This web site is home to the internet based organisation called utilitarian.org - the aims and objectives of which will be made clear later. But first, a few questions.
Newcomers, or those who need reminding, might like to know: what is utility?, or what makes someone a utilitarian?, or what is utilitarianism? These are easy questions, and they are answered here, in many standard philosophical texts, and elsewhere. But, even knowing these things, we may not know - what is more important - how does a utilitarian live? What lifestyles are compatible with maximal utility? What does a utilitarian actually do? (And, perhaps, how does this differ from what he ought do?)
One of the key ideas being promoted here is the large degree of altruism implied by utilitarianism - altruism not only in an abstract philosophical sense, but real and concrete altruism: actually going out and doing things to help others. (I have attempted to describe why utilitarianism - when properly applied - is practically indistinguishable from complete altruism in two papers: Altruism and Altruism Revisited.) To that end, though this site will contain both theoretical and practical components, it is the essentially practical questions that will form the focus of our efforts.
The people who shape the world - the politicians, the business leaders, and others - often have little idea of what they ought to do. We philosophers, who claim to know what ought to be done, often actually do nothing! Those who do, do not know; those who know, do not do!
This ought to change! There should be a new group of people, who are willing to do all types of work: to wade through a lengthy and difficult philosophical text, and then to get their hands dirty mucking out the animals in the local sanctuary! (Or whichever practical projects they decide to support.)
To this end, utilitarian.org will host a series of practical project proposals. Projects will be analysed in terms of their expected utility value, difficulty, effort and resources required etc, by discussion amongst utilitarians. (An email list is provided for this purpose.) And, when we feel reasonably confident of the best of our options, as a group or individually, we will carry them out.
Initial project ideas include:
These are good ideas. The only valid reason we could have for not implementing these projects is that we are already too busy on even more worthwhile tasks. Complacency and laziness are not conformable to utility!
So the main purpose of this site is not to discuss what utilitarianism is, but to suggest (something which is often covered less well) what the results of applying it are. It will hopefully be a call to action! - an invitation to all "armchair-philosophers" to leave their comfortable seating, to get up, out, and to make the world a better place.
A selection of short papers:
If you wish to get involved, submit an article, question, opinion, advice, clip-art, or whatever, please send us mail.
Site created September 1999.
Last update 22nd August 2000.
utilitarian.org is affiliated to utilitarianism.org - with thanks to Dave Pearce for technical, financial, and moral support!