Pursuing happiness is a mistake

The limits of utilitarianism in a pandemic

The pandemic brought up some difficult moral dilemmas. Choosing to do what would maximize human happiness might seem like a no-brainer. But the many unintended or even unknown consequences that measures like lockdowns had complicated matters. An alternative moral outlook, one that asks us to think first about the duties we have towards others and to respect the dignity of every human being would be a better starting point, one that doesn’t lead to treating others as means towards a greater good, argues Amna Whiston.

 

In July 1884, four Englishmen, sailing to Sydney from Southampton, were stranded at sea for several days without food and water. One night, one of them, a seventeen year old cabin boy, fell ill, after drinking sea water. Two of the sailors decided to sacrifice him for the good of the rest. They had wives and families; the cabin boy was an orphan with no connections. The three remaining sailors were rescued four days later. This incident

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