There is Only Chaos: The Repugnant Conclusion Is No Conclusion

by Words and Chaos

A layman’s perspective on a utilitarian philosophical paradox.

The Repugnant Conclusion, as an answer to utilitarianism, doesn’t seem to work. I find that most of these situations have the same flaw, and they pretty much add up to the utility monster thought experiment. Briefly, the repugnant concludes that it is better to have a world with several billion unhappy people than a world with one billion happy people. Their baseline for happiness is apparently ‘not wanting to die’. Right. So basically the unhappy billions are still happy because they still prefer life. Therefore, to this argument, the negativity of the unhappy people doesn’t exist. This doesn’t make sense.

The negative value still exists. It doesn’t go away just because the unhappy people exhibit a preference for life. That’s not happiness; that’s instinct. I would say happiness has a capping point – exhibited by a couple of studies that show that people are increasingly happy with their lives as they are more able to get to a point where they can take care of all concerns, usually through a sufficiently high paying job, if that’s not too cynical. It works as a benchmark for this instance.

The problem is that this argument still seems to revolve around too basic an equation: It only accounts for gross linear accumulation of happiness, and nothing else. Which defeats the idea of utilitarianism being founded in common sense. If you were to take the idea of the utility monster and apply reality to it, the utility monster caps out very fast. The gross negativity that is created by the people working for the utility monster quickly outweighs the usefulness of the utility monster. That is, of course, assuming it’s doing anything for the greater good in the first place. If not then it’s actively generating negative happiness by not contributing to the happiness of the most people. It doesn’t work because the gross negativity outweighs the gross happiness. The negativity has to be factored into this equation for the equation to work, if not you have useless results.