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Secular humanism and utilitarianism

tweeda
Posts: 3
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5/1/2015 11:35:54 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Are all or most secular humanists ,utilitarians?

If you are a secular humanist do you consider yourself an utilitarian?

Where do non-utiltarian secular humanists get their morality/ethics?
dhardage
Posts: 4,545
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5/1/2015 11:42:19 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 5/1/2015 11:35:54 AM, tweeda wrote:
Are all or most secular humanists ,utilitarians?

If you are a secular humanist do you consider yourself an utilitarian?

Where do non-utiltarian secular humanists get their morality/ethics?

Mostly from their parents and the environment/society they grew up in. As they get older these can be examined for validity and adjusted as needed.
PureX
Posts: 1,519
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5/1/2015 12:43:05 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 5/1/2015 11:35:54 AM, tweeda wrote:
Are all or most secular humanists ,utilitarians?

I'm not sure what you mean by the label "utilitarians". It seems to me that all humans are focussed on "utility" the majority of the time. It's how we function.

If you are a secular humanist do you consider yourself an utilitarian?

Wiki: - "Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the moral action is the one that maximizes utility. Utility is defined in various ways, including as pleasure, economic well-being and the lack of suffering. Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism, which implies that the "end justifies the means". This view can be contrasted or combined with seeing intentions, virtues or the compliance with rules as ethically important."

So according to this definition, it seems to me that we are all "utilitarians" most of the time. It's a requirement of survival.

Where do non-utiltarian secular humanists get their morality/ethics?

Everyone; secular, religious, or otherwise, establish their moral imperatives in much the same way: we are taught them as children, we test them throughout our lives as circumstances allow, and we edit them according tour own individual natures. Even the most devout religionists are still choosing to accept and adhere to the moral imperatives that their religion dictates.
Floid
Posts: 751
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5/1/2015 12:46:31 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 5/1/2015 11:35:54 AM, tweeda wrote:
Are all or most secular humanists ,utilitarians?

If you are a secular humanist do you consider yourself an utilitarian?

Where do non-utiltarian secular humanists get their morality/ethics?

On the whole the deep philosophical ethical theories can be interesting to talk about but seem almost completely unnecessary. How often do I have to stop in the middle of action and try to figure out which course of action results in the greatest good or any other ethical formulation?

Instead it seems a simple idea such as the golden rule, which seems inherent to most humans, handles most moral situations. If that doesn't work then I am willing to reason out the appropriate action in that situation but I see no reason to commit to a particular framework of doing so ahead of time.
bulproof
Posts: 25,184
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5/1/2015 12:50:40 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 5/1/2015 12:46:31 PM, Floid wrote:
At 5/1/2015 11:35:54 AM, tweeda wrote:
Are all or most secular humanists ,utilitarians?

If you are a secular humanist do you consider yourself an utilitarian?

Where do non-utiltarian secular humanists get their morality/ethics?

On the whole the deep philosophical ethical theories can be interesting to talk about but seem almost completely unnecessary. How often do I have to stop in the middle of action and try to figure out which course of action results in the greatest good or any other ethical formulation?

Instead it seems a simple idea such as the golden rule, which seems inherent to most humans, handles most moral situations. If that doesn't work then I am willing to reason out the appropriate action in that situation but I see no reason to commit to a particular framework of doing so ahead of time.

You STOP in the middle of an action to examine it's consequences?
GTFOH.
Religion is just mind control. George Carlin
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
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5/1/2015 7:30:17 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 5/1/2015 11:35:54 AM, tweeda wrote:
Are all or most secular humanists ,utilitarians?

I'm a secular humanist and pragmatic in disposition, but don't consider myself utilitarian. I suppose some definitions are in order:

* humanist: a supporter of rational, empirical inquiry to support the value and agency of human beings;
* secular: holds that theological doctrine is secondary to rational, empirical inquiry;
* utilitarian: supports maximisation of value and agency for the greatest number as a normative ethical principle.

To ground it more intuitively, I could describe secular humanism as kindness and generosity to fellow humans because they're human. So there's no doctrinal belief underpinning it, except an axiomatic one that humans are worth loving for their humanity.

While I'm often quite utilitarian in my own life, the problem I have with utilitarianism philosophically is that I'm never sure where the edges are. In mathematics and computing there's a notion of a hill-climbing function, where you try and improve work incrementally until any change only makes things worse. At that point you're on the peak of a hill, and you've reached a local maximum of utility.

Hill climbing functions are often used to improve the way decisions are made, on some principle of good->better->best. But they presuppose you know exactly what utility is, your calculations are informed and accurate, and there's no bigger hill to climb a few valleys over.

I feel that we're still learning what's good for people, that our actions often have cumulative, unintended consequences, and it can be hard to measure confidence in outcomes. So while I like utilitarianism in principle, in practice I think there's a lot more self-examination to be done; and some mixture of careful vision-setting and examined execution.

As for where my morality originates, I think it originates in compassionate observation, self-examination and conversation with other people of good will. I don't want an absolutely correct morality: I want one that can improve with time and insight. So I generally dislike doctrines -- especially sacred ones that can't be challenged. But I like observation, evidence, diligent inquiry and balanced conclusions.

I hope that helps.