Philosophy: Utilitarianism and the Utility Monster [3:29]


Utilitarianism, which argues that we ought to maximize utility (or happiness, pleasures, and flourishing) for the most amount of people, is one of the most popular theories of ethics.  This moral system, however, fails to weigh in on how utility should be distributed or value egalitarianism.  The Utility Monster is a thought experiment that critiques utilitarianism by highlighting and exaggerating this point.

Discussion Questions

  • What is utilitarianism?  What is it a such a popular theory of ethics?
  • Does the fact that the Utility Monster is so outlandish, i.e. in the real world we all have diminishing returns, deflate this critique of this thought experiment?
  • What about the more realistic example she brings up about the severely disabled?
  • Where do human rights, dignity, and inherent worth come in?  Can they ever be sacrificed for the sake of utilitarian arguments?

Keywords: disability, happiness, inequality, Nozick, rights, thought experiment, utilitarianism, philosophy, ethics, moral theory


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