On utilitarianism

I, you, and a couple of friends discover that a railroad bridge has been crucially weakened, and if a train goes over it, the train will fall. A train with a thousand people in it, a thousand strangers none of us have ever met, is rattling down the line to bridge.

One among us has his dog with him. If he ties his dog to the tracks the dog will be killed, but the train will stop to investigate the incident, thus saving a thousand lives.

I know human nature. If he ties his dog to the tracks to save a thousand strangers whose deaths he will not see, he will tie his dog to the tracks to gain a dollar, and if he ties his dog to the tracks to gain a dollar, he will tie me to the tracks to gain a dime.

The fatal flaw of utilitarianism is not the difficulty in comparing interpersonal utility. It is that there are in fact no utilitarians. Only evil people with overly clever stories justifying evil acts. Thus utilitarians always wind up killing a million innocent people to make an omelet, and wind up with no omelet.

84 Responses to “On utilitarianism”

  1. Dr. Faust says:

    Do you watch the History Channel, Jim? They had a show on about train disasters the other night and I wonder that inspired this post?

  2. Mark Citadel says:

    I’ve always felt that Utilitarianism’s two big errors are thus

    1) No objective reason to see ‘happiness’ as the prime utility over other things.

    2) Lack of predictive powers. It is impossible to know if any action we take will, in the long run, maximize or minimize human happiness, due to the butterfly effect. If Utilitarianism is true, then we can never apply accurate moral judgments to the actions of ourselves or others, due to limited knowledge of outcomes.

  3. Mackus says:

    I never liked examples that cannot occur in real life. I know its nitpicking, but how tying up a dog is only choice? Why not throw a rock at engineman’s window, to “get him to investigate”? Or stand on a track yourself and jump off it in last moment, to try to get him to stop? sigh.

    And this one example with train and a dog gives implication that live of 1000 strangers are worthy more (to me) than my dog. On what basis? I know nothing about them. They could be all lawyers or child molesters.
    If I decided in favour of life of my dog, because I like it more than 1000 strangers (has higher utility to me), am I still utilitarian? Or not, because I chosen “wrong” option?

    Everyone rants on how end justifies the means, but what justifies the end?

    • coyote says:

      good response – the leap from the dog to tying him to the tracks is fallacious as well.

    • Alan J. Perrick says:

      “Mackus”

      Good comment, indeed. You can almost see the scene from hundreds of years ago, as the priest of rationalism peddles his parlour-tricks to a room full of lacey-collared men. Out of these corrupt aristocrats’ boredom would come the want to participate in the moral calisthenics that the rationalist presents, of course they’d ultimately be only a warm-up for the actual political decisions that would end up moving them away from traditional morals and thought patterns, into the “brave new world” of “righteous sacrifice” for things like militarism or Empire, for example..

      Mr. Robert “Bob” Whitaker puts it succinctly:
      “Don’t go through the ‘doors’ they open.” – regarding hypothetical questions that lead to one’s destruction.

      In God we trust and with best regards,

      A.J.P.

  4. Orthodox says:

    You immediately call you broker and buy massive amounts of put options on the railroad company’s stock. 1000 people die, but it unlocks capital from the highly regulated rail industry and ends up creating enough value in the economy such that 1007 African children are saved from starvation. Also, your happiness increase from being entertained by the crash scene and making hundreds of millions of dollars, more than offsets the sadness of the 1000s family members. Ergo, if the train trestle is sound, you should damage it to the point of critical failure.

  5. 404 says:

    Why are we so keen to save this train? I bet the engineers who built the bridge and the insurance inspectors who signed off on it are affirmative action hires. Most of the passengers on the train are probably of the opinion that it’s good that so many oppressed minorities were given high-paying job opportunities in the construction of this bridge and the nerdy white guys were drummed out to make a safe space for trannies and women of color. Me and my dog will wave to the train as it goes by. A smart utilitarian realizes that you can’t change human nature and you can’t fight the tide. The only way to fix society is to let nature take its course.

    • peppermint says:

      Saving the train is something the superheroes of the latter half of the 20th century would do. The movie superheroes are still doing it, and it sounds increasingly silly.

      It’s also what high trust people do.

  6. Michael says:

    this makes no sense.
    assuming i have a utility for an unknown human quantity to begin with of course i sacrifice my dog but not for a dollar yes for most human life, but not a drowning child molester.
    while i may in fact be a path and so in your words evil i really dont think you can defend that objectively, as soon as you get into statements about “evil acts” you get the war started about what acts are moral and then you are responsible for the millions of innocent deaths,and they are innocent because no one agrees about this morality so no one can claim the justification.
    Usually the argument goes from the conservative side i9n two parts yeah but natural and religious law and the law writ on our hearts and we all agree murder is wrong, to that see the above- no we dont agree on the details not even on murder. The second part of the argument is an appeal to pragmatism- if we dont agree on something the end is nigh and there is much sense to this except we dont agree on anything and so we continue to have the wars we pretend we sort of agree while looking for opportunities to gain the upper hand in the next outbreak of bloodshed.
    Now im not convinced there is a satisfactory answer, Im not convinced man can ever find a satisfactory form of government. man evolved ad hoc not to meet the long range goals but to survive short term threats. what we are left with is not rational but it is indeed written on our hearts or DNA we feel intensely this or that are right but its really just some bio chemical stimuli we think intensely what we feel is correct but its not just more evolutionary smoke and mirrors.
    Leftism deconstructed western values easily because they were able to point to the inconsistencies once a a tipping point before the illusion of the reason concept had been totally destroyed they switched strategies and took the reasoned position since they waited until they held the media and academia they have held on with equally inconsistent morality.Not only have both sides proved how easy it is to fool most of the people most of the time they have proved how easy it is to fool the most intelligent logical people of almost anything. This is of course because evolution was ad hoc and irrational.
    while you can make a case one approach is more compassionate or fair or practical etc in a system as large as humanity and no agreement on the value of anything youre just fighting a culture war soon to be a genocide obviously if your nation is of the same genetic stock you have a better chance of having the same ad hoc values but this might make it more likely you will come into conflict with dissimilar nations maybe.
    what i like about utilitarianism or what i think of as it having no philosophical training but a predisposition to logic [which BTW led me to be in the conservative natural law camp most of my life] what i like is that there is actually a purpose to the universe god or no god or at least a purpose to life.
    The prime directive -survive and reproduce prioritizing from self outward. This is the DNA code of life. survive by any means necessary over any and all competitors regardless relatedness then only with excess resources assist those most closely related in ascending order. its objectively true with no god because it is the only thing all life agrees on is good it is the only objective good. Its true if there is a god because we can know nothing about gods intentions except by his design of the universe. If you are going to insist on revealed instructions as gods directions i would say see the first paragraph, theres plenty of differing revelations, it doesn’t matter if they all say dont murder read the fine print the devil is in the details.
    And what does this objective good look like in practice, its a horror show. its ruthless cruel but its not senseless its a terrible beauty. some call it Gnon I think. its best approached stoically, those about to die we salute you, Hoka Hey, its a good day to die etc.
    The challenge for mankind is to overcome the genetic noise he calls reason and morality etc and ask himself does he find life good or not.The trap is we have become so good at surviving we delude ourselves hard choices are no longer needed so we make dysgenic choices at a certain point our allocating extra resources too far up the genetic tree we are supplying our future rivals or more likely in our ad hoc thinking feeling creating a future burden we must carry in our battles against future worthy adversaries.While true that nationalistic and martial societies minimize much of this they are not on the lookout for traps from the right. species competition is a complicated system so subject to chaotic implosions of black swan nature population dynamics are textbook examples of chaos theory. only a clear understanding of the games rules can hope to avoid the horror on a personal level. its going to be like flying a chopper.

    • Dr. Faust says:

      Why can’t you take some time and learn how to make a post that isn’t a total eyesore. Indent your paragraphs. There’s a reason it’s done. It works. It looks better and helps others read it.

  7. Stephen W says:

    All arguments against utilitarianism tend to be utilitarian. Like “if you kill a black thug to save the life of yourself and your family you will corrupt your mind so you become a mass murderer.” So the ends (not becoming a mass murderer) justify the means (letting more people die at first).

    “Ends justifies the means” is thrown around as scary phrase, usually to justify magical thinking “if we screen embryos for genetic diseases that is eugenics so it will magically make us open concentration camps and we fought a war against Nazis so that must be bad, so we should ensure the next generation is crippled by as many genetic diseases as possible.”

    But the flip side to “do the ends justify the means?” is “do the means justify the ends?” and I say no, If its in my power will not let the world go to hell so that I can claim to be holier than thou by letting what I care about be destroyed just so that I can keep my own personal hands clean follow a higher (petty and vain) morality of aloof pacifists. Some things are worth killing for.

    • Mark Citadel says:

      “Some things are worth killing for.”

      I would agree… but what? The maximizing of human happiness? Why should anyone care about that, let alone go to the trouble of killing for it? ISIS seems to have a far superior motive for their wanton executions than that which is provided by utilitarianism.

    • Red says:

      The script that really should be used is making people responsible for the ends. If you are in charge of X and X goes to hell, then you should be punished for it. This causes both diligence and preventive action.

    • jim says:

      All arguments against utilitarianism tend to be utilitarian.

      You ignore the post to which you supposedly reply, for this post makes a non utilitarian argument against utilitarianism.

      • Stephen W says:

        In your argument the ends (being a trusted friend of Jim and keeping your dog) justify the means (letting thousands of people you dont care about die).

        Everyone is utilitarian the only difference is which outcomes they value. And with impulses, emotions, time preferences, and hidden motives, getting in the way of the things they say they value.

        Why is it whenever philosophers discuss utilitarianism and “the trolley problem” the examples are absurd and dont make sense. A fat man thrown over a bridge is not going to stop a railway car, and dog tied to tracks will take a while and possibly go unnoticed you are much better off running down the track waving your arms above your head than tying down sacrificial victims. Another popular example is a Doctor murdering people for organ donation, but if you know anything about medicine you will know that the organs will only last a few before being rejected, and sacrificing healthy people for the unhealthy would have dysgenic affects long term, and in reality there is no shortage of car crash victims to steal organs from, an opt out organ donation system eliminates all shortages. Knowing that there are really much better option outside of the two the philosopher wants you to consider make it hard take them seriously. A better example would be something like: Do you order an artillery strike on you own men to prevent the enemy from breaking through and rolling up the entire front line.

        I am quite surprised by your stance on utilitarianism, reactionaries use allot of utilitarian arguments, while leftism is full of sentimental anti utilitarian thinking like ” executing criminals is mean so we should release them so they can kill more people” or “deporting immigrants is mean so we should let the country be destroyed and likely have a nice load of civil wars in the future.” Ant utilitarians tend to be all about letting the world go to hell as long as their own personal hands are kept clean so they can appear holier than thou (their real ends).

        For those who not ideologues the real difference between “utilitarians” and “non utilitarians” is just long vs short time preference.

        A utilitarian should support segregation and deportation as multi ethnic neighborhoods have lower social capitol. A utilitarian should support eugenics removing genes for disease, criminality and stupidity from future generations. A world where all blacks where made infertile would have allot less suffering.

        • Mark Citadel says:

          “A world where all blacks where made infertile would have allot less suffering.”

          You are aghast that Reactionaries are typically not Utilitarians, but here is a prime example of Utilitarian calculation that is antithetical to the Reactionary perspective and spirit. Reaction acts in accordance with what has been held by human beings up until the Enlightenment, and at no time during that period did the amount of suffering in the world matter to anyone. People cared about the suffering of their own, their kin, their co-religionists, but not the net suffering of the world. This is a profoundly Modernist concept akin to the concern for ‘human rights around the world’.

          The whole Enlightenment had a veneer of ‘relieving the suffering of others’, by interfering with the naturally occurring order of things. “It isn’t fair that people suffer from poverty, or lack of education, or lack of political representation!” So what? This suffering is, dare I say, necessary and good in many circumstances.

          Here is a question. To achieve the creation of a Reactionary State, the entire world may need to be in a period of great suffering and calamity. Do I oppose such suffering? Not at all! This cannot be said to be an ends-based trade-off either. The Reactionary State would certainly be a rough place to live, rather than a utopia. In terms of preventing suffering, our Modern state might be seen as a paradise by comparison. I remain wholly against Modernity regardless, because I do not elevate the prevention of suffering as some paradigm of virtue. As Jim points out, attempts to do so often end with the causing of more suffering anyway, as the entire Prog movement has shown.

        • jim says:

          In your argument the ends (being a trusted friend of Jim and keeping your dog) justify the means (letting thousands of people you dont care about die).

          Everyone is utilitarian the only difference is which outcomes they value

          No one is utilitarian, and those that say they are, lie.

          The analysis to which you respond was not “what should the dog owner want”, but “who is a true friend?”

  8. Occupant says:

    Jim,

    To your knowledge, has this or any similar variation on the Trolly Problem been tested by asking real people? By now a lot of people have been asked about the Trolly Problem, but all the variations I’m aware of involve sacrificing strangers.

    The way you formulate it, an affirmative answer shoud predict something — a crime record perhaps.

  9. Alan J. Perrick says:

    Most systems of ethics post-Enlightenment or Revolution are ways for would-be nobles to effeminately intellectualise and therefore excuse the activities of various enemies “foreign and domestic” who were (and are) undermining society.

    “Jim” has it right.

    A.J.P.

    • Mark Citadel says:

      Pretty much true, yes. Almost every pre-Enlightenment moral system is superior (not in terms of its accordance with actual truth, although this is a common factor, but in its logical setup) to what we have today.

  10. Trimegistus says:

    This is why I’m coming to the conclusion that smart people are fucking idiots.

    A dumb person who sees a train carrying hundreds of people toward a ravine will do something to stop it, without worrying about the implications or the philosophical underpinnings of the act. He may sacrifice a dog to do it, or not, depending on how much he loves dogs. He won’t sacrifice a human, but he just might sacrifice himself, because he operates under a set of old, time-tested moral axioms. We call these people heroes in real life.

    A smart person who worries about the philosophical justification of trying to stop that train is just a fucking idiot.

    • jim says:

      He might well sacrifice a dog. He will not sacrifice his dog.

      • R7_Rocket says:

        Knowing that empathy is only finite is very useful knowledge when it comes to detecting evil people who hide behind universal morality.

      • Hard Right says:

        How about we tie Peppermint to the track instead?

        • jim says:

          I rather like Peppermint.

        • B says:

          That’s $4 per. If we get another 6 guys together, that’s only a buck each.

          • peppermint says:

            would a jew really buy a 4$ chain to tie a goy to a train track to save a thousand jews from the auschwitz? or would he only do it if he expects to look through the goy’s pockets for a driver’s license to sell to a mexican

          • B says:

            No, my dimwitted uncircumcised friend, you don’t understand-there wouldn’t have to be any Jews heading to Auschwitz involved.

            I’d throw in a couple of bucks to tie your extended family to the track too, but my read on you is that you’d be equally glad to see them run over. Is that the case?

  11. R7_Rocket says:

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    Ovenworthy!

    http://ovenworthy.com

  12. R7_Rocket says:

    This is OT, but I found this to be funny:

    Behold the new and improved version of Upworthy…

    Ovenworthy!

    http://ovenworthy.com

  13. B says:

    I’d tie my dog to the tracks to save 1000 strangers (in a theoretical situation where I couldn’t throw a rock.)

    I wouldn’t tie my dog to the tracks for any amount of money-I assume that whatever amount of money that was, G-d would eventually send it to me in a way that didn’t require me to betray my dog, if He wanted me to have it.

    I probably wouldn’t tie you (Jim) to the track, either. G-d would disapprove, plus you seem like a decent enough guy.

    Peppermint? Shit, the utility generated by tying him to the track would be enough that I’d pay out of pocket to do it. Not a lot, though. Up to $8 or thereabouts.

    Utilitarianism is stupid. Carlyle critiqued it by calling it pig-philosophy, which pretty much covers everything you need to know about it. Reducing people to a sort of bipedal swine eventually leads to the realization that bacon, no matter its source, is very delicious. So you get modern China.

    • R7_Rocket says:

      Peppermint? Shit, the utility generated by tying him to the track would be enough that I’d pay out of pocket to do it. Not a lot, though. Up to $8 or thereabouts.

      Zing!

    • jim says:

      I’d tie my dog to the tracks to save 1000 strangers

      Would you now.

      My only direct observation of your moral characters comes from your approach to sources and citations, and the way you deal with sources and citations, would not surprise me if you tie your dog to the tracks.

      • B says:

        >and the way you deal with sources and citations

        By actually providing them and knowing what they say?

        A dog is not a person, or 1/10th of a person, or a millionth. A dog is a dog.

        You’re like one of those American women who refer to their cats as “my babies.”

        • jim says:

          But my dog is my dog. One of the giveaways that Shane Jenkins was going to gouge out his girlfriend’s eyes was that he stabbed his own dog to death. How a little girl treats a doll is a tell as to how she is going to treat her real children. And how a man treats his canine companion is a tell as to how he will treat his human companion.

          • B says:

            >One of the giveaways that Shane Jenkins was going to gouge out his girlfriend’s eyes was that he stabbed his own dog to death.

            And a good farmer doesn’t mistreat his animals, and makes sure they are fed and watered before he eats.

            But guess what? He has no qualms about slaughtering them.

            Stabbing your dog to death for no reason is a sign that something is terribly wrong with you. Sacrificing your dog to save strangers is not. The dog is not your child; it is an animal that trusts you and loves you, that you may feel affection for, but an animal nonetheless. Losing track of the difference between animals and people is a progressive disease.

            Incidentally, the commentator above is right: your argument is basically utilitarian. It appeals to not greater objectively existing good-merely on one hand that you see greater utility in having your dog alive than the lives of 1000 strangers, and on the other hand that there is lower general utility in having the kind of guys around who’d sacrifice their dog for 1000 strangers.

            Your argument is basically that utilitarianism is bad because it’s not productive of greater utility for everyone, is not utilitarian enough. Were it utilitarian, you’d presumably have no issues with it.

          • Occupant says:

            >> Incidentally, the commentator above is right: your argument is basically utilitarian. It appeals to not greater objectively existing good-merely on one hand that you see greater utility in having your dog alive than the lives of 1000 strangers, and on the other hand that there is lower general utility in having the kind of guys around who’d sacrifice their dog for 1000 strangers.

            By this argument, compliance with divine command is also utilitarian. Believers are simply maximizing their personal utility function through obedience to G-d’s will.

          • peppermint says:

            utilitarianism is, after all, the happiness of Gᴏᴅ, and to maximize it means knowing the mind of Gᴏᴅ. Gᴏᴅ created us in Hɪꜱ image, and therefore what makes the greatest number of us happy, makes Hɪᴍ happy; and Hᴇ ☪rea✝ed us with the intelligence to be able to figure it out.

            oh, and Gᴏᴅ h8s fgtz and wants them to die as much as Hᴇ wants people who would pick heads of grain on the Sabbath to

          • B says:

            That reduces things to a tautology-we find maximum utility in what we prefer, because we prefer things of maximum utility to us.

            You can map a 3d world into 2d, but you’ll end up losing a lot in the process.

          • Occupant says:

            B:
            >That reduces things to a tautology

            Yes. Using “utilitarianism” as a stick to indiscriminately bash unbelievers means you end up bashing yourself.

        • jim says:

          >and the way you deal with sources and citations

          By actually providing them and knowing what they say?

          You treat sources and citations the way you treat the Torah and the Talmud, as unformed potter’s clay to be shaped into whatever is desired.

          • B says:

            Again-I actually have sources. And cite and quote them.

            When I said the sources supported my contention that historically Jewish women were able to divorce on demand, you claimed that I was making things up. When I quoted Maimonides, you claimed that HE was making things up (to get in good with the progressives of 12th century Egypt or something.) When I quoted the Elephantine Papyri, you claimed that THEY were making things up (I guess to get in good with the Persians of 6th century BCE,) and then invented a rule where previously married women could demand a divorce on their second marriage but women on their first marriage couldn’t, or something.

            When I said that the Bolsheviks had significant support among the orcish Russian proles and peasants, and without this support would have fallen, you claimed I was making things up. When I quoted you an academic source, you claimed that the author was making things up, because he used official Soviet figures.

            When I quoted you Bunin, an aristocratic refugee who can’t be suspected of sympathy with the Bolsheviks, you claimed that Bunin did not say what he said. When Bunin says that:

            1) under the Bolsheviks, former officers were murdered and sent to the bottom of the sea, burned alive, skinned alive and despoiled

            2) the people enthusiastically were cheering for slaughter, rape and robbery long before the Bolsheviks made their appearance,

            3) when Bunin describes the “demos” as murdering officers, the Revolution as the rise of the “self-determining” people who are inherently degenerate and orcish, led by their representatives who in normal conditions inhabit jails and asylums,

            you say that what he MEANS is that the people are innocent. It’s only that the czarist elite, you know, the military leadership, the aristocracy and the secret police, secretly conspired to overthrow themselves, despite the will of the people.

            Who treats the sources as unformed potter’s clay here?

            • jim says:

              Again-I actually have sources. And cite and quote them.

              When I said the sources supported my contention that historically Jewish women were able to divorce on demand, you claimed that I was making things up. When I quoted Maimonides, you claimed that HE was making things up (to get in good with the progressives of 12th century Egypt or something.) When I quoted the Elephantine Papyri, you claimed that THEY were making things up

              It is really easy to win arguments when you lie about what your opponent says.

              I did not say the Elephantine Papyri were making things up. The Elephantine Papyri do not say what you claimed they said, nor depict the kind of society you depicted. The most obvious and conspicuous fact about the Elephantine Papyri is that women do not, or should not, have agency, that marriage is an agreement between two men about what is to be done with a woman, a transfer of authority over a woman from one man to another, not an agreement between a woman and a man.

              Just as it is in the Old Testament. A woman’s consent to marriage was not legally or socially required in the society recorded in the Elephantine Papyri. Some of the Elephantine contracts limit the bad consequences a woman might suffer for wickedly failing to go along with the marriage that had been decided for her by other people, and in this sense such women had the “right” to divorce in sense that I have the “right” to drive above the speed limit. Some of them, however, don’t limit the bad consequences a woman might suffer for wickedly failing to go along with the marriage that had been decided for her by other people.

          • B says:

            >I did not say the Elephantine Papyri were making things up.

            Ah, bullshit. When I pointed out that the Elephantine Papyri allowed the woman to demand a divorce, you said “this tells us much about the laws of the Persians, little about the laws of the Jews.”

            >The most obvious and conspicuous fact about the Elephantine Papyri is that women do not, or should not, have agency, that marriage is an agreement between two men about what is to be done with a woman, a transfer of authority over a woman from one man to another, not an agreement between a woman and a man.

            The papyri specifically say that if the woman stands up and announces to the congregation that she wants to divorce, she gets a divorce. It’s pretty ludicrous to say that she could be married against her consent.

            >Some of the Elephantine contracts limit the bad consequences a woman might suffer for wickedly failing to go along with the marriage that had been decided for her by other people, and in this sense such women had the “right” to divorce in sense that I have the “right” to drive above the speed limit.

            What?

            That’s a very convoluted way of saying that if the divorce was initiated by the woman, she would not get her ketubah. Well, that’s the case today, too.

            >Some of them, however, don’t limit the bad consequences a woman might suffer for wickedly failing to go along with the marriage that had been decided for her by other people.

            Really? She can have her head cut off? What bad consequences?

            I notice you’ve got nothing much to say about Bunin.

            • jim says:

              Really? She can have her head cut off? What bad consequences?

              After she loses the dowry that the head of her family provided, she gets returned to the head of family, who has authority to beat her, and may well have authority to cut off her head.

              I notice you’ve got nothing much to say about Bunin.

              You lied about what Bunin says, I called out your lies, you repeated your lies. No point in continuing the conversation.

          • Hidden Author says:

            Hey, slim Jim, is your brain as thin as a slim Jim? 😀 😀 ;D

          • B says:

            >After she loses the dowry that the head of her family provided, she gets returned to the head of family, who has authority to beat her, and may well have authority to cut off her head.

            You are lying.

            First, in the one case where she returns to the family, it is because she was a slave freed on the condition that she take care of the master of the household and his son in their old age. When she is married off, the contract releases her from this obligation, conditional on her staying married or at least not requesting a divorce. This is a highly irregular situation, and even here we see that she has the right to request a divorce.

            Second, where does it say that the head of the family has the authority to beat her or cut off her head? You just invented that.

            >You lied about what Bunin says, I called out your lies, you repeated your lies. No point in continuing the conversation.

            I translated Bunin verbatim from the Russian, with specific dates of his diary entries. If you dislike my translation or doubt what I’m saying, this blog has other Russophone readers. More likely, you realizes that you have been talking out of your ass, that every time we look at Bunin, this becomes more obvious, and ejected to save face.

            • jim says:

              First, in the one case where she returns to the family,

              Your interpretation of these marriage contracts from the Elephantine papyri makes no sense in the context of a society where marriage contracts are made between the male heads of households, and not between a man and a woman, where a woman’s consent to the marriage and the marriage contract is not required, is legally irrelevant. You can find all sorts of details that arguably fit your position, and cook up explanations of all sorts of details that do not fit your position, but the elephant in the Elephantine living room is the signatures on these contracts, wherein one man agrees with another man on what terms authority over a woman shall be transferred from one man to the other.

            • jim says:

              >You lied about what Bunin says, I called out your lies, you repeated your lies. No point in continuing the conversation.

              I translated Bunin verbatim from the Russian, with specific dates of his diary entries

              You translated fragments that could reasonably be interpreted as consistent with your position, and ignored those parts where he directly contradicts your position. Argument by ransom note.

          • B says:

            > but the elephant in the Elephantine living room is the signatures on these contracts, wherein one man agrees with another man on what terms authority over a woman shall be transferred from one man to the other.

            There’s such a thing as power of attorney, or guardianship. Your original contention was that women were bought and sold like slaves or sheep, with no power to say different (you’ve walked this back since) and no consent required. I said that even when the formal person making the contract for her is her father or brother, she has the power of veto, her consent is required, even if it’s implicit consent given through silence. I quoted you the Mishna to that effect.

            Well, when you have exit on demand, you’re not property. For instance, a slave can’t decide to leave his master. Nor can, for instance, a soldier leave the military when he wishes. Nor can an indentured servant. It is pretty ludicrous to say, well, her father would sell her without her consent, but the second she was sold, she could just cancel the sale.

            >You translated fragments that could reasonably be interpreted as consistent with your position, and ignored those parts where he directly contradicts your position.

            Obviously, I translated fragments-I’m not gonna sit there and translate the entire book.

            He doesn’t contradict my position. He has a couple of places where individual peasants and proles bitch about the revolution. He has many more places where he quotes peasants and proles enthusiastic about the revolution and the opportunities it offers to kill, rob, etc., where he describes those peasants enthusiastically taking the initiative and killing, robbing, etc., and summarizes by describing the revolution as a bloodbath where the “demos” fully expresses the murderous degeneracy inherent within it. Anyone literate can verify that what I’m saying is true.

            Obviously, one of us is lying about what Bunin is saying.

  14. Anon says:

    “I know human nature. If he ties his dog to the tracks to save a thousand strangers whose deaths he will not see, he will tie his dog to the tracks to gain a dollar, and if he ties his dog to the tracks to gain a dollar, he will tie me to the tracks to gain a dime.”

    Bullshit. You assume everyone has the same retarded attachment to animals that Americans do.

    Dogs are not people. Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. Dogs are not. A dog is like a stereo on legs. An entertainment device. Some are good for work. They’re like farm equipment.

    I’d sacrifice my dog to save 1000 human lives. I wouldn’t sacrifice it for a dollar. A dollar isn’t even enough to buy another dog. Let alone to make up for all the money I’ve put into this one. Now a million dollars, on the other hand, then yes I would.

    I wouldn’t tie a human to the tracks, for any amount of man. Man, image and likeness of God, sacred, etc.

    The problem with your scenario is that tying your dog to the tracks and being a utilitarian don’t share a mutually necessary relationship. There are other reasons you could tie the dog to the tracks to save the human lives, without being a utilitarian.

    And I can’t see what tying a man to train tracks to earn a dime has to do with utilitarianism, either.

    • Trimegistus says:

      Hear, hear! Dogs are not people. One human life is worth any number of dogs.

      Arguing otherwise is the basis of the monumentally idiotic “animal rights” movement.

      • jim says:

        The point of the example is “his dog” – not some random animal that happened to be wandering about.

        • Rasputin says:

          Believing in God, wouldn’t you tie your own son to the alter if you thought it would get you a free ticket to heaven?

          • B says:

            The problem with Utilitarianism, i.e., pig-philosophy, is that it renders its adherents incapable of even conceiving that there may be something qualitatively beyond the quantity and delivery time of slop.

            Abraham didn’t see the akedah as a ticket to heaven. He did what he did because he loved and feared G-d, not because he was trying to get something out of the deal. We don’t see him or G-d mentioning heaven at all:

            And he said: ‘Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know that thou art a God-fearing man, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me.’

      • A.B Prosper says:

        Y’all should understand that there are lot of ethical systems out there.

        Sure a Christian or an observant Jew or the like , anyone with that ethical or moral system derived from that would tie the dog to the tracks since human life is sacred and worth more than a dog.

        So would some Eastern philosophies.

        However a Folkish person might not tie the dog to the tracks unless they are his kin whoever broad that might be, clan, family, race

        Same with Middle Easterners, ain’t my set, ain’t my friend.

        A moral person might choose the dog if that train was full of people he perceived as enemies , the sound choice, the good choice would be to spare the dog since these people mean him harm.

        And no “innocence” is not an excuse. A person an be your enemy in rather passive ways, by willingly giving to causes that you oppose by voting for some kinds of candidates and so on. They did not directly harm you in any way but they are still your foe.

        If a train was full of SJW’s or Republicans if you were a Leftist heading to someplace important,an perfectly moral person might simply choose not to act since it aids the enemy.

        Also all of these choices are to some degree utilitarian even the Christian one as it avoids offending Jehovah

  15. neo-bonehead says:

    Where does making a dime come into it? You tarded that up real quick.

  16. Spandrell says:

    Even assuming you have a way to know how many people are in the train. And somehow you’re confident you can actually save them by tying your dog.

    Fact is nobody would do shit unless this was a small community where people would know you refused to act and thus give you shit for it afterwards.

    If you’re confident of your anonymity, and you can’t take credit for him and be a hero on TV, nobody would lift a finger. Absolutely nobody.

    • peppermint says:

      i’d tie my girlfriend’s dog and be a stern warrior hero like Hitler. then she will be okay with me not giving her a baby “until we finish the race war”

    • Hidden Author says:

      You mean the sort of indoctrination that makes people give their lives for God or country has no effect on day-to-day behavior?

      • jim says:

        No one gives their lives for God and country. They give their lives for their comrades in their platoon.

        • Hidden Author says:

          The best way they could do that, as anti war critics have observed, is to not enlist or desert en masse.

        • peppermint says:

          God as and country as metonyms for ethne. Comrades and platoon as metonyms for ethne.

          • Hidden Author says:

            That’s why many Chechen jihadists fight so hard for ISIS instead of all Chechen jihadists keeping their focus on Chechnya.

  17. […] Here’s to hoping that unprincipled exceptions become moreso. Also some not at all sanguine thoughts On utilitarianism. […]

  18. Mae'r llwynog brown cyflym says:

    A dog is not a universal example. I hate my dog.

    Go with a new car. Who would destroy their $10,000 car for a train full of strangers?

    Most will claim they are benevolent. Most people won’t openly admit they like their $10,000 car more than a train full of strangers. But they’ll spend more on car washes, repairs, et cetera, than on train safety.

    If we openly admire egoism, then we openly promote various bad activities. We should execute thieves, but if we admire egoism above all, then how do we condemn thieves? Thieves are egoists.

    So we elevate honor above egoism. And some codes of honor require people to sacrifice their dog or car for a train of strangers. Police and firefighters, for example. Some codes of honor don’t require that sacrifice.

    • Mae'r llwynog brown cyflym says:

      The idea that everyone should have the same moral code is a peculiar modern invention. Knights are not Serfs who are not Barons. Men are not Women. Lower-class men are not Aristocrats. Blacks are not Whites.

    • jim says:

      If we openly admire egoism, then we openly promote various bad activities. We should execute thieves, but if we admire egoism above all, then how do we condemn thieves? Thieves are egoists.

      So is the person that they steal from. Egoist morality immediately leads to the conclusion that one should not tolerate bad people, that thieves should be killed, enslaved, imprisoned indefinitely, expelled to places more willing to tolerate them, whatever it takes that they are not around any more.

      • Mae'r llwynog brown cyflym says:

        No. Suppose I am an Egoist. Anyone who steals from me is bad, and should be executed. If I steal from someone I am good, and should not be executed.

        Suppose we tell everyone to act like an egoist. Then when they steal, how can we execute them? They were acting the proper way – they were acting like egoists.

        You (correctly) recognize that people are 95%+ egoist. That is completely different from admiring egoism as the highest form of morality.

        1) We expect each person to be an egoist, because of human nature

        2) We require them to place honor above egoism, because without some code of honor, society ends in chaos

        3) We (severely) punish people who disobey the code of honor

        4) Because of 3 & 1, we expect people to obey the code of honor

        5) The code of honor is maintained by hierarchical authority, who have incentive to protect their private property, their state, et cetera. This prevents the code of honor from degrading.

        The problem is that we have abolished 5. Morality is no longer defined by fathers, kings, et cetera.

        • jim says:

          Suppose I am an Egoist. Anyone who steals from me is bad, and should be executed. If I steal from someone I am good, and should not be executed.

          But you know you cannot persuade all the other egoists of that, so you don’t even try – and indeed even attempting to persuade them is likely to get you executed, so you don’t even think it.

          Suppose we tell everyone to act like an egoist. Then when they steal, how can we execute them?

          Easy. When we execute them, we are acting egoistically.

          We want to persuade our fellow egoists that we are not a threat to them. So we tell them, and indeed believe, that stealing is despicable and low status, and we would be ashamed to do such a thing.

          • Mae'r llwynog brown cyflym says:

            >But you know you cannot persuade all the other egoists of that, so you don’t even try
            All other “egoists”? Or all other “people”?

            Martin Luther King tried and succeeded in convincing all the other people to permit various kinds of theft. And he was a bad guy, right?

            >When we execute them, we are acting egoistically.
            Suppose some guy murders some stranger. Do you have incentive to ensure he is punished? Not really – the incentive so small it’s practically nonexistent.

            >We want to persuade our fellow egoists that we are not a threat to them. So we tell them, and indeed believe, that stealing is despicable and low status, and we would be ashamed to do such a thing.
            And how would Martin Luther King be a danger to anyone except southern business owners? Suppose you are considering him for employment, or something. He steals, but only steals from a specific class of people. Would a rational business owner refuse to let him handle money?

            Two possibilities

            1) We would be ashamed to steal because we fear punishment
            2) We would be ashamed to steal because it contradicts honor, and we value honor even for no reward

            Option 1 is ethical egoism. And our fellow egoists know that you’ll steal, rape and murder the second that punishment disappears. So they are not inclined to hire you, or marry their daughters to you, et cetera.

            Option 2 is the traditional morality of most societies.

            Even if you believe in Option 1, social norms need to be based on Option 2. Imagine the following discussion with your 8 year old child.

            Jim: “You just stole $50 from me”
            Child: “But it was very unlikely that you would catch me, therefore my action was morally required”
            Jim: “Your action was moral, but because I want to discourage your behavior, I’m still going to punish you”
            Child: “You’re punishing me, even though I acted morally?”
            Jim: “Yes, because it’s in my self-interest to punish you”

            • jim says:

              Martin Luther King tried and succeeded in convincing all the other people to permit various kinds of theft. And he was a bad guy, right?

              He conspicuously failed to convince egoists, therefore egoism a better moral system.

              And how would Martin Luther King be a danger to anyone except southern business owners?

              Well right now, at this very moment, working class white people in Texas are losing their swimming pool because of Martin Luther King’s views. So the egoistic thing to do would be to have an official religion in which covetousness is the major sin to be resisted, and execute him for heresy, sacrilege, and impiety.

              Being egoists, we want to keep our swimming pool, so we piously say that taking away our swimming pool, or even justifying taking away our swimming pool, offends God. Pretty much every ancient text concerning God agrees, because the religions that attributed other views to God self destructed. Then we execute Martin Luther King for offending God.

              Jim: “You just stole $50 from me”
              Child: “But it was very unlikely that you would catch me, therefore my action was morally required”
              Jim: “Your action was moral, but because I want to discourage your behavior, I’m still going to punish you”
              Child: “You’re punishing me, even though I acted morally?”
              Jim: “Yes, because it’s in my self-interest to punish you”

              I take it you have never raised children.

          • Mae'r llwynog brown cyflym says:

            >He conspicuously failed to convince egoists, therefore egoism a better moral system
            But egoism failed to convince 99% of the US population, therefore it is an impractical moral system.

            >Well right now, at this very moment, working class white people in Texas are losing their swimming pool because of Martin Luther King’s views. So the egoistic thing to do would be to have an official religion in which covetousness is the major sin to be resisted, and execute him for heresy, sacrilege, and impiety.
            Let’s say that I live in Texas, and own a swimming pool. What incentive do I have to set up this official religion in government? Little to none.

            My actions are insignificant. If I join the civil service, or become a judge, or journalist, I get control of 0.001% of the US government. And in exchange for spending my lifetime, I get a 1% lower chance that some nigger will ruin my pool party. A very weak incentive.

            I may have incentive to kill MLK if he’s trying to do something bad to me personally. Malcolm X explicitly advocated mass murder of Whites. And many of the niggers that believed him, have been killed in self-defense by Whites. But MLK advocated controlling the USG, and primarily harming White people through the government.

            Now, contrast this with the the honor-based attitude of a Samurai, or Chivalrous Knight. The Samurai has a specific moral/ethical code, set up by ancient Tradition. And he’ll fight for it, even without any egoist incentive. The Samurai is much more likely to succeed than any egoist movement.

            Ayn Rand does not scare leftists. Hitler does. Why? Hitler advocated a spiritual doctrine, where people pursued ethnonationalism above their own self-interest.

            Jesus does not scare leftists. Muhammad does. (or, ISIS and Boko Haram do, who are the closest thing to Muhammads actual beliefs). Same reason.

            >I take it you have never raised children.
            Correct

            • jim says:

              But egoism failed to convince 99% of the US population, therefore it is an impractical moral system.

              There are one hell of a lot more egoists than there are utilitarians.

          • Mae'r llwynog brown cyflym says:

            There are no utilitarians, so that’s unsurprising.

            To be a utilitarian, you would need to value other people’s pain as equal to your own. You’d need to transcend all subconscious Pavlovian training. Not physically possible, even if someone wanted to.

  19. RonG says:

    If you stop this train, 1000 lives saved, and they fix the bridge.
    If you let the train go, 1000 lives lost, but they will then check EVERY bridge – perhaps even more lives saved.
    Anyway, I like dogs more than people, thus I rationalize my emotional response.

  20. Cloudswrest says:

    Coincidentally, there is an article today on utilitarianism and the programming of self driving cars. Specifically, in the case when an accident in unavoidable, should the car be programmed to minimize loss of life in general, or prioritize the life of the occupants (like a loyal dog). I would go for a car prioritized for the safety of its owner.

    Self-driving cars may have to be programmed to kill you
    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/selfdriving-cars-may-have-to-be-programmed-to-kill-you-10326472.html

  21. Zach says:

    I can’t even cut my dogs nails in fear that I may cause pain.

    So I pay someone to do it.

    Guess I passed the test!

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