Saturday, October 30, 2010


What Should Result? Consequentialism

The End Justifies the Means

One consequentialist theory that we can quickly rule out, because, like Greek virtue theory, it does not capture the “why” behind how we should be or behave with the Other and self (fails L1.3, 70), is Niccolo Machiavelli’s (1469-1527) thought that any means, including force and deceit, are justified by
 the end of maintaining political power (also fails L1.1, 70). We can achieve political power without an Other ever existing (the last man standing is the supreme ruler of the Earth and all its resources), and so achieving political power is not the why (L1.3, 70) behind the original question. As Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) practiced in peaceful protests during the Civil Rights Movement, the means are the seed sewn and the end is the fruit (L1.1, 70). This is why he spoke against violent means to a peaceful end (as promoted by Malcolm X during the same period), and encouraged sewing peaceful seeds to yield the fruit of peace (19). Consistent conduct shapes character, which shapes conduct, and the ultimate end of both character and conduct is Golden Rule love (see Objection 16 in Appendix E). If the end really justifies the means, it can justify failing to treat all selves interchangeably (failing L1.3, 70). This can all be summarized in a dialectic (58, 66)…

(L1.1) The How and Why (Means and End) Dialectic

(See Objection 9 in Appendix E.)

Thesis: ‘Why’ (the internal end) is more important than ‘how’ (the external means) (consequentialist theories).
Antithesis: ‘How’ (the external means) is more important than ‘why’ (the internal end) (conduct theories).
Synthesis: A ‘how’ (means) without a ‘why’ (end) is pointless; a ‘why’ (end) without a ‘how’ (means) is impossible to apply [Golden Rule is both ‘why’ (love) and how—see Objection 16 in Appendix E on the GR being love].

Machiavellianism certainly isn’t divine essentialism, and so is voluntaristic (70) by default [in that it is not a discovered truth (71), even if it is assumed to be—it is actually a mere construct, not of indifferent nature, but of human will] (failing L2), and fails all three parts of the litmus.


In utilitarianism (group, or collective, egoism), “How and why should we be or behave with the Other and self?” is answered by exalting the consequence (L1.1) of bringing about the greatest happiness in the greatest number of people, and emphasizing conducting the greatest happiness principle to achieve happy consequences for as many people as possible [a happy character is important in ideas like ataraxia and eudemonia (87)]. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory because it stipulates the happiest possible consequences (as opposed to character or conduct) for everyone affected by the action. The Epicureans (hedonists, 4th century B.C.) were the first to proclaim that “What brings the maximal pleasure and the minimal pain is the right thing to do,” (4; 356), however, they left a lot of questions unanswered (not so sure this is 100% true), like Isn’t some pleasure bad, like sadistic pleasure, and some pain good, like pangs of conscience (moral sense)? “Pleasure for whom and for how long? Pleasure for the individual and for the moment? What about for all men and for all time?” (4; 356). Emotivism falls under the same questioning. While Hume is credited with inventing the term utilitarianism (he believed an act should have utility, should make the actor and the Other happy), Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) is credited with developing this idea into a complete moral theory.

Bentham’s principle of utility, or the greatest-happiness principle, is as follows: “When choosing a course of action, always pick the one that will maximize happiness and minimize unhappiness for the greatest number of people,” (4; 175). In hedonistic utilitarianism (hedonism being pleasure-seeking), happiness or pleasure have intrinsic value (they are valuable in and of themselves, ‘almost’ making this an essentialist theory, but failing L2 with its anchorless happiness, 70), and anything that helps achieve them has instrumental value (they are tools utilized to achieve happiness or pleasure). One criticism of act utilitarianism (Bentham) is that it makes pain immoral, whereas one could argue that pangs of conscience (moral sense) are not bad; are good pain, alerting us so that we can stop immoral behavior, the way our body alerts us with pain so that we can fix what is causing the physical pain. Utilitarianism utilizes the hedonistic (hedonic) calculus, which is basically a souped up pros-and-cons list. However, it’s rigged, because biased humans assign the numerical values to the pros and cons, and while this is very egalitarian, it commits the is-ought fallacy (12) of reification (70) (see Objection 2 in Appendix E) (cultural voluntarism, 70; failing L2), because how people actually assign value to the pros and cons is not necessarily how they ought to assign value (L1). Allowing people to determine the value of the pros and cons is a problem referred to as “tyranny of the majority” (this will also come up when we discuss relativism) but better recognized as the is-ought fallacy (12) of reification (70) (see Objection 2 in Appendix E). That a majority says something is good or bad, doesn’t make it “really” so. Also, humans are not omniscient and cannot see the future in order to know what consequences will actually happen in order to rate them. Any cutting-off point, like “think five steps ahead,” is arbitrary.

Furthermore, though the calculus leaves it up to the individual to decide what constitutes pain and pleasure and includes the person’s own pain and pleasure along with everyone else’s (passes L1.3, fails L2, 70), if only a few suffer from the consequences of the act, then the overall pleasure (the end) justifies their suffering (the means) (this is the problem of ‘sheer numbers’)—and we already saw how this “end justifies the means” thinking (made worse by criminally using the suffering few as mere means, legitimizing human rights violations, which Bentham had not intended) fails all three parts of the litmus (70), and so, too, act utilitarianism fails.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) (Bentham’s godson) attempted to solve this with rule utilitarianism, which would be phrased "Don't do something (like cause the minority to suffer so that the majority will somehow benefit) if you can't imagine it as a rule for everybody (everyone should suffer), because a rule not suited for everyone can have no good overall consequences," (4; 201, excluding content inside parentheses) (this is said by Nina Rosenstand, the author of the referenced textbook, to be the Golden Rule, fortified, again suggesting the GR is more basic, more essential—see Appendix G) (see Objection 12 in Appendix E). This differs from Kant’s categorical imperative because it is focused on overall consequences, whereas the cat imp is supposed to be followed even if we calculate that it will not result in the common good (L1.1). [Maybe this is a good place to discuss ‘just war’?]

Mill acknowledged that there are higher pleasures that may come after many long hours of sacrifice, like the pleasure of building your own home, and revised Bentham’s utilitarianism by taking out the egalitarian element that left it up to the individual to determine what constitutes pain and pleasure, and instead determined the higher pleasures to be what the educated actually desire. Although allowing educated people to determine the higher pleasures is often referred to as “tyranny of the majority”—it is really just the is-ought (12) fallacy of reification (70) (see Objection 2 in Appendix E) (cultural voluntarism; fails L2 and L3), because it claims that people determine the truth, rather than discovering it. What people actually desire is not necessarily what they ought to desire (fails L1, 70). That a majority (even a majority of educated people, who may actually constitute a minority) says something is good, doesn’t make it so. And who determines whether or not one is educated enough to determine higher pleasures? It’s rigged, just like the hedonic calculus.

Bentham’s main goal in developing the theory of utilitarianism was to remodel the British legal system which allowed for unfair advantages. Mill took it even further with the harm principle, that the only reason to interfere with a person’s liberty is self-/Other-protection. This view of personal liberties is referred to as classical liberalism, and when ensured by the government, is referred to as modern liberalism, and when teamed up with a laissez-faire (hands-off, non-interference) government, is referred to as a conservative economic philosophy (greatly emphasized by the Libertarian Party). It is safe to assume Mill didn’t see the harm principle (of non-interference) as conflicting with letting the educated determine the higher pleasures for everyone else, because he believed in exposing everyone to the higher pleasures through education so they would become competent judges with the freedom to enjoy or reject them (passes L1.3, but still fails L2 and L3, 70). But, if the end of pleasure is achieved, according to whoever is deemed "educated," the means are justified, regardless what causes the pleasure, or what takes greater effort and skill. This opens the door to justifying many evil means (L1.1), which shows us that the principle of utility does not capture the principle of morality. Wolfgang Carstens (1971- ) made an excellent observation in his “The Knife and the Wound Philosophy” that “only competent judges know what this happiness is and how to achieve it,” (20; 13) and one could argue God and those who accept and reflect his unmerited Golden Rule love are the only competent judges. Caveat: “Unmerited love” and “judge” must never be separated. Those who don’t know about God’s unmerited love are not judged in their ignorance (remember, God knows whom He has forgiven for neglecting to nurture their moral sense), but they are missing out on the point.

“There is … some truth in relating good to long-range results. If there is an absolutely good God, then surely He is interested in bringing about the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run. …since only an omniscient God can determine what will bring the greatest good to the greatest number in the long run, then only God is in a position to determine the right way to bring about these best results. …there must be some concept of what is intrinsically right apart from the results. …This intrinsic value must be inside his own nature rather than outside; otherwise there would be some ultimate beyond God. In brief, even the theistic version of utilitarianism reduces to a deontological duty to be God-like. It is, in the final analysis, a rule-centered duty geared toward emulating the ultimate good (God),” (1; 360, 393-394). Emphasizing the “end” allows for evil means and character (see Objection 9 in Appendix E)—there must be a standard which judges the means, the character, and the end to be right. What is lacking in utilitarianism, what would prevent it from reducing to group egoism, is to define happiness (the fuel and destination) as the uncreated (71), eternal, ultimate end (consequences) of both being (character) and doing (conduct)—Golden Rule love that endures all circumstances: love the Other as self.


Pragmatism, or instrumentalism, is a consequentialist theory that equates true and good, but, unlike Greek virtue theory, reduces them both to what works best to obtain desired results, not necessarily the common good (like utilitarianism). Something can be true without evidence, as long as it makes you happy or has some other use. Another problem with this view is it does not matter what the desired results are, as long as they are attained (see L1.1). There is no question of whether it is good or bad to desire such results, or whether the means which worked to produce those results were ethical or unethical—pragmatism would say “it worked—it is both true and good.” Like Greek virtue theory and Machiavellianism, pragmatism does not capture the why behind how we should be or behave with the Other and self (failing L1.3, 70), as we can accomplish ends and goals without an Other ever existing—people don’t necessarily enter into the discussion (besides the fact that desires and discussions are impossible without people). If the end really justifies the means, it can justify failing to treat all selves interchangeably (failing L1.3, 70). It certainly isn’t divine essentialism, and so is voluntaristic by default [in that it is not a discovered (71) truth, even if it is assumed to be—it is actually a mere construct, not of indifferent nature, but of human will, 70] (failing L2). Pragmatism should not be confused with teleology (concerned with the ultimate purpose, goal, end...the final cause)—Golden Rule love is right whether or not it is expedient. Now for a little warm-up before jumping in to existentialism…

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