at all? In addition to philosophy, you should study economics too (watch and read ALL videos and books by MILTON FRIEDMAN, it would be an intellectual adventure).
It is actually forced but not in a direct way, you as a citizen of your country (lets assume USA), can choose to do what you want in some cases without trying in some cases with working really hard, but you have an option, you have lots of options. However, these people he is talking about (not always) trying to survive. Now think about it again why wont they apply for these jobs? Because they want to live, they want to be able to provide food, and shelter for themselves and for their family. Soooooo its is as i said in the beggining is forced. Its not false, there are poor people in this world and they work really hard, so you can drink your f*cking starbucks ogar.
Professional video. Nice work. It's hard to squeeze everything into 4 minutes, but Mill's position, disagreeing with Bemtham about higher and lower pleasures, is the minority position among utilitarians and has been since Sidwick. Most utilitarians agree with Bentham who wrote, _”... the game of push-pin is of equal value with the arts and sciences of music and poetry."_ It's the quantity and degree of pleasure that counts, and that doesn't necessarily favor intellectual pleasures.
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