Is happiness the most important purpose in life?
Let’s think of the things I want. I want to own a grand piano, I want to travel, I want to have political power in my local city or school districts, have a family well down the road, be a teacher, maintain my friendships, attend river clean-ups, donate money to a charity, etc. List some of your own things. If we ask the grand proverbial question of “why” we want these things, you can answer as many times as you want, just keep asking why and why and why. I want all those things because I believe it would bring me happiness to have these things, and you want what you want because it would do the same. We all try to be happy. It doesn’t get more basic than that.
This question is relevant given that I had just written an essay in defense of Utilitarianism, the moral theory that states we must asses what is write or wrong by looking at the consequences of our actions, what makes something right is what will promote the most amount of happiness and well-being for the most amount of people and by extension other beings and things. The right thing to do is what will benefit everyone and everything involved in the action. We do a cost-benefit analysis in our head, sort of: What is the best choice given the circumstances? My mom is vegan, I’m not, but if she asks me what I want to eat I deffer to her diet, because my diet includes all of hers, and that way she doesn’t have to prepare two kinds of meals and we can both equally enjoy the meal. All because it would bring more happiness, less pain, in the long run. High standard applied to a not tooo moral situation, until we start bringing up the cost for maintaining the kinds of mainstream diets and those effects, as we know.
I’ve been a utilitarian until recently, right now I’m in a grey area on morality. I’m in an ethics class, learning so many perspectives. I feel like virtue ethics might be the new direction I come to agree more with and adopt, but we haven’t covered that yet.
Is it wrong to spend money on expensive food when people are dying of hunger?
Under Utilitarian thought one can say that it is, though my gut reaction says no. I wouldn’t fault anyone for doing that, unless they did it in spite. But the standard I place on myself is different. I’m not willing to buy something too expensive when I know I can buy a cheaper version of it, as long as the quality doesn’t drop dramatically more than the price. Whether one contributes to helping world hunger doesn’t matter on my stance, though I hope people are always doing everything in their power to help others. I ration my money because I know I want to have enough available to contribute to some kind of charity or expense. The little I can do I do, but I’m not looking for any recognition for it so I’ll leave it at that. So my answer is a little grey, but push me on it and I’ll say yes.
If someone is drowning and you refuse to help, are you responsible for his death?
This one challenges the answer I just gave on the previous question. I was so passive about that, but here my attitude changes. I answer with my gut and try not to overthink when I do this, but anyways…
Well, there do exist laws that would make it so you’d have some grain of responsibility, at least where you were able to prevent such a death. And to some good extent; I would want someone to help me if I were drowning, and not stand by, if they could definitely help it. I would want to help someone drowning if I could definitely act. There’s always the risk of not succeeding, but that risk stays at 0 when I do nothing. This is all assuming one could do it. If one can’t or is too afraid of losing their own life in the process then I wouldn’t fault them, but there is knowing refusal to help. That complicates it certainly, by how much will depend on the person.
This raises my concern with my previous answer, as I said. But the difference here is willingly not helping a drowning person, versus knowing that there are starving people. One can argue that I might not be responsible for the starving people, or that I’m responsible for helping them, and I’d agree to the latter idea to some extent. In the drowning scenario, I mean I’m not directly responsible for the drowning, but as with the starving people I can take responsibility and at least try to save the drowning person to the best of my ability. I’m not sure I cleared anything up with this.
Btw I’ve drowned three times in my life, was resuscitated two times, at childhood. That last day it happened was the last day I’ve ever felt confident I could swim in any depth. It doesn’t stop me from trying, or keep me from getting in swimming pools or rivers. I’ve done both, and I’ve still swum in deep parts since; Where the trouble comes is the constant reminder of it when I do try swimming, and it panics me within 5 seconds. So I have trouble enjoying it. This is probably something I need to address in therapy.
Why do we punish people?
Because we want justice. I’ve used the term deservance, but it’s the same thing. Punishment is a great deterrent of doing some pretty bad stuff. Louis CK put it best when he said “the law against murder is the number one thing preventing murder.”
People don’t want to be punished for it. I know I don’t. And I feel like he’s talking about me when CK mentions the quiet people.. cause I’m so quiet. :E
I’m reminded of the golden rule. it’s the most popular rule, and it’s a good one too. Don’t wrong me cause you wouldn’t wanna be wronged. Punishment is the idea of people wronging others and not getting away with at least some inconvenience, right? And it’s reciprocal on the judges as well. Since I can agree that I’d need some time away from society from hurting people, then I’d put others away. Where the we cross the line for me is the death penalty. I’d accept being killed as punishment for killing others. But we know that innocent people have been sentenced to the death penalty. I wouldn’t want to be send to my death if I was falsely convicted into the death penalty. I also wouldn’t want to send an innocent person to such fate. That’s why I’m completely opposed, because I won’t risk an innocent life if I can help it. At least maybe we can agree that a truly guilty person who merits such a punishment deserves to be away from the rest of society forever.
Is it alright to torture terrorists to extract information?
“They know what they’re signing themselves up for,” is my gut reaction. Or maybe they didn’t, either way my answer is simple. Violence is generally not my method of getting anything done; the only exception is violence in self defense. I know most people in the US don’t agree with me on not torturing them, but I guess that’s that.
When is it ok, if ever, to disobey the law?
I understand evil as how a professor of mine pinned it: unjustified suffering. Ya know, doing unreasonable things to otherwise innocent people, or beings. Innocence I understand it as not being guilty or not having responsibility for a given action.
If a law is being applied unfairly, biased against one particular group for no logically reasonable purpose, maybe disobedience has merit.
I’m not sure how else to put it. Interesting how just yesterday I was thinking of such exact question, and I kept breaking stuff down and putting it back together to end up with that answer, or something very similar.
Anyways, that’s enough questions.. now on to the more important stuff.