utilitarianism

I am thrilled that Da Bears won today.  But now I have other matters to attend to.

First off is that I am reading Peter Singer’s essay “All Animals are Equal” and I come upon the quote from Jeremy Bentham which says “Each count for one and none for more than one”.  Another utilitarian, Henry Sidwick, says “The good of any one individual is of no more importance, from the point of view (if I may say so) of the Universe, than the good of any other.”

This strikes me as odd.  I’ve entertained brief ventures into Utilitarianism before and I have on my shelf some writings from Mill.  But if I had to guess where such sentiments as the above came from I would have guessed one of my Deep Ecology books.  A classic example of Utilitarian Ethics is the lifeboat scenario.  Given three people in the water, a doctor, a chef, and a writer, and you can only fit two into a lifeboat, who do you choose?  Among many people the choice is between the writer and the chef, for certainly the doctor is much more useful.

There are arguments against this analogy, to be sure, that such instances are exceptions to a widespread ethic, yet the point is one of utility.  I wonder, then, what utility every individual has that is equal  with every other individual in the above quotes. 

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