Steady State Economy / Steady State Herald

The Futility of Utility

Posted On: Oct 21, 2020   |   Posted By: Steady State

The Futility of Utility

By Brian Snyder
Science, including social science, cannot be normative. That is, it cannot tell us how we should act. It can predict the consequences of our actions, but should questions are ethical questions. Science is an epistemology-the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of knowledge-for studying observable phenomena. As such, it can describe behavior, but it cannot prescribe behavior.
Prescribing behavior, whether personal behavior or public policy, requires ethics, another branch of philosophy. There are two basic ethical systems we rely on: deontological and utilitarian. Deontological ethics are rule-based. An action is right or wrong based on if it follows some rule. Among philosophers, Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative is the most famous example of a deontological ethic, but such ethics have ancient origins. “Thou shall not kill” is a deontological ethic as is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The alternative is utilitarianism, developed formally by Jeremy Bentham...

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