Illusive Mind

The Unquestionable should be questioned

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The eventuality of Utilitarianism: "You dodgy bastard God"


Buddhist morality seems to me to be an entirely utilitarian affair. That is, once one realizes that life is suffering and all human beings suffer, the right course of action is to alleviate suffering and replace it with the good: happiness. The good in this case being a specific spiritual happiness as oppose to the tradition material and physical conceptions of happiness common in Utilitarian theory.

Now the problem of Utilitarianism has always been in my view finding the method to best maximize the good. You might work very hard to make a large number of people happy only to find that in doing so you have made an even larger group of people unhappy. Or you just could have simply set off a chain of events which results in the whole earth being destroyed to make way for a intergalactic hyperspace bypass. Whoops.

However, the Mahayana Buddhists have the answer and what I would regard to be the only answer to this problem which would give someone any hope of redeeming this dangerous ethical theory:


That’s right. The only way you can effectively (and safely) maximize the happiness of all sentient beings is to know everything, especially the exact effects your actions will cause.

The only person you could really trust to be a utilitarian is an omniscient being after all. When someone is performing all manner of ghastly and counter-intuitive acts such as running people over with trains and killing people for their organs and they say, “Don’t worry, it’s all for the best”, you really wanna be sure about that.

So this seems to be the justification for a whole lot of monks removing themselves from the world and sitting still in a monastery for a few decades. As utilitarians dedicated to helping the suffering of all, they’re trying damn to become omniscient.

Of course, such actions are only justifiable if you believe becoming omniscient is actually possible. If not, I think you just stay way from ‘the ends justifies the means’ theories in general.

It is worth noting that the Judeo-Christian God is often given a pass for all the obvious evil and suffering in the world because he has a ‘grand plan’ and being omniscient we have every reason to trust that it will work out in the end. That all this, blood, sweat and tears are not shed in vain. (Can’t wait to find out how the Holocaust was necessary to the great cosmic game!)

However, this tends to neglect the fact that this god is a professed believe in moral absolutes, I mean we’re talking about written in stone, literally! I mean if killing innocent people is part of the grand plan, that’s all well and good, but you might want to revise your own rules and regulations there Yaweh! You’re not living up to your own standards and by your own definition down live up to being ‘good’ and since God being good is part of your definition as an entity you have just contradicted yourself out of existence.

Apologists can of course counter that this too is part of the plan. That we should act in accordance with his moral absolutes whilst he goes on killing and causing all manner of suffering to fulfil the grand plan. By this stage though there seems to be nothing which can’t be explained by the ‘grand plan’ scenario which renders the explanation the equivalent of, “stop asking questions, just trust me!” (At least that’s what the priest said to me.)

But let us for the moment suppose that this is right. It is now somehow good to lie and murder, because god is good and this is what god does, and yet it is wrong to do these things, god said so. In any case such a dodgy character can clearly be up to no good and it is hardly worth worshiping a lying murderer. But then that was probably part of the plan all along.

Labels: , ,


Blogger Kayelene Murphy said...

If God is Utiltarian then he must be on a very long holiday. This is a good post. It's funny, yesterday I was revising something similar I wrote previously. I think I'll put it up to let you have a look see. :)

2/07/2006 03:25:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home