If you have never taken a philosophy class (or read any philosophy), then term “utilitarian” might be a very foreign word to you. Don’t be vexed, though, the concept of utilitarianism is not something that you haven’t heard before! In this article, we will focus on explaining the concept of utilitarianism and thinking of how it looks in different situations. Read on to educate yourself!
“The greater good”
Have you ever heard this term before? If you have, then you are already on your way to understanding the underlying concept of utilitarianism. Essentially, utilitarianism focuses on trying to affect the greatest amount of benefit for the greatest amount of people. This means sometimes doing away with traditional values and morals in order to accomplish the greatest amount of good. Let’s look at some examples.
Let’s say, for example, that there are some people stuck on a train track with an oncoming train hurtling towards them at top speed. They can’t get off the track, and if nothing is done, the train will smash into them, killing them. However, there is a diverging track between the people and the train. There is, however, one person who is stuck on the diverging track. You are at the lever.
Here, now, you are presented with a certain dilemma. Do you pull the lever, redirecting the train to save the group of people and end up killing one person, or do you let the train stay its course, letting it kill the group of people so as not to kill the one person?
A utilitarian would pull the lever.