Doing the Most Good for the Most People

Many people think morality should be based on doing the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Of course, this sounds good and obvious at first glance. However, I do not think that this rule, by itself, can work.

Although “doing the most good” works in a variety of situations, it fails in many others. For example, doing medical experiments, even painful ones, on those who were imprisoned during the Holocaust could have been legitimized under this guideline. The people in these camps were going to die anyways, and the experiments could lead to the advancement of health for others. Given these types of situations, I cannot say that utilitarianism alone makes for good source of morality.

Now, some would argue that, while these situations are awful, these types events are simply counter-intuitive, and then, they would stick to their guns. I, however, cannot, at this time, do this. I think there, at the very least, needs to be some additional rules. Perhaps, we also need to do the least harm and respect rights.

For example, let’s say there are a bunch of people in the hospital who need organs and a healthy person sitting the waiting room. It is not okay to kill the healthy person in order to save the others. The healthy person has a right to life, and killing the person would not be doing the least harm. Yes, some of these people waiting for organs might die in the process, but there is a viable alternative to murder. They can simply wait on the organ donation list, and once again, the healthy person has rights. Meanwhile under strict utilitarianism,  it would be okay to kill the healthy person.

I’m not completely devoted to system I’ve explained; however, I’m attempting to carve out what is good in utilitarianism and get rid of what, at first glance, sounds horrible. Please fill free to critique me, and give me your opinions.


morals and Atheism

Atheists, obviously, do not derive their morals from scripture, and many of us are proud of that. Many see certain laws in scriptures as harmful and immoral. Lately, I’ve taken an interest in metaethics and moral psychology. I will start to post more on these subjects when I have more readings under my belt. I did take a biomedical ethics philosophy course, but I still feel the need to dig deeper. Below is my initial position:

Morality only exists in a world with somewhat complex creatures.  Morality is a product of evolution in social animals. Humans are capable of superior morals. Look at how some of us can do complex differential equations in our head! Certainly, we could be able solve complex moral and social issues.

I’m not saying morals are subjective. I think, objectively, there are both good and bad behaviors. Still, I AM saying, if there was only one complex being alive, then many moral rules wouldn’t matter.

I am skeptical of utilitarianism. I don’t think the main thing that matters is the amount of pleasure, nor do I think the end always justifies the means. I think part of utilitarianism could be right, but I think it needs some additions and subtractions.

Morals Anyone?

I think most of us try to be moral; although, none of us are perfect at it. However, I think we’re starting run into problems in our modern society. These days we live in a global society, so we need to have global morals not just isolated cultural ones. What should our morals be? As an atheist, I do not believe we should get them from any holy book. I propose that our main concern should be to never harm verbally, sexually, emotionally, or physically anyone. I also think we should all strive to be fair in our dealings with other humans. Other types value are of less importance.

However, I don’t think morals should be a set of simple rules. Maybe, we should distill moral values to a set of rules, when teaching children, but I think otherwise a set of rules is problematic. The problem is that it is very easy to run into grey areas. For example if someone threatens kill you if you don’t rape the next woman you meet, is it okay to rape? (For the sake of argument, we are assuming you can not defend yourself in any way, and the person threatening you will really kill you if you don’t meet his demands.) So here’s what I suggest: We come up with an axiom system for morals. Now, I’m not suggesting we turn morals into mathematics. I suggest to build this axiom system we get our terms from variety of sources: psychology, sociology, neuroscience, anthropology, moral philosophy, and et cetera. We need to know what is the healthiest way for people to live. We need to know what causes harm, and we need to be able to place some type of value for an amount of harm for each bad deed in a particular situation. For those, that are skeptical of putting values on harm let me give an example. If I don’t like spiders and someone pours a bucket of rubber spiders over me, that’s a prank. If I have a phobia of spiders and someone pours rubber spiders on me, that’s mean. Clearly, one will cause emotional distress.

The point is, I think we need to have a whole field of study for morals. Currently, there are many people discussing what constitutes morals from different backgrounds. I think the different backgrounds are complimentary. I think it may be awhile before we get a complete axiom system, but I genuinely think we should do this. I think morals are important, and I don’t think we should descend into moral relativism. I think there are things that are just wrong. Something may be viewed as moral in one culture and not in another, but I think culture can be wrong. If in some culture people sacrifice children to the sun god, I’m not going to say that’s okay. I think even without a set in stone axiom system, we can be sure it is causing harm, and I think we can and should say that it is wrong and vehemently oppose that practice.

Just my two cents.