If you haven’t read the first part of this dialogue I suggest you do to understand key points explained so I don’t have to define them again. http://thehouseofhorus.com/2013/07/09/a-symposium-on-charity-part-1/
The first part ended with John at a loss for words due to Simon’s realist approach to Utilitarianism and the introduction of a new Character, Julie:
- Julie – A Social Worker that argues from the perspective of Christianity
Julie waves to the group before rushing to hug and exchange greetings with them. To John’s relief he could use this to avoid confrontation of Simon’s last points. He wouldn’t allow Gerard and Simon to explain the discussion to Julie as he saw this an opportunity to belittle her with arguments from Utilitarianism.
Julie: I forgot how argumentative you guys are. You haven’t been embarrassing yourself in the corner with your shouting have you?
Gerard: I’ve been quite calm, it’s Simon who declared World War 3 and John wasn’t willing to surrender.
John: Oh shut up, he’s just ignorant.
Julie: I’m thirsty, it’s like 30 degrees outside. Drinks anyone? I’ll go get them.
John: You don’t have to do that Julie, Simon would you do the honours?
Simon: What!? Why should I?
John: I thought you were a multi millionaire… £20 on a few drinks shouldn’t affect your balance.
John had a point. Simon was boastful of his financial situation most of the time, to save face he left the table and went to buy a drink – buying John time to regain some face by arguing with Julie.
John: We were debating about Utilitarianism. Simon was being quite disrespectful about my Charity, saying we shouldn’t care for those suffering as they don’t care about us… Swearing, shouting and just being insensitive.
Julie: Wow… That’s not nice. I think the money is getting to his head.
John: Indeed. I was just explaining that we’re morally obligated to help the poor and suffering in this World. We should maximise utility in the World and know what’s the right action is, through methods such as consequential moral reasoning.
Julie: Oh… I like the idea of Charity. This is a form of alms-giving, which is key in religious traditions.
John: Alms-giving means?
Julie: When you give voluntary contributions to the poor, it’s a form of alms-giving. But in Christianity this isn’t just why we give to the poor. It’s love. It benefits us all. By being loving and caring through charity the people we help in return learn to be loving and caring. To love thy neighbour is a great thing.
John: Nauseating way to put it, but I agree it does spread love. Utilitarianism advocates this kind of, not worded the same but the outcome is similar. We have a moral obligation to help the poor.
Julie: I don’t think that’s nauseating at all. Jesus teaches us that we won’t be judged on how beautiful our material objects are in respect of God, such as how aesthetic our places of worship, churches etcetera are, but we will be judged on how we treat others. So we should be as charitable as we can be with love as the aim. We can’t claim to love God and not love thy neighbour, it would be hypocritical. I think it’s all very lovely but Utilitarianism has so many flaws. Sorry.
John: I’m not religious, I don’t love or see anything we do in relation to God. But flaws? Please enlighten me.
Julie: Pete Singer’s paper, he suggest we should give what we have left over to the extend it doesn’t hinder our lives. But in Christianity, all of what we have is a gift from God. Therefore doesn’t exclusively belong to us, if someone needs it we must share it.
John: That’s ridiculous, what if it endangers you?
Julie: It doesn’t matter really, God will reward me for my efforts. Say if someone is homeless, really we should help them recover, house them, bathe them and treat them like our neighbours. But in Society we don’t, a homeless man is heckled, giving 20 pence, left over bits of food, allowed to rot and die on our streets. It’s not fair.
John: I agree, that’s not fair that someone has to live in such a state. We should work rid the streets of the homeless and give them the same standard of living we have. However, it’s impractical. If a homeless man slept on your road one day, you’re walking past – would you invite him into your home, bath him, give him food and temporary warmth whilst he gets back on his feet? You don’t know of his life, he could have been a murderer, drug addict or rapist. He would need severe rehabilitation, but would you risk your life in order to be the one that initiates it? If so I commend you.
The Homeless Man
You’re walking up your road when you notice a Homeless Man laying slumped on the floor. Your house is literally 10 metres away from him. He gets on his knees when he realises your present and begs for your help. “Please, I haven’t eaten in 2 weeks. Do you have any money or food? I promise I won’t spend it on any thing unnecessary.” You’ve just come from the shops and have two bags containing shopping you don’t really need. You also have a £20 note and a few coins. This man really smells, his clothes are dirty and over worn. What do you do?
Julie: I would. I’m a Social Worker, I deal with these type of people every other day. It’s not a job to me it’s an expression of love.
John: That’s great, Julie. I didn’t know you were so benevolent… However you still haven’t explained why Utilitarianism is flawed you somewhat branched off.
Julie: Sorry about that. Consequential moral reasoning? I don’t really think you can predict the future or the outcome of a situation to determine what the right thing to do is.
John: This is one aspect? But of course you can… You must have covered Utilitarianism at University before in one of your modules, correct? Then you know of the Drowning Child example.
Julie: I understand that example, I would help the Child but the chances of this happening are slim. I don’t think a Child would have access to such a deep lake or pond to be able to drown. When you use consequential moral reasoning in situations like taking one life to save several, you can’t predict the future.
John: I don’t understand what you’re saying. Surely one life is the lesser worth than several? In such a situation like a boat that is liable to drown. It contains 9 people. To be safe, throwing 1 or 2 off would allow this boat to move faster and keep afloat. Are you suggesting all 9 stay on board and risk all toppling over into the sea?
You’re on a lifeboat, with 8 other people. The lifeboat has been moving very slow recently, you don’t know when a rescue boat will arrive. 4 of the 8 suggest throwing 2 people off the boat through a lottery whilst the other 4 demand everyone stays on the boat. There are chances of a storm brewing and toppling over the boat because of it’s inability to move fast, it can also simple drown if the weight on the boat becomes disproportionate. What do you vote?
Julie: How can you say that? How can you determine the value of life? It’s like you’re acting as God in situations. No, you shouldn’t you should strive through and save every life you can.
John: Let me guess, pray to God for him to save them? Such miracle efforts do not work.
Gerard: You could inquire to see if there were any people who could swim, who could work in rotation to get off the boat, swim for a period of time, then switch again. Might sound impractical but at least you could be saving lives.
John: Ridiculous, it would delay time. If the boat is quite far away from land you’re endangering more lives than one who could be cast away.
Gerard: My conscious would be clear this way. I couldn’t determine the outcome of someone’s life because of a theory or way of deducing. That itself is insensitive, John. Also I agree with Julie, you’re suggesting we take the role of a God to determine what’s good or right.
John: Trying to save as many lives as you can at the expense of the least is not acting as if you’re a God. Trying to save them all at the expense of the multitude is acting like you’re God. If you believe in that mumbo jumbo, God supposedly punishes us through natural evil – in which we’re supposed to overcome as trials? It’s not just those who have done bad who suffer, but us collectively. If you ask me, that’s evil, maximizes suffering and not happiness. Therefore we shouldn’t claim this to be right or fair. I don’t think you guys understand Utilitarianism. In Utilitarianism, if we had that omnipotent power it would be used to make natural good and moral pleasure.
Gerard: You’ve been somewhat claiming that we don’t know nothing of what you’re saying since we arrived, even though you’ve explained yourself over and over… It’s just that we don’t agree with it John.
Simon’s snobbish guffaw could be heard approaching the table. The three looked up to see he was discussing with a Waiter and they both held drinks in their hands. The group took a short break from the discussion to enjoy the drinks. They resumed 20 minutes or so later.
Simon: So what did I miss when I was getting the drinks? Was John making himself look stupid again?
John: The opposite actually, they’re trying to argue the case of God.
Simon: Oh even more impractical than Utilitarianism. At least Utilitarian’s acknowledge they should do something instead of pray and hope for change, I can respect that. But the religious? Don’t make me laugh.
Julie: I’m not telling you to believe in religion, it’s just my perspective. I don’t like Utilitarianism as it contradicts what I believe to be God’s intentions.
Julie: When you look at Utilitarianism it claims that Human beings seek pleasure and that’s the nature of goodness, which reflects more on the Biblical definition of sin than it does goodness. If we look at Genesis 1 and 2, it uses the word good to describe what God has made – this World. God is true good.
John lets out a deep sigh and rubs his head, he doesn’t give Julie’s argument from Christianity the same respect as the others. The others noticed this, especially Gerard who donned a scowl on his face towards him.
Julie: Every being is in its rightful place under God. The Humans beings, Adam and Eve were told not to eat from the tree of knowledge. As Adam and Eve lived in paradise, this shows that the key to happiness and goodness is living under the rule of God. We can’t reciprocate that paradise without rule or without God.
John: Do you honestly believe this occurred?
Julie: It does not matter if it occurred or not, if you listen to what I’m saying instead of rudely not acknowledging this as a possibility you’re being ignorant. Utilitarianism is just a theory created by a Human being, if you don’t believe in God that’s fine. Look at this as a theory and take from it what you will.
John regains proper posture and gives Julie his full attention.
Julie: When we were created, we were naked like a new-born baby. We didn’t need to use clothing to hide our bodies as they weren’t shameful. When Eve was tempted by the serpent to eat from the tree of knowledge and succumbed to this pressure, both Adam and Eve indulged. They covered themselves to hide from God. Eve was tempted by the fact if she ate from the tree, she would know good and evil like God, not just good. God punished them for their disobedience, this initiated the fall of man and fractured the good creation that God had made.
Gerard: Sorry to interrupt Julie, but how does this relate to Utilitarianism?
Julie: I’m getting there. According to Genesis, the desire to seek pleasure and set their own moral rules is the very heart of sin and this is what they did. This is what Human beings do, and this is what Utilitarianism suggests. Adam and Eve realised what they did was against the true definition of evil. This is evident because they worked to hide nakedness, to cover up from God. Good and evil can only be defined by God.
Simon: Cover up to hide from God? If that’s so, why are you wearing clothes Julie? You should take them off.
John: Simon has a point there, why aren’t you naked – why are you hiding from God?
Julie: Oh please, don’t try to use this point against me. It’s obvious that due to their original sin almost all Human beings hide with clothing. We are present in the loins of Adam. We are descendants of these people, therefore we are born with sin.
John: You said it doesn’t matter if this is true or not, if we are present in the loins of Adam this must mean he existed, correct?
Julie: Not necessarily, there could have been a Human being we do not know of but we descend from that initiated this original sin.
Gerard: That would make sense, if true.
Julie: Anyway when you compare Genesis to Utilitarianism, they correlate quite a lot. When we adhere to the principle of maximizing happiness, we give in to selfishness and our ill desire of pleasure. This gives us an authority which isn’t ours, but Gods, by thinking we can determine what’s morally right in a situation. Like I said earlier with consequential moral reasoning. Only God can decide what is bad and what is good. We can’t use any theorising to come to a conclusion to decide what is bad and good but only follow God’s lead. In the Bible God’s punishment for us attempting to create our own rules is evident. Plagues, Floods, Storms.
John: So natural evil? You’re arguing that people being hedonistic, Human beings in general deciding to make their own rules to accommodate changes in the World results to evil?
Julie: It’s a big cause of evil. If you look at causation, things such as the strive for money causes a lot of evil. For example someone who partakes in crime to feed himself, moral evil. If not for the system of currency he wouldn’t need to do so. Through Moses, God states his will through the Ten Commandments.
John: Which is basically implemented into most systems of Law…
Julie: But doesn’t stop people from breaking them. On a wider scale, Governments steal from the people, steal from other countries. We create other Gods, instead of sticking to the one true God through religions such as Scientology. We even justify murder through War. Humanity is wrong, in almost every way. In the Bible, it states we shouldn’t avoid pain over pleasure we should imitate Christ who died on the cross for our sins. Good doesn’t always equate pleasure, sometimes to gain good we must suffer first. Therefore Utilitarianism is flawed at its most basic principles.
John: I’m sorry I can’t take this seriously.
Fed up and incensed by Gerard’s treatment of Julie’s argument, he breaks his silence and intervenes.
Gerard: I’m sorry, I’ve just been sat here listening and trying to understand why you’re being so cheeky John? If you don’t agree with something, fair enough you don’t have to. But the aim of this is a discussion, correct? In a discussion you acknowledge others views, you don’t give such blunt answers. Show Julie some respect.
John: What? There is truly no way to reply to this argument without branching off into arguments against the existence of God. I’m not sitting here till the place shuts trying to convince a devote Christian that their monotheistic God is a lie.
Julie: You said to me Simon was being the ignorant one, but after this little chat I feel you’re the one exemplifying ignorance.
Simon: He said I was ignorant? Don’t make me laugh, he just didn’t have the points to support his out dated Benthamite views.
Gerard: You both out done yourself today.
John felt the discussion dragged hence he offered his farewell and left. The others also took their leave and organised another meeting in a different location. This ends this short dialogue concerning Charity, Utilitarianism and views from different perspectives. I hope this has given you an insight to Charity, Utilitarianism and your own views of these perspectives.