A Critique of Utilitarianism (new member)

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Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 01:35 pm
What are the most vital arguments against Utilitarianism??? :detective:
 
jgweed
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 02:11 pm
@JFM phil,
How one posits an alternative position seems to depend on the particular brand of Utilitarianism to be examined. The original position of Bentham was refined by the Mills, and in more recent times, it has become common to distinguish between "act" and "rule" utilitarianism. Thus it would be useful to the discussion if some sort of definition, even if a very general one, were set forth.

In general, though, one the primary arguments against the position is that it is difficult to 1) calculate happiness itself and 2)thus to determine if, between several happinesses for different people, one should be preferred to another, and 3) to determine, from within the general principle of the greatest for the greatest number, whether a minority happiness could contribute at some time to the greater happiness. These brief reflections of counter-arguments may provide a starting-place for further thinking and discussion.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 08:07 pm
@jgweed,
Bentham: Bentham's utilitarianism asserts that one's actions ought to be dictated by their ability to achieve the most amount of happiness with the least amount of pain. He devised a "hedonistic calculus" to measure pleasure in any form that it can take within any domain such as temporally, viscerally, etc. Bentham's utilitarianism takes pleasure, with it's ability to be measured as an equivalent of happiness therefore assuming we can measure happiness based off that, and utilitarianism holds. That's Bentham.

Mill: Mill refined Bentham's utilitarianism by realizing that pleasure and happiness were not equivalent. Insomuch as the goal of using pleasure equally with happiness, Mill did not believe that pleasure was as easily measurable as simply using Bentham's hedonistic calculus. But Mill was still a utilitarian who figured that psychologically we tend to be hedonists therefore happiness to still the main goal.


I am guessing this about sums up what you want to see criticisms towards.

Kant: Kant is probably the most obvious example, lol. Kant thought that happiness is not by default something which we ought to attain in the first place. We have to be worthy of it. This puts things in a different perspective. Kant is criticising hedonism in that now he is questioning the value of happiness based on how it was attained as opposed to simply leaving it as a bare consequence without regard to its precedence. Kant might say that even if psychologically hedonism holds, does that necessarily mean our moral worth ought to be directed at pleasure, or happiness for that matter, or are there more rational goals.

Maslow: Maslow shows the type of person who is beyond hedonism in his hierarchy of needs. He called it the self-actualized person. Eventually when our basic needs are met, some people tend to find themselves wanting more, and they might be spiritual needs, or invented duties and maxims. For the self-actualized person, happiness became less important a factor, and the self-actualized person had hardness about him. He could direct his desires and 'needs' at fulfilling something spiritual or ideal, like becoming an expert at some field of interest, and be willing to suffer for the sake of achieving his desire. Needs became goals that required actions made indirectly.

In fact, Maslow believed that very few people even achieve 'self-actualization'. And a lot of people don't even care to do so unless they suffer what Nietzsche might call "moderate poverty". Actually, the overman and the self-actualizer have a lot in common, and often (as Maslow realized) the self-actualizer was easily willing to suffer some comfort for an ideal, or chosen duty or maxim, or 'need'. I don't think I'm mistaking Maslow's definition of need here, but if I am please correct me.
This goes back to Kant's idea that the self-actualizer might be what he considers someone more worthy of happiness. As Kant said, happiness is something thought.

Pleasure is the experiential version, and it is that which makes it the measurable one. And ultimately this is one of the criticisms one could make of utilitarianism. It treats thought as inferior to experience when this may not be the case, but then, how does one measure it, lol.

Kafka: Kafka has a neat example of such 'collective' goal-driven feats in his "The Great Wall of China". Kafka wanted to show that the great wall was not built simply because the people were ordered to do it. It was the will of the people that allowed it to happen, and that according to him the sovereign dynasty had little to do with it. The fact it was a collective achievement only criticizes utilitarianism more, because though Bentham was trying to find the best way for the people to interact, it turns out that the people can have a will of their own much like a self-actualizer. Their goal was indirect in that it required much suffering and actions which might appear at the brink of selfless without consideration of culture.
Utilitarianism tries to work 'for the people' assuming most are hedonists, enough that the legal system ought to be based off it. This might be seen as a criticism to some. To others, practical.

Nietzsche
: If we assume the latter, that it is practical to follow the utilitarian model, then this does agree with Kant on one crucial aspect. Everyone is treated as a means to themselves, which is part of the categorical imperative. But Nietzsche thought differently. I think it was in Zarathustra, but the way he describes the master morality, the creator or the overcomer sees others as a means to an end. Nietzsche masks this arguably noble cause by teasing the reader with the idea that it is selfishness he promotes, and this is just an example of such selfishness. Nietzsche wanted to emphasize that the slave morality ought to rejoice at the master's influence over the other through treating him/her "as a means to an end", because the 'end' has greatness to it that transcends the hedonistic will the slave morality is adhering to.

An elitist would find Nietzsche's position to be a criticism of utilitarianism, because in this way, everyone is not treated equally. Again utilitarianism is tied heavily to the motives of benefitting the people, and the most intuitive answer for doing so is equality. Mill and Bentham were concerned with legal philosophy.


But yeah, what are your thoughts?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 30 Jan, 2010 08:09 am
@JFM phil,
One strong (IMO) counter-argument to Utilitarianism is the argument from "special obligations". The argument is that we have special moral obligations because of our positions in life, or obligations to our family (especially to our children and spouses) so that we cannot treat all happinesses or goods as equally deserving. A lawyer cannot (for example) treat his client on a par with the person who is suing him, and count their goods equally. He is obligated, by virtue of his position, to count his own clients good above others. The same is true of a parent and his child. These are special relationships that are ignored by utilitarianism.
 
raidon04
 
Reply Sun 31 Jan, 2010 07:13 am
@kennethamy,
Such a question arises complexity and emotional diffidence to the morality of such a principle. Utilitarianism has been a notion that has spurred many to take forth an an alternative approach not based on mere individualism but on collective happiness. To those approaching this, it would merely seem sensible and right as to approach acts to which will grant the most social happiness and well being. I have always saw the whole notion as rather vague and open to relative interpretation. The term is rather ambiguous with premises being found within personal and collective social approaches. The danger with utilitarianism is that the graceful advent can be open up as a extenuation justification to commit abuse and exploitation. Many inhumane acts have been carried out for the sake of the doctrine of 'to which grants the most happiness to the greatest number of people'. Despite how crude and interpretative such an approach can be, many persons have followed an act of selflessness rather than of egotistic gains as the realisation of their happiness is indeed dependant on societal well-being. The term does not merely denote the treatment of other human beings, but of the treatment of all sentient beings. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome.
I personally uphold the idea of psychological blithe as the mere primary stage of fruition i.e. the contemplation of actions, the content of morality which thus unite with the ego in how to act. How you initially act and thus receive a reaction from should receive the pivotal attention. It is of diffidence to act in a way which is in accordance to utilitarianism as you maybe denying yourself vivaciousness in the process. Be focussed on the primary and exert profound efforts which are in accord to morality and your attempted blithe will spread naturally in others
 
Thomistic
 
Reply Sun 31 Jan, 2010 08:53 pm
@JFM phil,
Against Utilitarianism;

The "ends justify the means" is the principle statement, most often brought up, especially between religious fanatics. The idea that one can do something evil to avoid something evil, becomes obvious "retarded" (in the original sense of the word) logic.

Therefore to justify the position the "ends justifies the means" the means becomes neutral, insofar as it is defined relative to what the end is. Meaning, if killing innocent people saves the world, killing innocent people becomes a "good act" in that given situation.

If a neutrality is not attributed to the means, then a blind-eye is whereby we develop a certain type of "comparitive justice." I.e. the "lesser evil" principle, whereby one justifies an outcome because it is less "harmful" than the alternative acheived through virtue.

The fallacy in the aforementioned proposal is in the suggestion that anything good can come from that which is built upon vice. To suggest that the integrity of an individual or corporate entity (state, corporation, family, etc) is less significant than the outcome of their choices is principally to challenge the very foundation of all ethics.

The fundamental principle in any ethical conversation is that of "truth" and "congruency." Any philosopher knows that his "love for wisdom" is the highest goal. thus, one cannot persue that which is untrue and consider it "justified." Lest he have an "untrue" vision of justice. I realize I'm being a bit indirect here and I apologize, but what I'm getting at is the fundemental principle in all ethics which is to act according to one's nature, or to be "true to yourself." If one has to do something in-human (such as killing innocent lives) to save innocent lives, these people are not being true to themselves to maintain their nature, thus fostering an intrinsic "contradiction" and therefore an assalt against truth, and a failure to be an authentic philosopher.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 31 Jan, 2010 09:00 pm
@Thomistic,
Thomistic;123970 wrote:
Against Utilitarianism;

The "ends justify the means" is the principle statement, most often brought up, especially between religious fanatics. The idea that one can do something evil to avoid something evil, becomes obvious "retarded" (in the original sense of the word) logic.

Therefore to justify the position the "ends justifies the means" the means becomes neutral, insofar as it is defined relative to what the end is. Meaning, if killing innocent people saves the world, killing innocent people becomes a "good act" in that given situation.

If a neutrality is not attributed to the means, then a blind-eye is whereby we develop a certain type of "comparitive justice." I.e. the "lesser evil" principle, whereby one justifies an outcome because it is less "harmful" than the alternative acheived through virtue.

The fallacy in the aforementioned proposal is in the suggestion that anything good can come from that which is built upon vice. To suggest that the integrity of an individual or corporate entity (state, corporation, family, etc) is less significant than the outcome of their choices is principally to challenge the very foundation of all ethics.

The fundamental principle in any ethical conversation is that of "truth" and "congruency." Any philosopher knows that his "love for wisdom" is the highest goal. thus, one cannot persue that which is untrue and consider it "justified." Lest he have an "untrue" vision of justice. I realize I'm being a bit indirect here and I apologize, but what I'm getting at is the fundemental principle in all ethics which is to act according to one's nature, or to be "true to yourself." If one has to do something in-human (such as killing innocent lives) to save innocent lives, these people are not being true to themselves to maintain their nature, thus fostering an intrinsic "contradiction" and therefore an assalt against truth, and a failure to be an authentic philosopher.


But Utilitarianism does not imply that just any end justifies the means. It depends on the end, and it depends on the means. Sometimes the end justifies the means, and sometimes it does not. Is it your view that the end never justifies the means?
 
Thomistic
 
Reply Sun 31 Jan, 2010 09:17 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;123971 wrote:
But Utilitarianism does not imply that just any end justifies the means. It depends on the end, and it depends on the means. Sometimes the end justifies the means, and sometimes it does not. Is it your view that the end never justifies the means?


Well it depends upon our general or over-arching view of morality. For me, all morality aims towards the good so both the means and the ends must necessarily be good. If our ultimate goal is to attain that which is good, doing that which is evil to obtain that which is good, is overarchingly evil, since it is fundamentally a contradiction.

The basis of the morality I'm suggesting is sort of a middle ground between Kant and Mill/Utilitarianism.

Essentially it attempts to integrate a harmony between the means and the ends, through that which is ontologically designated.

Its certainly not de-ontological!

I see utilitarianism as one extreme and Kant's schema as the opposite extreme.

Like Aquinas states, the "means must be proportionate to the end." You do not defend yourself in a knife fight with a grenade launcher, if a gun is accessable or more legitimately the police.

I think people need to really take a step back and look at the over-all goal of morality.

If our morals are based upon immaterial moral principles, such as "Do good, avoid evil" and we "Do evil to avoid evil" there is something intrinsically wrong with our system of thought.

If we believe that it is wrong to kill innocent people, and that is the motivation of us killing innocent people, inorder to preserve innocent lives (regardless of numbers) there is a contradiction somewhere in our line of thought.

Edit: I think this would be likely the place where we might separate. Immaterial principles seem to be a nightmere to a system that quantifies the value of human life in many cases. And I think the issue to be looked at therefore is whether there are universal morals or is our morality fundamentally materialistic or quantifiable.

Edit2: the ultimate goal for all human beings, commutatively and individually is happiness. But that happiness, like Kant suggests needs to be based founded in truth or congruency/integrity. As Aristotle would also suggest, fulfillment is not found in money or pleasure, etc, but it is found in the good true and beautiful. One who knowingly murders innocent human beings, to save human beings carries around two effects which are a result of their choice.

The existence of those who survive as a result of the choice, owe their life to the slaughter of innocent lives. Thus, a wholistic happiness cannot be achieved, knowing that their peronal happiness is extended through the exploitation and destruction of lives, even if it is One. Since it is wrong in principle to kill innocent people, it can be unequivocally stated that wholistic happiness cannot be a acheived when one intentionally destroyes those who are innocent or that which is wrong.
 
raidon04
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 03:23 am
@Thomistic,
Thomistic;123976 wrote:
Well it depends upon our general or over-arching view of morality. For me, all morality aims towards the good so both the means and the ends must necessarily be good. If our ultimate goal is to attain that which is good, doing that which is evil to obtain that which is good, is overarchingly evil, since it is fundamentally a contradiction.

The basis of the morality I'm suggesting is sort of a middle ground between Kant and Mill/Utilitarianism.

Essentially it attempts to integrate a harmony between the means and the ends, through that which is ontologically designated.

Its certainly not de-ontological!

I see utilitarianism as one extreme and Kant's schema as the opposite extreme.

Like Aquinas states, the "means must be proportionate to the end." You do not defend yourself in a knife fight with a grenade launcher, if a gun is accessable or more legitimately the police.

I think people need to really take a step back and look at the over-all goal of morality.

If our morals are based upon immaterial moral principles, such as "Do good, avoid evil" and we "Do evil to avoid evil" there is something intrinsically wrong with our system of thought.

If we believe that it is wrong to kill innocent people, and that is the motivation of us killing innocent people, inorder to preserve innocent lives (regardless of numbers) there is a contradiction somewhere in our line of thought.

Edit: I think this would be likely the place where we might separate. Immaterial principles seem to be a nightmere to a system that quantifies the value of human life in many cases. And I think the issue to be looked at therefore is whether there are universal morals or is our morality fundamentally materialistic or quantifiable.

Edit2: the ultimate goal for all human beings, commutatively and individually is happiness. But that happiness, like Kant suggests needs to be based founded in truth or congruency/integrity. As Aristotle would also suggest, fulfillment is not found in money or pleasure, etc, but it is found in the good true and beautiful. One who knowingly murders innocent human beings, to save human beings carries around two effects which are a result of their choice.

The existence of those who survive as a result of the choice, owe their life to the slaughter of innocent lives. Thus, a wholistic happiness cannot be achieved, knowing that their peronal happiness is extended through the exploitation and destruction of lives, even if it is One. Since it is wrong in principle to kill innocent people, it can be unequivocally stated that wholistic happiness cannot be a acheived when one intentionally destroyes those who are innocent or that which is wrong.


In turn, I wholly agree with your statement regarding the fundamental distinction in the psychological pathology that one takes within ethically questionable acts. If one were to conjure over the act and fail to recognise whether their means is as equal to end i.e. the acts and the result are both in par with morality, then one should first recede and focus upon the contemplation. One should recite the famous proverb: "Our beliefs effect acts, our acts create habits and such habits become our destiny"
A good deed should not merely be determined on end result, but on one's foundation of morality which thus instigates and steers our actions and motivation. All stages are indeed important, but some lack personal dictation. Good deeds should not merely be a complex phenomenon, but a simple one. With the right morality that is psychologically in-par with the human condition for happiness is what is needed and practice individually and focus singularly, but to all. Happiness will naturally ramify and dividends will be granted back to the source in multiple degrees of separation.
 
Thomistic
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 07:21 am
@raidon04,
raidon04;124010 wrote:
In turn, I wholly agree with your statement regarding the fundamental distinction in the psychological pathology that one takes within ethically questionable acts. If one were to conjure over the act and fail to recognise whether their means is as equal to end i.e. the acts and the result are both in par with morality, then one should first recede and focus upon the contemplation. One should recite the famous proverb: "Our beliefs effect acts, our acts create habits and such habits become our destiny"
A good deed should not merely be determined on end result, but on one's foundation of morality which thus instigates and steers our actions and motivation. All stages are indeed important, but some lack personal dictation. Good deeds should not merely be a complex phenomenon, but a simple one. With the right morality that is psychologically in-par with the human condition for happiness is what is needed and practice individually and focus singularly, but to all. Happiness will naturally ramify and dividends will be granted back to the source in multiple degrees of separation.


I understood all that uptil the last sentence.
 
raidon04
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 07:53 am
@Thomistic,
Thomistic;124048 wrote:
I understood all that uptil the last sentence.

I apologise if you are not accustomed with the theory 'Degrees of Separation'. The thesis of the term asserts human connections in 'degrees of separation'. How many degrees of social separation can one be from another e.g. an American businessman to a farmer in Russia. Well given this social theory, psychologists have attempted to establish details on the relegation of happiness in a social environment. How many degrees of separation can the benevolence exerted from one be carried? The task was to evaluate whether happiness can spread from person to person and whether niches of happiness form within social networks

The results were rather conclusive and intriguing. Clusters of happy and unhappy people were visible in the network, and the relationship between people's happiness extends up to three degrees of separation (for example, to the friends of one's friends' friends). People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future. Longitudinal statistical models suggest that clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals. A friend who lives within a mile (about 1.6 km) and who becomes happy increases the probability that a person is happy by 25%. Similar effects are seen in co-resident spouses, siblings who live within a mile, and next door neighbours.
To conclude, People's happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon. Although the test in itself can be interpreted as mundane and rather obvious, it concurs the belief that a single deed of ethical actions spread socially with benefits reaped. In this such experiment, it was concluded that three degrees of separation was the mean result, but this is not always concrete. Depending on multiple factors, the expanse can be far more excessive. Even if the happiness is not directly witnessed first hand in return, should this cause demur? Or should the mere factor of causing, or more importantly; attempting a good deed which thus benefits at a societal level be the real remuneration?
 
Thomistic
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 09:08 am
@raidon04,
raidon04;124062 wrote:
....
To conclude, People's happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon. Although the test in itself can be interpreted as mundane and rather obvious, it concurs the belief that a single deed of ethical actions spread socially with benefits reaped. In this such experiment, it was concluded that three degrees of separation was the mean result, but this is not always concrete. Depending on multiple factors, the expanse can be far more excessive. Even if the happiness is not directly witnessed first hand in return, should this cause demur? Or should the mere factor of causing, or more importantly; attempting a good deed which thus benefits at a societal level be the real remuneration?


I would agree with this, insofar as humans are anthropologically social-beings by nature, not created to be "alone" or isolated in a belief system, values, traditions, and mere basic necessities. From a Theological perspective, the nature of the human person "reflects" the image of a Triune God, who is 3 persons, thus human beings in their very nature cry out for communion, along the horizontal axis.

I'm somewhat skeptical of measuring "happiness" however, but it certainly keeps a certain consistency with my own beliefs on the matter at hand.

Happiness and "inner-peace" are at least according to Aristotle a sort of self-actualization, whereby a human being fully participates in their being. As Rahner and Kant would suggest, that participation in our being implies a certain type of transcendance (not in the religious sense necessarily), but insofar as we move beyond "ourselves" and into the context of community. Thus, if we do anything against ourselves or our neighbour, we are generally not acting human. And if we are not acting human, we are not self-actualizing, thereby ceasing to find happiness, for what Aquinas would call "apparent" happiness or "perceived" happiness.

Thus it would seem to me, that Utilitarianism seems to neglect a crucial part of the human person, thereby being a good philosophy unto itself, but not a good "human-philosophy" insofar as it ceases to promote happiness.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 09:51 am
@Thomistic,
Thomistic;123976 wrote:
Well it depends upon our general or over-arching view of morality. For me, all morality aims towards the good so both the means and the ends must necessarily be good. If our ultimate goal is to attain that which is good, doing that which is evil to obtain that which is good, is overarchingly evil, since it is fundamentally a contradiction.



The dentist I went to had to give me pain (he did a root canal) in order to fix my tooth. Is that "overarchingly evil"?
 
Thomistic
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 12:45 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;124102 wrote:
The dentist I went to had to give me pain (he did a root canal) in order to fix my tooth. Is that "overarchingly evil"?


See that question holds to a certain hedonistic ideology which suggests all discomfort is "evil." When in reality, medicine is typically discomforting though it is restoring an object to what it "ought" to be like. I suppose it would be evil relative to the perception of the one suffering, but objectively it is not evil at all since it is attempting to restore that which is lost, which is health.

So my quick answer to that exact example is that the pain/discomfort you experience is related to a "correction" that attempts to restore you to your humanity.

The same thing, to Aquinas, is attributed to "punishment" as medicine for the evil-doer. It may be painful, but it is also a form of discipline which aids in the reformation of that person's moral-character. Thus if the pain is proportionate to the common-good (immaterial good) as opposed to the Greater-good (material or quantitative good) than there is nothing wrong with it in principle.


I do not, however think that this analogy has a valid parallel to droping a nuclear bomb on Japan. A tooth-ache relates to an individual, where the individual experiences pain, but does not lose his life in general. Furthermore, there is something evil within him, a sickness or deformation, that must be corrected, whereas, when one kills those who are innocent, you are effectively cutting away a limb that is not diseased, causing disproportionate pain. A greater parallel would be to have a tooth ache to to remove the jaw instead of the tooth that is infected. Even if removing the jaw destroys any future problems of infection, it still removes members which "ought" to be there.

So now I realize we may debate "is-ought" fallacy or the naturalistic fallacy...but it is fundamentally based upon the ontological nature of a thing. A human person who is innocent should not be murdered or intentionally killed for any reason. As Augustine would say, "it is better for the world to burn that to have one lie save it."
 
1CellOfMany
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 09:50 pm
@raidon04,
raidon04;124062 wrote:
I apologise if you are not accustomed with the theory 'Degrees of Separation'. The thesis of the term asserts human connections in 'degrees of separation'. How many degrees of social separation can one be from another e.g. an American businessman to a farmer in Russia. Well given this social theory, psychologists have attempted to establish details on the relegation of happiness in a social environment. How many degrees of separation can the benevolence exerted from one be carried? The task was to evaluate whether happiness can spread from person to person and whether niches of happiness form within social networks

The results were rather conclusive and intriguing. Clusters of happy and unhappy people were visible in the network, and the relationship between people's happiness extends up to three degrees of separation (for example, to the friends of one's friends' friends). People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future. Longitudinal statistical models suggest that clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals. A friend who lives within a mile (about 1.6 km) and who becomes happy increases the probability that a person is happy by 25%. Similar effects are seen in co-resident spouses, siblings who live within a mile, and next door neighbours.
To conclude, People's happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon. Although the test in itself can be interpreted as mundane and rather obvious, it concurs the belief that a single deed of ethical actions spread socially with benefits reaped. In this such experiment, it was concluded that three degrees of separation was the mean result, but this is not always concrete. Depending on multiple factors, the expanse can be far more excessive. Even if the happiness is not directly witnessed first hand in return, should this cause demur? Or should the mere factor of causing, or more importantly; attempting a good deed which thus benefits at a societal level be the real remuneration?

I have also read a summary of this study. I have also come to the conclusion from personal experience that it is really one's own choice whether or not to be happy in the circumstances in which one finds one's self. There are some people that can find reason to be happy in the most impoverished or otherwise oppressive of situations, where most would be miserable.

If it is actually possible to choose to be happy in whatever situation, and if happiness is, in some sense "contagious", as the study seems to suggest, then the moral thing to do is to choose to be happy all the time (and hope that you are not put in a padded cell!)Laughing
 
raidon04
 
Reply Tue 2 Feb, 2010 04:53 am
@1CellOfMany,
1CellOfMany;124270 wrote:
I have also read a summary of this study. I have also come to the conclusion from personal experience that it is really one's own choice whether or not to be happy in the circumstances in which one finds one's self. There are some people that can find reason to be happy in the most impoverished or otherwise oppressive of situations, where most would be miserable.

If it is actually possible to choose to be happy in whatever situation, and if happiness is, in some sense "contagious", as the study seems to suggest, then the moral thing to do is to choose to be happy all the time (and hope that you are not put in a padded cell!)Laughing

Given the Human condition and the priori exigencies that make up human beings, such a hope is rather chimerical and romantic. Certain circumstances and environments naturally bear more happiness than others. To assert that we have full control over our emotional stability sounds idealistic, but in actually it is rather unreal. We as humans have inert social needs to uphold a desirable state of well being. To locate happiness and uphold such where a life of privation is lead is incoherent. There are many assets in life which have to harmonize in effect for us to keep our motional health elevated. I am not denying that there have been those who have attained a state of vivaciousness from a life of destitution (whether social or materialistic)...but such examples are indeed exceptional. The nature/nurture debate can also shed light upon the critique of emotional regulation. Human beings are dissimilar and others are capable of deeper oversight of their emotional demur and needs than others. Sharing happiness in itself should be viewed as a gift, one that should be habitually practised with hindsight.
 
1CellOfMany
 
Reply Tue 2 Feb, 2010 10:19 pm
@raidon04,
raidon04;124308 wrote:
Given the Human condition and the priori exigencies that make up human beings, such a hope is rather chimerical and romantic. Certain circumstances and environments naturally bear more happiness than others.

Granted that humans do have apriori exigencies, and that there is considerable variance among the potential of different circumstances to satisfy same, but ones happiness is dependent upon much more than the satisfaction of these exigencies. It is quite common to experience joy while fasting, and a period of euphoria can result from sleep deprivation. There are many who can be morose in the midst of plenty, and it is not uncommon to find joyful individuals and families in circumstances that many in the U.S. would consider poverty.

Quote:

To assert that we have full control over our emotional stability sounds idealistic, but in actually it is rather unreal. We as humans have inert social needs to uphold a desirable state of well being. To locate happiness and uphold such where a life of privation is lead is incoherent. There are many assets in life which have to harmonize in effect for us to keep our motional health elevated.
I quite agree. However, there are many situations and circumstances in which individuals are unhappy by habit, such as when some expectation has not been met. It is possible to learn new habits of thinking that free one from such habits. The practice of mindfulness is one path to freedom from such habits, as is meditation.
The point which I wished to make (however obliquely) was that it is in our own interest and, in the context of utilitarianism, it is morally correct to choose to be happy whenever possible.
 
Thomistic
 
Reply Tue 2 Feb, 2010 10:25 pm
@1CellOfMany,
1CellOfMany;124546 wrote:

The point which I wished to make (however obliquely) was that it is in our own interest and, in the context of utilitarianism, it is morally correct to choose to be happy whenever possible.


In order to acheive happiness, we need to define what happiness is. If we can know what the end is , we can properly and proportionately create the means. Meaning we have to know what our summa-bonum is
 
1CellOfMany
 
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 05:57 pm
@Thomistic,
Thomistic;124549 wrote:
In order to achieve happiness, we need to define what happiness is. If we can know what the end is , we can properly and proportionately create the means. Meaning we have to know what our summa-bonum is

And finding the answer to that is, in a nutshell, the real problem within utilitarianism: What really is the highest goal of morality? How can that "summa-bonum" be measured? And how can one determine whether the outcome of an action will be to increase or decrease the balance of that summa-bonum?

I know of no truly persuasive answers to any of these three questions, but we will continue to try to formulate some.
 
Thomistic
 
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 09:53 pm
@1CellOfMany,
1CellOfMany;125539 wrote:
And finding the answer to that is, in a nutshell, the real problem within utilitarianism: What really is the highest goal of morality? How can that "summa-bonum" be measured? And how can one determine whether the outcome of an action will be to increase or decrease the balance of that summa-bonum?

I know of no truly persuasive answers to any of these three questions, but we will continue to try to formulate some.


We have to examine what will remove all "want." For if "want" remains in the human person, then self-actualization has not reached its perfection. Perfection will arrive when nothing is lacking from the human person's "objective" desires that lead to authentic actualization.

A Buddhist would say to anhilate desire(self-empty); a Christian would say to fulfill it (emptied to be filled); and many athiests might say to live in the present (ignoring the question in general); Aristotle and Plato would say that actualization in general is found in the truth (universals/world of forms). Aristotle though, might suggest that death prevents this from ever acheiving its actualization, since the separation of the body from the soul is a sort of eternal frustration; for those who believe he suggested the soul is immortal in De Anima). A Christian would then love Aristotle, because nothing else so bluntly points to the necessity of a Resurrection. The Buddhist would simply say that all desire is grounded in false-hope and needs to be completely destroyed so that one may no longer exist (an-atman).
 
 

 
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