# Re-defining Utilitarianism

#### Artsu Tharaz

##### Resident Resident
Utilitarianism is defined as the belief that the best action is that which maximises happiness, however it also includes a definition of happiness: happiness is that which feels good.

So we have a subtly non-circular definition here: good is that which feels good.

So, what utilitarianism says is that good is a matter of feeling.

No, not "the feeling function", I just mean anything which is felt... better to say, experienced.

So, Utilitarianism is just the claim that our morality must be grounded in experience. Arbitrary rules need not apply.

So, it could be said to be the moral equivalent of "I think therefore I am", except it's more like... everything that exists also is.

Utilitarianism then says 2 things:

1. ground everything in your experience
2. extend this experience to all of existence.

Somewhat of a contradiction, but no worries!

#### Artsu Tharaz

##### Resident Resident
Note that in my above analysis, there is nothing which excludes pain from falling under the banner of happiness. Happiness is not "that which the mind judges to feel good", it is "that which actually feels good", and if we are so used to going by our own judgements which says certain states of being are worthy and others to be diminished, then we're not necessarily getting things right... we're probably getting things wrong.

So, pain might feel good, actually. Utilitarians may want to actually maximise pain. (if you're a meat-eater, you may want to jump on that bandwagon to avoid guilt I know I do!)

So, there's some hierarchy of experience, right, and we want to maximise that experience for all of existence, which means... well, take into account all of existence?

Yeah, I don't know how to do that either.

Listen to your spirits, or something like that, right?

Right.

Wrong.

Right.

Wrong.

Okay.

Let's go, dun dun.

But yeah, Utilitarianism makes total sense once you drop the notions of happiness being restricted to some portion of the emotional spectrum, rather than a measure of the worthiness of experience overall.

But when we come to actually determine what will be the best move, well we end up back at our implicit guidance systems. It can't be made hard and fast because of how complex everything is. But, I guess people said that about physics, too.

So, for now, just try to reach for the stars.

#### Serac

##### A menacing post slithers
Utilitarianism was never about maximising immediate pleasure. Otherwise you could solve moral problems by simply handing out cocaine to everyone.

#### Grayman

##### Team Ignorant
I think 'sense of purpose' offers greater utility than happiness.

##### think again losers
It's not happiness, it's utility, of which happiness is a factor. You're missing the other half of the equation (avoidance of suffering).

Utility is basically seek good (whatever that may be), and avoid bad (whatever that may be). The specifics aren't that important IMO.

that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness...or...to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness
~Bentham

Though I don't really understand why it needs to be an object, utilitarianism never pretended to be about happiness alone.

The main questions that concern me are:
(1) - where do you draw the line of exception? At what point do I stop prioritising your happiness as I would my own? Because if no line is drawn you spend your entire life in service to other people. AKA selecting against adherance to utility.
(2) - Over what time frame should you be optimising utility? Because it's not always just now vs. later, this stuff gets really complicated when you're thinking rule-utilitarianism.

#### verification

##### Redshirt
1) Everyone's utility is prioritized equally and the utility to others should not infringe on any individual's rights. I.e it's not utilitarian to force everyone who can donate a needed kidney to donate that needed kidney

When making decisions your rights and your utility should also factor in. This would avoid most cases of unfettered altruism

2)the time frame should either maximize utility the most or lead to the most possibilities of maximal utility . I.e if decision A maximizes utility by x amount in the next hour but decision B maximizes by 4x in the next 3 hours then decision B is better

Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk

#### The Grey Man

##### Active Member
I think that one problem with utilitarianism is that it cannot be used to justify one's decisions unless one makes unfounded assumptions about the distribution of positive and negative utility, of happiness and suffering, in the world. Applied utilitarianism relies on a "utility map" of the world that shows the locations of happiness and suffering rather than mountains and valleys. They draw this map by ascribing selfness/perception, in which the concepts of happiness and suffering are grounded, to objects of perception or imagination. This in itself is not a mistake if one honours the venerable principle of parsimony; we have no reason to believe that philosophical zombies are real, that only some shells are graced with ghosts. What I believe to be a mistake is limiting this ascription to those objects which most resemble our bodies (other humans and some animals).

As pain/pleasure in a human generally corresponds to some state which is prejudicial/conducive to the continued existence of the specimen or its entire species on some level and thus which the pressures of natural selection impelled the population to avoid/pursue as evidenced by their continued existence, so I suspect that any system in which a tendency manifests to seek some state also experiences a sort of pain/pleasure...well, really I prefer the term appetition, which I understand as the phenomenal manifestation of causation which is orthogonal to the information-laden matrix that is perception (quite a complex matrix in the case of humans, whose matrices integrate many fields of information: colour, taste, and all that jazz) and supplements it rather than acting as an unseen organizing force.

#### doncarlzone

##### Useless knowledge
Note that in my above analysis, there is nothing which excludes pain from falling under the banner of happiness. Happiness is not "that which the mind judges to feel good", it is "that which actually feels good", and if we are so used to going by our own judgements which says certain states of being are worthy and others to be diminished, then we're not necessarily getting things right... we're probably getting things wrong.

So, pain might feel good, actually. Utilitarians may want to actually maximise pain. (if you're a meat-eater, you may want to jump on that bandwagon to avoid guilt I know I do!)

When you talk about pain feeling food, what exactly are you on about? Like someone pinching your nipple? (I had honest difficulties coming up with an example) If so, it is not at all difficult to distinguish that type of pain from having a knife repeatedly penetrating your eye.

Utilitarianism can not be said to be about maximizing pain. If there was a tricky little argument which could indicate that, it would have been well established within contemporary Philosophy by now.

Attacks on Utilitarianism are usually aimed at its instrumentalization of human behavior which lacks basic integrity and agency. Or the fact that supererogatory acts are impossible. Or that the fact that anything, in theory, can be justified, as long as a particular outcome is produced. That it can be said to maximize pain? Not so much.

#### Artsu Tharaz

##### Resident Resident

When you talk about pain feeling food, what exactly are you on about? Like someone pinching your nipple? (I had honest difficulties coming up with an example) If so, it is not at all difficult to distinguish that type of pain from having a knife repeatedly penetrating your eye.

Utilitarianism can not be said to be about maximizing pain. If there was a tricky little argument which could indicate that, it would have been well established within contemporary Philosophy by now.

Attacks on Utilitarianism are usually aimed at its instrumentalization of human behavior which lacks basic integrity and agency. Or the fact that supererogatory acts are impossible. Or that the fact that anything, in theory, can be justified, as long as a particular outcome is produced. That it can be said to maximize pain? Not so much.
I'm not talking about some masochistic pleasures when I say pain is good. I mean, pain.

How do we know pain feels bad? Because it just does. But could it be a trick, an illusion? That, because of the meaning we attach to pain, the meaning that says that whatever is good is being taken away, that we suppose pain to be bad? But maybe, maybe if you take away the meaning, if you isolate the experience, it would not want itself to end: it would be, in itself, good.

When you speak of this idea having to have surely caught on, you grossly overestimate the truth and potential of academia. Academia, academia, how I loathe to hate thee... how much you could bring, but how little it is. Oy vey, oy vey vey vey...

The truth is - that the truth is rare. You won't see even the greatest minds speak of it, though they may shed some truth. Seek, seek, seek, seek - seek and you shall find beyond this mirage of dogmatic emblems.

#### Artsu Tharaz

##### Resident Resident
I also want to add, that I don't necessarily believe in this philosophy myself - I just see it as an apparent possibility.

My own faith lies in Christianity.

The gospels have such depth, such mystery in every word spoken by Jesus Christ... that it could take a lifetime - or, rather, an eternity - to unravel.

#### Cognisant

##### Condescending Bastard
Good being good because it's good is a tautology based off reinforcement learning, your brain is wired such that when you do things that cause pleasure the synapses are strengthened and the behavior is reinforced. In this way good is always whatever causes your synapses to be strengthened irrespective of whether or not it's actually good for you. Hence the propensity for modern foods to have excessive amounts of fat, sodium and sugar, they're inordinately pleasurable because for much of our ancestry they were scarce resources.

This is where utilitarianism fails, there's no divine grace in our instinctual impulses, the same genetic hard-wiring that compels a mother to care for her child also compels rapists to rape. In either scenario it's a case of the good of the genes coming before the good of the individual or put simply mother nature is a psychotic crazy bitch, in her eyes a rapist that passes on his genes is more "good" than a loving father of adopted children.

My own faith lies in Christianity.

The gospels have such depth, such mystery in every word spoken by Jesus Christ... that it could take a lifetime - or, rather, an eternity - to unravel.
Religion is a fantastic example of people using brainwashing and dogma to justify their baser impulses, atrocities declared "good" because they were done in a god's name.

I can provide examples if you ask for them

#### Animekitty

##### (ISFP)
Utility is what use you can find for an object. Groups long ago and still today found use for slaves. Some people in the west under moral pretense banned slavery. Utilitarianism makes no moral judgments other than the group decides what is of use, as in what is useful. If it finds no use for human rights then is does not use them. Civilization mostly is based on property rights because it is useful to the citizenry and so the government allows it. The government is its own group that to keep power finds utility in what it is allowed to do to keep power and that involves not making people fucking angry. They may get away with certain crimes but that is because the utility people have for themselves disallows them to be, on mass, interested enough to change things.

Utility is on the individual, the group, and what society the group forms natuturaly on utility.

I made a blog post saying how dumb I think utility function are in artificial intelligence because they could never work. Utility is a bottom-up emergent learned function, not a top-down imposed goal set. (you cannot preprogram paperclip maximization, it needs to be taught) Recently I found out how Elon Musks Open A.I. project programs their A.I. - Elon's Musks Nievitie is on par with Mark Zuckerburg. Open A.I. can never create a general intelligence because of overfitting in its deep learning.

In sum, utility is not value, a utility is the means, values are the ends.

#### Cognisant

##### Condescending Bastard
Utility is a bottom-up emergent learned function, not a top-down imposed goal set.
The Chinese room problem, an AI given a guide to speaking Mandarin but doesn't itself understand Mandarin won't be able to continue the conversation beyond the limits of the instructions its given, it dosen't comprehend what it's talking about it's just following instructions.

#### Artsu Tharaz

##### Resident Resident
Utility is what use you can find for an object. Groups long ago and still today found use for slaves. Some people in the west under moral pretense banned slavery. Utilitarianism makes no moral judgments other than the group decides what is of use, as in what is useful. If it finds no use for human rights then is does not use them. Civilization mostly is based on property rights because it is useful to the citizenry and so the government allows it. The government is its own group that to keep power finds utility in what it is allowed to do to keep power and that involves not making people fucking angry. They may get away with certain crimes but that is because the utility people have for themselves disallows them to be, on mass, interested enough to change things.

Utility is on the individual, the group, and what society the group forms natuturaly on utility.

I made a blog post saying how dumb I think utility function are in artificial intelligence because they could never work. Utility is a bottom-up emergent learned function, not a top-down imposed goal set. (you cannot preprogram paperclip maximization, it needs to be taught) Recently I found out how Elon Musks Open A.I. project programs their A.I. - Elon's Musks Nievitie is on par with Mark Zuckerburg. Open A.I. can never create a general intelligence because of overfitting in its deep learning.

In sum, utility is not value, a utility is the means, values are the ends.
Utilitarianism, as I understand it, is about experience.

What value is there in the experience you are having right now? Good. Now extend that to whatever you believe about the greater nature of the world.

Basically, it means having a guiding voice that tells you what is relevant to the bigger picture. It means that your experience is key, but you have to recognise that there are other experiences outside of the one you are having right now.

Actually, even the experience you are having right now has experiences embedded within it that exist without it, and that's why the whole thing works.

#### Artsu Tharaz

##### Resident Resident
Religion is a fantastic example of people using brainwashing and dogma to justify their baser impulses, atrocities declared "good" because they were done in a god's name.

I can provide examples if you ask for them
Humans are not perfect. Even if Yeshua built his church on a rock, the piece built on top were as flimsy as any non-Christ would be. There is a truth that was not spoken of, there is more than meets the eye.

So we are all guilty, and all can be condemned, and the truth is subject to change as the Church has so often done. But the book remains, because the teachings were recorded, because at the source... something occurred... something which we are unaware of, but which yet we all feel in our hearts, because that moment shook us up, before we were wherever we first were. And that is that.

(I am drunk but I am smartr)

#### Animekitty

##### (ISFP)
Actually, even the experience you are having right now has experiences embedded within it that exist without it, and that's why the whole thing works.
Did my sense of the bigger picture include my vote for Trump and why is the bigger picture of those who did not vote for Trump wrong? My experience told me Trump was the best choice, was I wrong? How can you tell? This is the problem of utilitarianism. the battle over the bigger picture. Correct?

#### Animekitty

##### (ISFP)
(I am drunk but I am smartr)
I was trying to tell my aunt that the English Bible is not a perfect translation. An example is "repent". In the bible, I was taught that repent means to turn from sin by asking forgiveness. It turns out that in the Greek parchments the word is "metanoia". The best I can come up with is that metanoia means reflective self-evaluating mind. The Greek bible parchments, when telling people to have metanoia about sin mean that they should reflect and self-evaluate with their mind to understand that sin is abominable and is not actually good. So simple. reflect on how sin is bad and you should be godly. No sinners prayer or anything like the guilt-ridden decadence of the English Bible. No humiliation asking for forgiveness for original sin innate within you, not a choice. Asking for forgiveness because God put sin in you is not right. Your Sin is Gods fault according to the English translation. He put the sin in you. The Greek bible totally changes the perspective on sin. Reflect on how sin is bad and stop. So no bible is accurate at all because metanoia is one of thousands of words mistranslated. By the way, being drunk is a sin and the drunkards shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

#### Artsu Tharaz

##### Resident Resident
I was trying to tell my aunt that the English Bible is not a perfect translation. An example is "repent". In the bible, I was taught that repent means to turn from sin by asking forgiveness. It turns out that in the Greek parchments the word is "metanoia". The best I can come up with is that metanoia means reflective self-evaluating mind. The Greek bible parchments, when telling people to have metanoia about sin mean that they should reflect and self-evaluate with their mind to understand that sin is abominable and is not actually good. So simple. reflect on how sin is bad and you should be godly. No sinners prayer or anything like the guilt-ridden decadence of the English Bible. No humiliation asking for forgiveness for original sin innate within you, not a choice. Asking for forgiveness because God put sin in you is not right. Your Sin is Gods fault according to the English translation. He put the sin in you. The Greek bible totally changes the perspective on sin. Reflect on how sin is bad and stop. So no bible is accurate at all because metanoia is one of thousands of words mistranslated. By the way, being drunk is a sin and the drunkards shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Yes I thought you were talking about being drunk being a sin xD

But, as I see it... it is not in itself a sin, because, well Jesus turned the water into wine and would not do so if drinking it meant sin, and he drunk as well.

But alcohol can lead to sin, and being dependent on it would be sin. So I am pushing a line that I should not be pushing. Even in secular terms I am doing the same thing.

But I have a reflective mind about my sin, but I am not yet pure enough to give it all up or to know how to. I am trying to be better, or at least I think I am.

About Utilitarianism: yes it is about the bigger picture, and we can only do as well as we think of in that moment. For someone to vote against their own beliefs may be, whatever the vote is for, against the bigger picture, but maybe acting counter to what they think is the push they need to do something else greater. It is all so much to comprehend, hence why there are rules outlined in the bible that can be followed, and really they should lead to a Utilitarian outcome, often in this life, but it may be needed to look to the next life to see why it was good in that sense.

I don't think Christianity would necessarily dismiss utilitarianism, but would outline what it really means to act for the greater good of experience and why there are better things to focus on - like, devotion to God would certainly, or quite certainly, lead to happiness both in the individual and in the broader scope, and it is said that whoever wishes to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life will save it, so there is definitely an overlap.

But ultimately the truer moral picture may be transcendent of experience... I am still trying to figure all of this out, and I think everyone is to some extent.

But at least now I have a guide outside of myself to see what is the best way to do things, not it is about understanding that guide.

Praise Jesus, praise God.

#### Animekitty

##### (ISFP)
I just do not see how utilitarianism is practical in modern society. Communism was supposed to work but it has not so far. In a utilitarian society, capitalsism does not exist because wealth would be distributed equally, therefore, capital to make factories would never happen. It is simply an idealism because it makes no claims on what is good. Capitalism is good because it makes technology that benefits the greatest number but it does so in a practical way, not a way that kills people like communism is idealism as utilitarian is idealism. Capitalism is pragmatism as in, if it works then do it. Utilitarianism being a maxim (greatest good for the greatest number) has no way of telling you how to achieve this maxim. So why not capitalism being the method and not communism. The ambiguity of utilitarian not giving the method makes it possible Ayn Rand Objectivism was right and she rejected Christianity fiercely. The greater good is not something we can quantify. A.I. has been theorized to kill all humans so no human suffering happens, no humans = no suffering. This all boils down to the meaning of life. The greatest good would mean all humans have meaningful lives. How the hell do we achieve that impossibility? Answer: Friendly Human Level Software Intelligence. (Technological singularity) gives purpose to the lives of all humans guaranteed.

#### gps

##### INTP 5w4 Iconoclast
Utilitarianism is defined as the belief that the best action is that which maximises happiness, however it also includes a definition of happiness: happiness is that which feels good.
Okay. Then I find it more utilitarian to define Utilitarianism via dialectical contrast with other isms.
It feels better for/to me when utilitarianism is deSCRIBEd in contrast with Pragmatism , for example, BECAUSE the description provided at the outset seems more mindlessly hedonistic than practical/pragmatic.

What's the utility/use of hedonism in the here & now which will result-in or promote pain & suffering as consequential COSTS?
I personally find it more useful to maintain an even strain ... to avoid manic highs and depressive lows.
Which is to say that I regard eschewing extremes as more pragmatic/practical and of greater personal utility ... hedonism repackaged as utilitarianism' be damned.

#### Artsu Tharaz

##### Resident Resident
In a utilitarian society, capitalsism does not exist because wealth would be distributed equally ... Utilitarianism being a maxim (greatest good for the greatest number) has no way of telling you how to achieve this maxim.
On the first point: not necessarily: it may be that a pyramid structure actually works to increase overall feel-goodness.

On the second point: correct. Utilitarianism is a proposed first-principles sort of thing for ethics. Sort of like having deductive logic or whatever else in mathematics, but from that only having a method of determining if a proof hangs together, rather than the machinery for generating the proof.

So, we need other more tangible (is that the word?) insights in order to make this from a goodness-checker to a goodness-maker.

gps said:
What's the utility/use of hedonism in the here & now which will result-in or promote pain & suffering as consequential COSTS?
I personally find it more useful to maintain an even strain ... to avoid manic highs and depressive lows.
Which is to say that I regard eschewing extremes as more pragmatic/practical and of greater personal utility ... hedonism repackaged as utilitarianism' be damned.
I'm not sure what you mean by that first sentence there. Utilitarianism is not in-the-moment but rather integrates across all moments given some uncertainty based scaling factor. My approach of potentially promoting pain is just the idea that it is in itself as good as happiness. Of course, you can be pragmatic, but what is the use in pragmatism if the results are not experienced? Of course any action should structurally make sense - after all, moments are linked to each other in a manner contained within but not readily apart to the experience thereof.

Regarding extremes: I'm curious but not sure that I follow. I see extremes as a generally positive thing insofar as that is where the most of life is gained. It's hard to understand the meaning of life when not much is happening. There could be something to what you're saying though, so I'd like if you'd elaborate.

-

My impression is that you're stating that it is better to have a focus on the factors which generate long-term success rather than an overly narrow focus on one's present experiences, which is just what Utilitarianism suggests. I struggle with the idea of being in the moment but being in time as well. Sometimes I just want to say consequences be damned.