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"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
In this one famous line from Star Trek, the ever-logical Spock seemingly nailed his flag to the mast of Utilitarianism. But what if Kant had been a member of the team aboard the USS Enterprise? He may have thrown a glass of cold water over Spock and exclaimed, "You're wrong! The needs of the few may triumph!" So, who should we side with here? What do we do when different philosophical systems disagree and guide us towards conflicting solutions? In this episode, Declan and Simon introduce a new ethical system they've been cooking up. Can we balance the needs of the many with the needs of the few? Let's see what Nested Utilitension can do!
Note: This episode supports a "Chapters" feature, which is available in the web player and many podcast apps.
Main Talking Points
- What are the problems with some of the existing ethical theories?
- Rebooting the classic ticking time bomb thought experiment
- Nested Utilitension
- The Utility Plunge
- The significance of nesting groups inside larger groups and expanding outwards when making ethical comparisons
- Ethical circuit breakers
- Does who you are change how you decide what's right?
- The Philosophists - Episode 2 covered Utilitarianism and Deontonology (including some Kantian ethics) and may be worth a listen first. The show notes are also worth a look
- The Philosophists - Episode 4 covered the Trolley Problem and some more Utilitarian/Kantian discussion
- The Repugnant Conclusion
- Derek Parfit’s famous paradoxical conclusion that, for any world with all very happy individuals, there can exist a better world (in terms of the Utilitarian maths) with a much larger population of whose lives are barely worth living.
- Good explainer video by Julia Galef but you'll still need your thinking hat on!
- The Veil of Ignorance
- John Rawls theory on how to design a fairer society
- An illustrated overview narrated by Stephen Fry
Show Info, Contact Details & Credits