Monday, March 06, 2006


What Would Jeremy Bentham Do?

I'm writing a paper on Jeremy Bentham and his popular moral theory, Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a way many people today judge the morality of actions. Basically it defines an action as moral or immoral based on the pleasure and pain it creates. A moral act would, of course, maximize pleasure and an immoral act would maximize pain.

This leads me to a dilemma? Should I maximize my pleasure this evening and watch the Gonzaga game? Or minimize it and finish the paper on this idiot, Bentham (who, by the way, willed to have his body preserved and stored in a closet at his school to be wheeled out for board meetings). According to Bentham, wouldn't writing my paper be immoral?

Utilitarianism lacks justice. It is a theory that, as a Catholic, I cannot subscribe to. It allows the ends to justify the means, which is rejected by the typical Catholic ethicist. Yet, here we are today , using the ends to (foolishly) justify all kinds of contemporary moral injustices. Thus, I will be working on my paper tonight.

Shouldn't be too hard of a paper though, so I should be able to knock this puppy down and then watch the Zags.

Which leads me to a thought. This might make the dude over at La Revolucion upset. It also might get me burned for heresy. But I have to ask..Should I want Gonzaga to lose this game? If Gonzaga loses, then the WCC, a very disrespected conference, gets 2 bids (Loyola Marymount and Gonzaga). Also, after watching the zags miserable performance last night, (OT win against USD) a game in which the Torreros outhustled the zags, I think that a loss might benefit this team in the long (NCAA Tournament) run. Thus, I am not going to get too emotionally charged up for this one. Whatever happens will be fine with me.


John Mark said...

Bentham would not say go watch the zags. He would point out that the utilitarian thing to do would be to put off your pleasure now because you will have MAXIMAL pleasure later after your paper is done and you graduate! Much more pleasure than a zags game.

Also be careful on dismissing Util. as unjust - I would agree in part with that statement, but Util. can be quite nuanced.

John Mark said...

Also, was that a Utilitarian argument I detected for potentially hoping the Zags would lose tonight? :-)

Seminarian said...

Touche! However once I graduate I have a lifetime of celibacy to look forward to. Thus (from Bentham's ideas) I should watch the Zags and avoid the ascetisism of celibacy.

Just Kidding.

Thanks for the heads up with Util. We will be moving into different forms of the theory later in the semester. I'll probably make some sort of passing comment about it in the future.