Originally Posted by Ryanb9
Okay so this seems to be a disagreement about the definition(ish) of Bentham's principle of utility. What I think is meant by greatest good for greatest number is weighing happiness on one side of a scale and the reverse of happiness on the other side (obv). But beyond this, if you have happiness which equals 2 units on one side, which came by 1 unit from 2 people, and 3 units of the reverse of happiness on the other side (which came from 1 person) than the action / decision etc does not promote utility (take for instance 2 people who are on someone's life-insurance policy, they both gain from this guy's death, but killing this guy is worse for him than it is good for the two who would gain the money from his death).
It isn't at all clear how to measure "units" of happiness.
Definitely there are some cases in which many interpretations of utilitarianism would favor helping this guy out.
I'd rather see one anthill destroyed than one human killed. All I have to do is imagine a being such that this being : humans :: humans : ants, and then killing a bunch of people for the sake of this being seems just fine by me.
Of course, said being probably doesn't exist, and if it did exist the likelihood of it getting pleasure from torturing people or whatever is unlikely.
But if there is a being such as that, then who am I to complain? I'm an ant, that's who. You might as well ask "what if God wants to torture people?" I mean, the answer is "that would suck." Bearing on utilitarianism? None, really.