Tuesday 25 August 2009

The Futility of Utility

The whole problem with Utilitarianism as a system of values is that it is deeply rooted in the mindset of the English middle classes during the high noon of the Industrial Revolution. It has, as Karl Marx rightly observed in Das Kapital, no real historical dynamism, that it cannot transcend time and place, and it cannot account for changing values and needs. The perfect Benthamite might very well be said to be the figure of Thomas Gradgrind in Charles Dicken's novel Hard Times, relentless in his demand for facts, and only facts. And I can think of no more damming critiqe than that penned by Nietzsche-If we have our own why in life, we shall get along with almost any how. Man does not strive for pleasure; only the Englishman does. This, in my view, might very well serve as an epitaph for the whole Utilitarian movement!

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