Talk:Average and total utilitarianism

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Merge suggestion[edit]

I see no utility in speaking of one of these without the other. I suggest we roll them into one article, Average and total utilitarianism. It also has very considerable overlap with mere addition paradox, which is basically just a discussion of the problems of average and total utilitarianism. For previous discussion, see Average, total and the mere addition paradox. Richard001 01:19, 16 September 2007 (UTC)

Yes, the two articles are like two sides of a coin. However, I rather look at it like one city having multiple newspapers. They are going to cover a lot of the same material, but they might come at it from different directions, and that can be valuable. FriendlyRiverOtter 05:17, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
By that logic you could argue we should have different articles on the same subject, coming at it from different points of view, or being longer or shorter, or written in different styles or layouts. We don't have an article on nonexistence to go with existence, and likewise I don't think we should have separate articles here.
I opposed the merger of act and rule utilitarianism on the grounds that there is a great deal to say about each. Because even if they are fundamentally interesting as opposing viewpoints among utilitarians, each presents a complete (or at least substantial) moral stance. I do not, however, think the same can be said here because the average versus total utility debate is fundamentally about how to address a very specific problem, or perhaps "blind spot," in the utilitarians' overall theory. Is this distinction too fine? Perhaps. But it seems to me that being an average utilitarian or a total utilitarian does not, on its own, present either a complete or even a substantial moral stance. Here then, it seems that the real issue is how to settle a going question within utilitarian theory ("What counts: total or average utility?") and that we are discussing the two possible answers. This may be a very idiosyncratic way of looking at it, and I'm open to being convinced otherwise, but that's my take at present. Postmodern Beatnik (talk) 03:05, 24 January 2008 (UTC)
I don't see any difference between this and act/rule, both are just two different questions about the nature of 'utilitarianism', one practical and one theoretical. Perhaps that pair does have more potential than this pair, perhaps it doesn't. But as we also have the extremely closely related article mere addition paradox as well, the case is especially strong here (well, perhaps not? You could argue this would just become a clone of it, in which case you could either oppose merging or suggest merging all three). Still, it seems you agree we should merge. Hopefully a few more people will comment, allowing this to be settled. Richard001 (talk) 04:41, 24 January 2008 (UTC)
I remain unconvinced that the two situations are the same. For one thing, it seems that there is at least one possible solution to the mere addition paradox that would not cut in favor of either total or average utilitarianism. Moreover, the average/total problem is about a theoretical uncertainty for utilitarians generally, whereas the act/rule divide is about a separation of ways. That is, the belief in rule utilitarianism over act utilitarianism changes the very nature of the view being held, whereas the average/total issue is more of a communal problem. Again, this may be an idiosyncratic way of viewing it; but it's how I will continue to see it until convinced otherwise. These considerations, however, do make me in favor of the proposed merger despite my opposition to the prior merger. My apologies for saying so in such a roundabout way. It's both a trick of the trade and an occupational hazard. Postmodern Beatnik (talk) 18:00, 25 January 2008 (UTC)
The mere addition paradox is not just a problem for the consequentially inclined either I suppose (indeed it's one of the biggest and most insoluble problems in ethics), though I think there will still be a large amount of overlap. I don't really know how utilitarians have approached this problem so I'm not qualified to say much on that matter. Richard001 (talk) 21:57, 25 January 2008 (UTC)
It seems that it must be a problem for the consequentially inclined alone (though "alone" is misleading given the varieties of consequentialism), since a deontologist is unconcerned about happiness, whether total or average. So long as everyone in a society comes into existence in a morally consistent way and lives morally consistent lives, their happiness is immaterial to the moral worth of the society. Personally, I think the mere addition paradox is rather easily solved, but that is neither here nor there. Regardless, I support the merger. Postmodern Beatnik (talk) 02:43, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Well, do we want to wait and see if anyone else is going to comment, or just merge them? Richard001 (talk) 04:51, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

We've given it time. I'd say merge them. Postmodern Beatnik (talk) 17:35, 4 February 2008 (UTC)
Merged. Very untidy, but they're at least in one article now. If you could clarify how this article should differentiate itself from mere addition paradox that would be good. Richard001 (talk) 06:55, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

I think it would help to merge this with Mere addition paradox. I for one couldn't understand what this article was about before reading the other article. --Chealer (talk) 17:57, 17 February 2012 (UTC)

Avoids the mere addition paradox?[edit]

I don't think 'average utilitarianism' avoids the mere addition paradox at all. See The Repugnant Conclusion. Actually I might be wrong - rereading it seems that it does avoid the 'repugnant conclusion', but the repugnant conclusion does not extend to the 'repugnance' of killing agents so that other agents can be happier or less miserable. I'll leave it for someone more knowledgeable on the subject. Richard001 01:04, 3 November 2007 (UTC)

It seems to me there is no conflict between average utilitarianism and a mere addition of less happy but still happy people: "average" only sensibly applies to a system. If World A has a million people with happiness level 100, and we add a million people with happiness level 50 onto World B, it makes NO SENSE to average the happiness levels of the two populations. They are non-interactive, and so not in system together, and so not averaged. If they are interactive, then it definitely makes sense to average, and it also makes sense to call the addition a worse situation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:58, 17 September 2010 (UTC)


Why are we spelling this with capitals? The same goes with 'Total Utilitarianism' - shouldn't it just be regular 'total utilitarianism'? Richard001 (talk) 04:43, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

Garrett Hardin[edit]

The Garrett Hardin paragraph seems irrelevant and reads like an attack on Hardin's position. Hughjonesd (talk) 23:07, 24 May 2012 (UTC)