Some "test cases" for utilitarianism
- Slavery: Suppose that, by enslaving 5% of the population, we could produce so much extra happiness for the other 95% whom they serve, that the happiness created by the institution of slavery clearly outweighs the unhappiness the slaves suffer.
- Punishing the innocent: Suppose there has been a string of horrible murders, and although the police don't know who has really been responsible, they know with certainty that they can frame an innocent man without it ever being discovered that they framed him and they also know that successfully prosecuting someone will end the series of murders.
- Promise keeping: Suppose two men are climbing a very challenging mountain when one suffers terminal injuries in a fall. Before he dies, the injured climber gives his partner the password to his secret Swiss bank account after the partner promises to use the hundreds of thousands of dollars stored there to give the dying man's children the best education money can buy. When the surviving climber returns, he learns that the dead man's children already have enough money in their trust fund to attend Texas A&M, so he takes the money from the Swiss bank and gives it to a charity that provides basic medical care to impoverished people in India.
Three utilitarian responses:
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