Utilitarianism: The Survival Lottery Essay, Research Paper
It is better to give than to receive . I believe I was about nine years old when I heard that statement for the first time . It was in church. It was one of those things that I randomly chose to hear while sitting in church every Sunday. Normally anything that was said in that building never made sense to me and I never had any use for retaining it. This time however something did make sense to me. Perhaps it was because my parents had been telling me that same thing except in a more ambiguous and indirect manner. “Isaac you should share your toys; Isaac why don’t you give your food to your sister if you don’t want it?; Isaac get your old toys and clothes together so you can donate them to the Salvation Army.” So as I grew up I had a somewhat strong belief that it was better to give than to receive. I am now nineteen years of age and I have come to see that what I heard in that church ten years ago isn’t always necessarily the true.
Harris claims utilitarianism as the basis of his idea , and in the actual context and definition of the term he is correct . According to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, ? 1996 Utilitarianism is defined as the doctrine that utility is the sole standard of morality, so that the rectitude of an action is determined by its usefulness. Jeremy Bentham who is known as the founder of this theory elaborates that “laws should be socially useful and the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the foundation of morals and legislation.” Harris’ idea in essence follows the “Guidelines” of utilitarianism. The idea is advantageous to man as whole because of the fact that it maximizes the number of lives saved. If this plan that Harris has were to be implemented there definitely would be a great number of lives saved everyday .
Opponents of the Survival Lottery might speak of the utilitarian solution in a disparaging tone. Harris could argue the fact that utilitarianism is a demanding moral position that often asks us to put aside self-interest for the rest of society . Morality is about producing good consequences, not having good intentions, so we should think more along the lines of doing whatever will bring the most benefit to all of humanity. Utilitarianism is concerned about consequences, not intentions.
Harris’ idea of removing organs from people and donating them to the people who need them seems to be a utilitarianist view in nature , but it doesn’t agree with what Bentham believed, which was that we should try to increase the overall amount of pleasure in the world. Harris’ view doesn’t increase pleasure. Instead it seems to bring pain. For the families and friends of the lottery winners there is an extreme amount of pain and discomfort. There is an argument that it cannot possibly be right to take the life of a human being. A strong argument against the Survival Lottery is that it is a violation to the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which condemns cruel and unusual punishment. How can murder not be immoral? Citizens under a social contract, agree not to kill only because others also agree not to kill. It is the function of penal laws to prevent murder by demonstrating to society that it is not in their best interest to murder.
The term utilitarianism is specifically applied to the proposition that the highest objective of a moral action is the achievement of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Usually the utilitarian theory of ethics is opposed to ethical doctrines often brought into question by that inner sense called the conscience. As a result Utilitarianism generally disagrees with the view that moral decisions depend on the will of God. Certainly there are things in life that are irreplaceable , such as ?Life. What Harris is suggesting that we sacrifice a few lives to preserve many more. The question that is being asked is such: Is it morally correct to take something that is as precious and irreplaceable as a life from someone even though many more lives would be saved? I believe that question shouldn’t even be asked. No human being has the right to take the life of another no matter the circumstance . It is unethical to kill period, no matter how you look at it.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. This one Golden Rule would neither contradict nor lie parallel to the Survival Lottery because the rule applies to individuals as opposed to society . For the most part I can’t think of too many people that would want to win the Survival Lottery and at the same time I’m sure they wouldn’t wish such luck to anyone else.
I am a believer in Utilitarianism to an extent. However I must say John Harris’ Survival Lottery is past that extent. This is because the idea goes against many of my values and beliefs such as the killing of an innocent person. Concluding I want to say that I do not represent the whole of society and their general view of course, however this essay does take some of my personal beliefs into account. I use myself as a typical human being and I feel my opinions and reasoning have cogency.