Utilitarianism as a philosophy on which to base business, government
and society offers a great deal of ambiguity.It allows for almost as many
interpretations as there are people to think about it.That being the
case, it is,first and foremost, unworkable as a basis for conducting any
sort of interaction, from commercial to governmental to social. Some people
think utilitarianism means a sort of hedonisticgood,’ while others think
it is analtruistic’ good that is being sought.Some define happiness as
present condition; others define it as the result of a lifetime.And that
only begins to scratch the surface of the varying degrees of thinking about
Utilitarianism, however, as most people very simplistically think
about it, is putting pleasure before pain.Some take it a step beyond
that, and consider it putting pleasure before pain for the greatest number
of people.In some ways, of course, that is a very appealing sort of
statement to members of a democratic society.In the U.S., for example,
the belief in the rule of the majority is very prevalent.It is not,
therefore, much of a stretch to propose that making pleasure, as opposed to
pain, possible for the majority is a good thing.
But basing action on such simplistic divisions into good and bad,
pleasure-producing or pain-producing, greatest number or fewest number,
leaves out a great deal of nuance.As they say, the devil is in the
details.For example, let’s say a business executive decided, on the basis
of the most recent research, that it was good to cook all hamburgers in fat
derived from the belly pouches of sleeping pandas.It would seem a good
thing, in a utilitarian sense, to kill a few hundred pandas (oops, there
are only a few hundred pandas, but this is imagination anyway) to get their
fat to cook hamburgers for a huge population of hungry Americans.What
could be wrong with that’I…