Moral (8): The Fundamental Flaw of Utilitarianism

Messianic collectivism

Utilitarianism is a flawed philosophy, we have seen, since it can lead to the deliberate killing of innocent people, in defiance of a deontology more fundamental to the human being. But how is this possible, since it claims to represent the D of soliDarity, that is to say the interest of the greatest number? This idealistic anchoring made the success of Jeremy Bentham’s ideas, still supported by many contemporary philosophers, including the highly regarded Peter Singer.

This idealism is reminiscent of that of a famous Messiah, who came more than 2000 years ago to carry the ultimate message of the D, still widely popular today. But inapplicable in practice. No one exercises charity in the manner of Jesus or utilitarianism in the manner of Bentham. You have to be a son of God or obsessive compulsive to get there. Inhuman, in fact. Humanity is something else. It is to reconcile intelligent morality and daily hazards. It is managing the conflict between the real world and ideals that do not describe it at all, that would make it a dehumanized, dreary and tasteless place if by chance they were rigorously applied.

Society is not a collective of saints

It is in this discordance between the world and the ideal that we must seek the falsity of utilitarianism. The D it describes is not a model of the true solidarity that characterizes human society. It is an imaginary version, an abstraction proprietary to spirits called Bentham or Singer, which has nothing to do with that of the real world. True solidarity is a property of the real world and not the preserve of a few soliTary(s). The true D is a principle in which all T’s can recognize themselves, not just a small number praised by others for their holiness.

The fundamental error of utilitarianism is that it did not understand the nature of the D, which is to manage the relationships between the T’s. Society is a system, not a living being. But utilitarians, in the trolley problem, treat individuals as the cells of a gigantic organism. We should lose as little as possible, so as not to threaten the life of the only entity inhabiting planet Earth: Humanity.

Equality = No one is expendable

The society certainly has an independence from its members, it is even one of the fundamental principles of Surimposium. But this is relative independence. Society cannot sustain itself without the good condition of its members. The egalitarian principle takes root in the T before the D. That is, no individual is expendable. The “Thou shalt not kill” is a true collective principle because it is rooted in individuals. It is the survival of the T that it points to before that of the D. A utilitarian society that neglects this principle is destined to collapse. No organism survives when its molecules break down.

That the D is forbidden to sacrifice on the T’s in no way prevents a T from deciding to sacrifice himself for others. This is the true exercise of solidarity. There is no such living thing as “Humanity”, but we make it exist in each of our mental universes. The solidarity effort is an individual effort. It is the fusion of all these solidarity efforts that makes the D exist.

A serious direction error

The utilitarian therefore makes a mistake of direction. He sees the D as a thinking entity, a new God concretized by humans, and solidarity as a gesture of the D towards the T. Not at all. This gesture takes shape only as a result of the individual’s effort for the collective, which is the primary direction. Making D a benevolent God infantilizes the individual and deters him from such an effort. “God will act in my place.”

For this reason, utilitarianism has caused a regression of authentic solidarity in contemporary society. We hear from all sides claims such as “Social welfare owes me…”, “the State has the duty to…”, “the society must give…». Symptoms of a perversion of the D, which is no longer the property of individuals, but has been transferred to a higher deity, Social care, State, Capitalism, which would be endowed with independent and unlimited resources.

Society has ownership of resources, not lives

Ethics, which advocates respect for the human person, is the fundamental force creating the link between individuals. They thus form a solidary society, an entity superior to their T’s, but not to individuals caught in their completeness, since these are also the physical support of the D. The D cannot be maintained without respect for the integrity of individuals.

Let us put it this way: Society is not superior to individuals, only to their ego(s). When it comes to sharing resources, society can impose itself on ego(s). When it comes to the lives of individuals, it is impossible. They are the sole owners. This is the crucial flaw of utilitarianism, which believes it can manage lives as financial resources. Not. We live only one life. It is priceless.

Finally, of two inapplicable philosophies, I choose without hesitation that of Jesus against that of Bentham. The first wanted to save us all. Even the obese in front of the trolley.


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1 thought on “Moral (8): The Fundamental Flaw of Utilitarianism”

  1. All points seem relevant and indicative of the moral flaw thesis advanced. I have wondered why philosophers bothered with utilitarianism in the first place–almost as much as the notion of Marxism. However, as with other manifestations of thought, it appears that if there is a system, doctrine, dogma or belief that may be conjured up by one or more thinkers, that eventuality will emerge. Sooner or later. And, when interest wanes or disadvantage is exposed, these systems, etc., are quietly consigned to the back-story file, only to re-emerge when someone thinks he has a new idea or re-interpretation: what goes ’round…
    It all makes for good fun and keeps professional wits well honed. Sometimes.


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