Tag Archives: Hedonism

Most Americans think cohabitation leads to a stable marriage, but what does the data say?

Men who cohabitate are not certain that the relationship is permanent
Men who cohabitate are not certain that the relationship is permanent

If there’s one thing that ought to lead people to Christianity, it’s the proven ability of the Christian moral rules to guide believers away from the sins that destroy them. A lot of modern “Christians” have reduced Christianity to being about their feelings and their community, while allowing the culture to determine their goals and moral boundaries. But that won’t protect them from danger.

Cohabitation describes the situation of a couple moving into the same home and being sexually active, but without any legally-recognized commitment. It’s extremely popular among young people today, and even Christians.

Consider this article from The Federalist about cohabitation:

A new Pew Research Center study shows Americans both cohabitate (“live with an unmarried partner”) and find cohabitation acceptable more than before.

[…]More young adults have cohabited than have married. Pew’s analysis in the summer of 2019 of the National Survey of Family Growth found that, for the first time ever, the percentage of American adults aged 18-44 who have ever cohabited with a partner (59 percent) exceeded the percentage of those who have ever married (50 percent).

I thought this was very interesting, especially for the Christian parents and pastors who imagine that their lovely pious daughters all have a Christian worldview just because they sing in the church choir:

Just 14 percent hold a view consistent with a biblical sexual ethic, that cohabitation with an unmarried romantic partner outside of marriage is “never acceptable.”

Just to be clear, in my life I’ve met about 6 non-Christian men who cohabitated with women, and every single one of them cohabitated with a Christian-raised woman. That should tell you what young women are being told about relationships in their homes and churches about sex and marriage. “Do whatever you want”.

So what purpose does cohabitation serve?

A majority of Americans (69 percent) say that “it is acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together even if they don’t plan to get married.” They may assume that they can decrease their chances of a bad marriage and increase their chances of a good one by giving the relationship a cohabitation “test run.”

[…]A plurality of Americans believe cohabitating before marriage yields more successful unions. Nearly half of Americans (48 percent) believe that couples who live together before marriage “have a better chance of having a successful marriage.” This view is even more prevalent among young adults aged 18-29 (63 percent).

Another 38 percent of all Americans say cohabitation “doesn’t make much difference” on marital success. Only 13 percent of Americans believe cohabiting couples have “a worse chance” of having a successful marriage.

[…]Most Americans believe cohabitating couples raise children just as well as married couples. Pew also surveyed people’s opinions about cohabiting couples raising children, and 59 percent of Americans declared that cohabiting couples “can raise children just as well as married couples.” Again, the younger respondents were most likely to have a favorable view of cohabitation: among adults aged 18 to 49, 67 percent agreed cohabiting couples do just as well, while 32 percent said: “Married couples do a better job raising children.”

Yes, cohabitation seen as a test run, and it’s supposed to make stable marriage more likely and not be harmful to children at all.

But why think that a test run should be part of getting married? After all, when I buy a parrot from the pet store, I don’t expect to later return that parrot. Why not? Because I am not buying the parrot to enhance MY life. I am buying the parrot to make a commitment to care for the parrot. Whether the parrot fulfills any of my needs is irrelevant to me. I want the bird in my house so that I can decide what it eats, what it drinks, and invest myself into making it happy, according to its birdish nature. This is because I think that parrots have value in and of themselves, and they deserve a certain quality of life. When I buy the parrot, I am guaranteeing a permanent commitment to the bird to provide for its needs, physical and emotional. And that commitment carries forward to the time (now) when the bird is elderly, and can’t even fly up to his cage or down to the floor. He calls for me, and I go over and pick him up and move him. That’s commitment.

Cohabitation, on the other hand, is the practice of saying to another human being: “I am going to try you out as an entertaining commodity in my home, but if you don’t fulfill my needs then I’m going to send you right back.” That’s not a commitment. That’s self indulgence. It’s defining a relationship as entertainment that is designed to meet my needs and make me happy. And that’s because the concept of commitment in relationships is not presented to young people at any time in their lives. Not from parents. Not in churches. Not in the secular left culture as a whole. Everything is a consumer good designed for the purpose of entertainment – including people. It was only the Christian worldview that had a view of people as creatures made by God for eternal life, so that marriage was about guarding the other person’s faith, and building them up to achieve all the things that God wanted them to achieve for his purposes.

But does cohabitation really work to create stable relationships? After all, anyone can find a partner when they’re young and pretty. The real question is whether that partner will stick around when you’re old and ugly and can’t be as “fun” as you used to be.

Here’s a recent (2018) study on cohabitation and stability:

A new study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family finds that the “premarital cohabitation effect” lives on, despite what you’ve likely heard. The premarital cohabitation effect is the finding that those who live together prior to marriage are more likely, not less, to struggle in marriage.

[…]Michael Rosenfeld and Katharina Roesler’s new findings suggest that there remains an increased risk for divorce for those living together prior to marriage, and that prior studies suggesting the effect has gone away had a bias toward short versus longer-term effects. They find that living together before marriage is associated with lower odds of divorce in the first year of marriage, but increases the odds of divorce in all other years tested, and this finding holds across decades of data.

Strategy advice to those who debate this issue: just be aware that Team Secular Leftist is using papers that have short-range samples, which don’t show the instability problem, because they deliberately cherry-pick recently married couples.

And what about children raised in cohabitating relationships?

While Americans are optimistic about the ability of cohabiting couples to raise children, a study published by the American College of Pediatricians in 2014 reported that children whose parents cohabit face a higher risk of: “premature birth, school failure, lower education, more poverty during childhood and lower incomes as adults, more incarceration and behavior problems, single parenthood, medical neglect and chronic health problems both medical and psychiatric, more substance, alcohol and tobacco abuse, and child abuse,” and that “a child conceived by a cohabiting woman is at 10 times higher risk of abortion compared to one conceived in marriage.”

I’m just going to be blunt here. The majority of young people are progressives, and they vote for candidates who believe in abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, and even after birth. Why? Because they don’t want to have their right to seek happiness impacted by the needs of other people. Progressives believe that children, if they exist at all, should enhance the lives of their adult owners. No one should be surprised that people who think that killing inconvenient children is moral are willing to inflict other bad outcomes on them by raising them in an unstable cohabitation environment.

More and more women are asking why they can’t find a good man to marry

Do young women understand how to get to a stable marriage?
Do young women understand how to get to a stable marriage?

In the last few months, I’ve met 5 different Christian women in their 30s who all asked me the same question: where are all the good men who want to marry me?

Christian men’s rights blogger Dalrock had two different posts where he described the answer to this question.

Here is the first post from Dalrock that concisely illustrates the problem:

As I wrote in A very long season, feminists don’t want to waste a day more of their youth and fertility on their husbands than absolutely necessary. As if to prove this very point, 30 year old Mona Chalabi writes in the NY Times* I Want My 2.3 Bonus Years:

If I could prolong my time as a young adult by, say, 2.3 years, here is a list of things I would like to do:

• Go to more parties. Preferably wild parties that I can think about, years later, at mild parties.

[…]• Have more romantic partners.

[…]• Get a bit higher up the career ladder a bit earlier on. That would probably boost my earnings, giving me more financial security. I could use that money to go to more parties, get a membership to a fancy gym and maybe even meet a romantic partner on the ab machines.

To drive the message home, the image at the top of the article is a cartoon of a resentful Chalabi giving her future husband the side eye for her lost years of sampling penises!

Surely, this must be an isolated case just for New York Times feminists, right? It’s not widespread, is it?

Second post from Dalrock:

Margaret Wente at the Globe and Mail* asks where all the good men have gone.  Wente comes to the conclusion that women need a sex cartel:

…it’s up to us to make the rules. “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” my father used to say. It drove me crazy when he said that. Now, it’s dawned on me that he was right.

Since the women’s cartel collapsed, women’s bargaining power has seriously eroded. That’s why so many single women hate Tinder, which has further commodified sex for the benefit of men. Women are just another consumer good in the shop window.

The apex fallacy aside, Wente is partially right.  Women (as a group) have signaled to men that what they really want are exciting sexy badboys, not boring loyal dudes. It isn’t that women no longer want to marry beta providers, they just don’t want to waste a day more of their youth and fertility on their husband than absolutely necessary.

As a result, some up and coming boring loyal dudes aren’t knocking themselves out in their twenties while they wait for their future wife to tire of having sex with other men.

If you wonder why men are no longer performing in school, and exchanging careers for video games, the answer is simple. Men have realized that young women today, under the influence of feminism, are not interested in traditional husbands during their late teens and 20s. During these years, women are interested in travel, fun, drinking, hook-ups and cohabitation with amoral atheists. This is what I have personally observed. In the minds of young women, the highest value men are good-looking men who have no religion, and make no moral judgments, and are left of center politically – especially on abortion.

There are actually many other men who don’t meet this standard – marriage-minded men – who want to get married young and have children. But when these men see what young women really want, they just give up on school and work, since doing the traditional male roles has no value to young women. Many good men even give up on morality and Christianity, because they want a relationship with a woman so badly. They know that women don’t want marriage-minded men when women are youngest and prettiest.

More from second post:

What Wente doesn’t understand is that timing is everything.  From an economic point of view, women are dividing up sexual access that traditionally would have been reserved only for their husband into two blocks.  The first block contains their most attractive and fertile years, and it is dedicated to no strings sex with exciting badboys.  Then, once women reach what Rollo calls the epiphany phase, they want to bargain sexual access in their remaining (older and less fertile) years for maximum beta bucks.

The problem with this strategy is (generally speaking) not that the previously overlooked beta men will refuse to marry the suddenly reformed party girls.  The problem is that young men now look at the men 3-5 (and even 5-10) years older than them and don’t see an indication that signaling provider status will make them attractive to women.  They also see a society that holds married fathers in contempt**.  Most of these men are still working hard in their late teens and twenties to prepare to signal provider status in their 30s.  But a growing minority of young men are no longer doing so.  These men are instead working like women.  Once the reformed party girls are ready to find Mr. Beta Bucks, there is a shortage of 30 something men who fit the bill.  Even worse, no amount of complaining or shaming will cause the missing beta providers to go back in time and spend the prior decade preparing for this moment.

I’m one of the last men who followed the marriage-preparedness script for traditional men who wanted to marry and have four children and have a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to raise them from birth to graduate school. I find myself now in my mid-40s, with a 6-figure income and a 7-figure net worth. I never used my success to play the field with hot bad girls. I wanted to keep my sexual past completely clean for my eventual wife. However, what I observed in my late teens and 20s and even early 30s was a complete lack of interest in marriage ability, from non-Christian women and Christian women alike. Christian women aren’t learning to value early marriage from their married parents or their evangelical churches. None of the traditional husband skills are valued by young women, i.e. – chastity, gapless resume, alcohol abstinence, undergraduate and graduate STEM degrees, experience nurturing and mentoring others, stewardship of earned income.

I recently caused an uproar on my Facebook page by saying that even if the perfect woman showed up right now to marry me, I would not pursue her because the critical time where the woman could have applied maximum youth, beauty and fertility as a wife to make an impact on my education, early career, health, and finances has passed. A younger woman develops value to her husband precisely by applying herself to him and to her family in these critical early years. Men who have experienced this self-sacrificial love and support are loyal to their wives even after their wives lose their youth and beauty. Why? Because the men know that they are much better than they could have been, having enjoyed that early investment of value made by their young wives.

Young women very supportive of premarital sex
Young women very supportive of premarital sex

As Christian writer Matt Walsh notes in a recent article at the Daily Wire, this “follow your heart” focus on happiness in women is lethal to marital stability, and men know it.

Excerpt:

There was an article in Cosmo this week with a title that summarizes all that’s wrong with Cosmo and modern society as a whole: “I eloped at 25, divorced at 26, and dated my way across Europe all summer.” Of course, by “dated my way across Europe” she means that she slept with half the continent.

The author, Elise, says she “started fighting” with her husband and within a few months they both decided that their differences were irreconcilable. Despite counseling, she says, “neither of us was happy.” So, exhausted from 12 whole months of marriage, Elise embarked on a voyage of self-discovery and STD cultivation. She met random dudes in half a dozen countries and had sex with them, learning quite a lot as she went, though she can’t really explain what exactly she learned or why sex was a necessary component in learning it. Finally, she came home and started dating some other guy. The end.

Well, not really the end. 20 years from now I’m sure we’ll get the follow up article: “I’m alone and miserable and it’s everyone’s fault but mine.” After all, you may be able to fill the emptiness in your soul with frivolous sex when you’re young and physically desirable, but that phase is fleeting. People who don’t want to “waste” their beauty and youth on a spouse, so they waste it instead on strangers who don’t love them or even care what happens to them tomorrow, will be shocked when a tomorrow comes where even strangers aren’t interested anymore. This is where the single-minded, utterly selfish pursuit of “happiness” at all costs inevitably leads: to rejection, despair, and a quiet, unnoticed death on a lonely hospital bed.

As Elise helpfully demonstrated, “do what makes you happy” is poison in a marriage. Many a vow has been broken because one or both partners decide to chase “happiness” instead of commitment, fidelity, and love. “I deserve to be happy,” reports the legion of serial divorcees, as they drift on to the next spouse, and the next, and the next, and the next, looking for the one — the one, finally — who might cure the misery they’ve inflicted on themselves. Increasingly unhappy, yet increasingly convinced that they deserve to be.

And this follow your heart to happiness situation is alive and well in the church today. Marriage-minded Christian men who have prepared for husband roles are surprised to find that there is often little or no difference between Elise and the Christian women the church produces. Christian men who desire to invest in a marriage that is stable, productive and influential have nowhere to turn for a wife who is able and willing to help. In my experience, the problem with happiness-focused women who delay marriage is never discussed in churches from the pulpit. The “good men to marry” that today’s 30-something women are looking for were plentiful back when those same women were in their early-to-mid 20s.

Why do so many Christian musicians, artists, athletes and celebrities leave the faith?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

Several people sent me the story about a former Hillsong worship leader who decided to leave Christianity. Since we’ve had a few high profile departures, I thought it might be worth giving my very controversial view on Christian musicians, artists, athletes and celebrities. I’ve always been suspicious of celebrities claiming to be Christians and there’s a very simple reason why.

Anyway, here is the story sent to me by Tiasunep, published in the Christian Today.

It says:

Hillsong worship leader has reportedly walked away from the Christian faith after posting a – since removed – Instagram update in which he said he was “not in anymore”.

[…]”Time for some real talk… I’m genuinely losing my faith.. and it doesn’t bother me… like, what bothers me now is nothing… I am so happy now, so at peace with the world.. it’s crazy / this is a soapbox moment so here I go xx how many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it.

“How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send 4 billion people to a place, all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it.

“Christians can be the most judgemental people on the planet – they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people… but it’s not for me. I am not in any more.”

[…]Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion,” he writes.

“Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real.

[…]The news has saddened many in the Christian scene who were still getting over a similar announcement made a few weeks ago by Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

Within the space of a week, he announced that he was separating from his wife and that he had fallen away from the Christian faith.

It looks to me like no one has ever made the evidential case for a Christian worldview to him, and he’s just crumbling because he doesn’t have answers to basic, ordinary questions.

In modern secular America, authentic Christianity is spelled A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S

In primitive areas of the world, a person could be a sincere Christian without knowing how to answer basic questions about scientific evidence for a creator, historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, philosophical defenses to the problems of evil and suffering, etc. But this is modern America, and there are atheists in the universities and in the workplace and just everywhere. If you meet someone in America who claims to be a Christian, it’s guaranteed that this person will have met atheists in these places. If this Christian has not put in any effort to learn how to answer basic questions about God’s existence, the resurrection, the problem of evil, etc, and they are regarded as very pious and spiritual, you should immediately distrust their claim to be a Christian.

1 Peter 3:15-16
1 Peter 3:15-16

Authentic Christians will be appropriately moved by the existence of people who not only do not accept a Creator, but also deny Jesus as Lord and Savior. And since the example of using reason and evidence to respond to skeptics is everywhere in the Bible, then sincere Bible believers will likewise want to find a way to answer people who question the Christian worldview. If you look at a Christian, and you can’t find anything in their writings or words that interacts with Christian scholarship and responds to popular challenges to the Christian worldview, then you’re looking at a fake Christian. Such a person is merely posing as a Christian for feelings, fame and peer approval. Every real Christian is concerned about defending God’s reputation and character. And the way that this is done in the Bible – and today – is with evidential apologetics.

There is no mature Christian worldview that majors in praise hymns, social justice, essential oils, devotional reading, etc. Today, right now, your co-worker is an atheist. Today, right now, your child’s professor is an atheist. If you haven’t put in the time to prepare a defense to the challenges right in front of your face – challenges that affect you and your legacy in Christ – but you have plenty of time to major in the minors for fame and fortune, then that’s a sign that you don’t have a Christian worldview. If all your Christianity is just having feelings, devotional reading and singing praise songs, then you need to ask yourself whether you’re not on the same road as this Hillsong worship leader.

Young people should be learning apologetics from their parents, pastors and other Christian leaders

It’s not surprising to me that the Hillsong worship leader is an apostate. What’s surprising to me is that anyone at all who is raised in any American church is able to preserve their faith for very long after leaving home. The churches in America do a poor job of equipping Christians to answer the most basic questions about the Christian worldview. Questions that could easily be answered after a few Lee Strobel books, or some True U DVDs. But in Christian homes and Christians churches, young people are never exposed to the challenges of non-Christians. They never do any investigations to learn how to respond to them. Then when they get to college, they feel (rightly) as if they’ve been brainwashed and indoctrinated by people in the church who were divorced from reality. And then they quit on Christianity. I see it all the time.

If you’re going to pick someone to look up to as a Christian, then choose people who have put in the time to study the truth claims of the Christian worldview enough to defend them to other scholars, using arguments and evidence. I admire people like William Lane Craig, Stephen C. Meyer, Michael Licona who actually debate non-Christians on university campuses and other public forums. In contrast, an entertainer isn’t usually qualified to defend truth claims.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

‘Sex and the City’ inspiration Candace Bushnell reaches age 60 childless and alone

Man and woman working on a computer upgrade
Man and woman working on a computer upgrade

Did you know that there is a real woman who inspired the feminist fairy tale TV show “Sex in the City”? She had an enormous influence on young women, who wanted the glamour, fun, and consequence-free sex with “high value” no-commitment men. Most women who adopted the values of the show probably thought that this path would eventually lead to marriage and children.

My friend Chris sent me this article from Fox News, which talks the woman who inspired the show’s storyline.

It says:

“Sex and the City” may have left a trailblazing legacy for women on television, but the book’s original author now thinks her independent lifestyle may not have been as rewarding.

Candace Bushnell, 60, who wrote the original 1997 novel which spawned the successful TV series for HBO, opened up to Sunday Times Magazine about her 2012 divorce, admitting it made her realize how not starting a family made her feel “truly alone.”

“When I was in my 30s and 40s, I didn’t think about it,” she recalled. “Then when I got divorced and I was in my 50s, I started to see the impact of not having children and of truly being alone. I do see that people with children have an anchor in a way that people who have no kids don’t.”

I do think that it’s important for young women to really consider where they want to be when they are 30, 40, 50, etc. A wise person should seek to pattern their decisions off of the decisions of people who have reached the goals that they themselves want to reach. Candace Bushnell clearly has failed to achieve her goals. And those who listen to her will, likewise, fail to achieve the goals of marriage and children.

Making decisions today to achieve goals tomorrow

It’s important not to put too much faith in TV shows. Or any fiction.

Whenever I see women reading books in the office, I always ask them: is that fiction or non-fiction? In 19 years of full-time work, I have never had a woman answer non-fiction. And they usually answer “romance”. Well, I supposed if you were a fictional character, then you might take the advice of fictional characters. But if you are a real person, then you should look at the way the world really works. You should read peer-reviewed research, and take the advice of real people who have come up from humble beginnings to achieve the goals that you want to achieve.

After all, if your goal was to retire at 50, wouldn’t it make sense to read books about investing, and take the advice of successful investors? It certainly would not make sense to imitate the characters in TV shows and movies made by Hollywood divorcers, adulterers, rapists and pedophiles. And yet so many women do the latter with marriage and children decision-making. They seem to derive some sort of unquestionable emotional delight from making important decisions based on appearances, intuitions, peer-approval, etc.

Why listen to celebrities, teachers, politicians, etc. who have infidelities, no children, failed marriages, etc.? Why make decisions by counting votes from your no-achievement peer group? If you want to reach a goal, then there is only one way to proceed, and that’s by consulting the evidence, and seeking guidance from those with demonstrated results.

For example, when I was choosing which state to live in, I made a spreadsheet and filled it with all sorts of rankings of the 50 states that I pulled out of research papers and reports. I looked at things like infrastructure, income tax, economic growth, business friendliness, cost of living, tax as a % of income, abortion laws, support for traditional marriage, single motherhood, gun laws, concealed carry laws, fiscal solvency, etc. I moved here, and I’ve become very wealthy as a result. And my state has actually moved upward in gun rights rankings, fiscal solvency rankings, tax rankings, etc. since I got here. We’re even trying to pass pro-life laws! When you make decisions using evidence and when you listen to good advice from people who have real achievements, you succeed.

Don’t make decisions about sex, marriage and children by “following your heart”. That’s the lesson.

Utilitarianism and the Moral Life by J. P. Moreland

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

I found this essay on After All, but it looks like their site is not working well, so I’m just going to steal it and post it here, in case it disappears completely. This is one of my favorite short essays on utilitarianism, and it’s a wonder that the thing can’t stay up somewhere. Well, it will have a home here now. I’d be surprised to see anyone else be this awesome in a measly 1000 words as Dr. Moreland is below.

—-

Utilitarianism and the Moral Life

What Is Utilitarianism?

Utilitarianism (also called consequentialism) is a moral theory developed and refined in the modern world by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). It can be defined as follows:

An action or moral rule is right if and only if it maximizes the amount of nonmoral good produced in the consequences that result from doing that act or following that rule compared with other acts or rules open to the agent.

By focusing on three features of utilitarianism, we can clarify this definition.

(1) Utilitarian theories of value.

What is a nonmoral good? Utilitarians deny that there are any moral actions or rules that are intrinsically right or wrong. But they do believe in objective values that are nonmoral.

Hedonistic utilitarians say that the only intrinsic good is pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Quantitative hedonists (Bentham) say that the amount of pleasure and pain is the only thing that matters in deciding between two courses of action, I should do the one that produces the greatest amount of pleasure and the least amount of pain (measured by factors like the duration and intensity of the pleasure). Qualitative hedonists (Mill) say that pleasure is the only intrinsic good, but the type of pleasure is what is important, not the amount. They would rank pleasures that come from reading, art, and friendship as more valuable than those that come from, say, a full stomach.

Pluralistic utilitarians
say there are a number of things that have intrinsic, nonmoral value: pleasure, friendship, health, knowledge, freedom, peace, security, and so forth. For pluralists, it is not just the pleasure that comes from friendship that has value but also friendship itself.

Currently, the most popular utilitarian view of value is subjective preference utilitarianism. This position says it is presumptuous and impossible to specify things that have intrinsic nonmoral worth. So, they claim, intrinsic value ought to be defined as that which each individual subjectively desires or wants, provided these do not harm others. Unfortunately, this view collapses into moral relativism.

(2) Utilitarians and maximizing utility.

Utilitarians use the term utility to stand for whatever good they are seeking to produce as consequences of a moral action (e.g., “pleasure” for the hedonist, “satisfaction of subjective preference” for others). They see morality in a means-to-ends way. The sole value of a moral action or rule is the utility of its consequences. Moral action should maximize utility. This can be interpreted in different ways, but many utilitarians embrace the following: the correct moral action or rule is the one that produces the greatest amount of utility for the greatest number of people.

(3) Two forms of utilitarianism: act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism.

According to act utilitarianism, an act is right if and only if no other act available maximizes utility more than the act in question. Here, each new moral situation is evaluated on its own, and moral rules like “don’t steal” or “don’t break promises” are secondary The moral agent must weigh available alternatives and choose the one that produces the best consequences. Rule utilitarianism says that correct moral actions are done in keeping with correct moral rules, However, no moral rule is intrinsically right or wrong. Rather, a correct moral rule is one that would maximize utility if most people followed it as opposed to following an alternative rule. Here, alternative rules (e.g., “don’t lie” vs. “don’t lie unless doing so would enhance friendship”) are compared for their consequences, not specific actions.

What Is Wrong with Utilitarianism?

Several objections show the inadequacy of utilitarianism as a normative moral theory.

First, utilitarianism can be used to justify actions that are clearly immoral. Consider the case of a severely deformed fetus. The child is certain to live a brief, albeit painless life. He or she will make no contribution to society. Society, however, will bear great expense. Doctors and other caregivers will invest time, emotion, and effort in adding mere hours to the baby’s life. The parents will know and love the child only long enough to be heartbroken at the inevitable loss. An abortion negates all those “utility” losses. There is no positive utility lost. Many of the same costs are involved in the care of the terminally ill elderly. They too may suffer no pain, but they may offer no benefit to society. In balancing positives and negatives, and excluding from the equation the objective sacredness of all human life, we arrive at morally repugnant decisions. Here deontological and virtue ethics steer us clear of what is easier to what is right.

Second, in a similar way, utilitarianism denies the existence of supererogatory acts. These are acts of moral heroism that are not morally obligatory but are still praiseworthy. Examples would be giving 75 percent of your income to the poor or throwing yourself on a bomb to save a stranger. Consider the bomb example. You have two choices — throwing yourself on the bomb or not doing so. Each choice would have consequences and, according to utilitarianism, you are morally obligated to do one or the other depending on which option maximized utility. Thus, there is no room for acts that go beyond the call of morality.

Third, utilitarianism has an inadequate view of human rights and human dignity. If enslaving a minority of people, say by a lottery, would produce the greatest good for the greatest number, or if conceiving children only to harvest their parts would do the same, then these could he justified in a utilitarian scheme. But enslavement and abortion violate individual rights and treat people as a means to an end, not as creatures with intrinsic dignity as human beings. If acts of abortion, active euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and so forth maximize utility, then they are morally obligatory for the utilitarian. But any moral system that makes abortion and suicide morally obligatory is surely flawed.

Finally, utilitarianism has an inadequate view of motives and character. We should praise good motives and seek good character because such motives and character are intrinsically valuable. But utilitarianism implies that the only reason we should praise good motives instead of bad ones, or seek good character instead of bad character, is because such acts would maximize utility. But this has the cart before the horse. We should praise good motives and blame bad ones because they are good or bad, not because such acts of praising and blaming produce good consequences.

In sum, it should be clear that utilitarianism is an inadequate moral theory. Unfortunately, ours is a pragmatic culture and utilitarianism is on the rise. But for those of us who follow Christ, a combination of virtue and deontological ethics is a more adequate view of common sense morality found in natural law and of the moral vision contained in the Bible.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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