Thursday, February 20, 2020

Embracing the utility of evil is pragmatic

Last week I listened to an interview. The author being interviewed was a raging pragmatist. Very utilitarian.

I found the interview disgusting for all the same reasons I always find pragmatism and utilitarianism without a foundation in ethical behavior disgusting. And it is rare to find a utilitarian pragmatist who thinks ethics are pragmatic or utilitarian... unless they happen to agree with what he wants to do to you this time.

There's literally nothing that can't be excused or justified that way. It was hard to listen to and made me feel physically sick at several points.

I understand why people preach pragmatism. There's no point in living in a fantasy world of things and ideas that can't work.

I understand utilitarianism, too. You might as well use methods that are useful.

But just because something can work or is useful doesn't mean it's right.

Genocide obviously works in the real world, and it can be perfectly useful, depending on what you want to accomplish-- as long as you don't worry yourself over whether it is wrong.

Legislation can also work in the real world and it can be useful. Never mind that using it is almost always going to be unethical. As long as your goals are more important that who you violate while getting there, you can be very pragmatic and utilitarian.

I don't really hate pragmatism or utility, although it might seem so from what I've been saying. What I hate is the way those are used to advocate and justify committing evil against others.

You don't have to be pragmatic or utilitarian to be an advocate of evil. Bernie Sanders is certainly not pragmatic or utilitarian-- although it could be argued that his theft advocacy could be utilitarian, even though it wouldn't be utilitarian enough to reach his stated goals. However, I have not yet run across a vocal advocate of pragmatism or utilitarianism who isn't also trying to excuse some sort of great evil. It must be a difficult line to walk; too difficult to navigate in the real world.


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