Greater good or individual right (Bentham or Rawls)?

Bentham posited that: 

"It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong."

(More commonly, in the parlance of Star Trek: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.")

On the other hand, Rawls has posited that:

"Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many. Therefore in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled; the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests."

Which of these philosophers do you agree with, and why?

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Im not so good with this stuff but I'll give it a shot:

I chose Bentham - The Greater Good

My example: Rape is normal behaviour but its society who decides whether its acceptable.

Rapists may remain unpunished in the greater good scenario. If convicting someone of rape would trigger mass rioting and death, the greater good dictates that it be avoided.

Also, where do you live where rape is normal behavior?! I am not aware of any society in history where people could go around raping each other unpunished. 


Hi Arcus

Rape is not acceptable in any society that I know of because there are laws against it. Society deems it destructive and undesirable.

 As uncomfortable as a lot aggressive human behaviour makes us feel, its human and its normal. Thats why we have laws.

Humans are animals and if we arent controlled we start to act on it.

I think by definition all human behavior can be classified as human behavior. However, I would object to classifying rape as "normal" just because it is part of human behavior. I could just as easily argue that laws prohibiting rape is "normal" and part of human behavior, since we agree that every society has laws against it.

Isn't it more accurate to say that rape is generally considered anti-social behavior that society abhors to the point of punishing harshly?


Thats right every state has laws against it because its what people do - a lot.

The reason we dont have a law that say humans arent allowed to steal clouds is because it doesnt happen. Humans dont steal them.

I imagine the main crimes of prisoners on death row would be murder and rape.

I'm sticking with normal human behaviour.

I loved your huge cat by the way Arcus - He is a very nice.





"Normal" is a silly putty word that can mean a lot of different and sometimes incompatible things, which means two sides of an issue can use it. I suggest not using or arguing over that word.

Here's what I mean: "normal" has a sense of conforming to a norm ("norm" in this case meaning something we want to promote as good or healthy), but another sense that something is common enough to take note of. If you go to, you'll find a number of different definitions. This allows for people talking past each other on any issue where normality is brought up. For example:

Most people aren't homosexual. Only about 10%. From a statistical point of view, then, homosexuality is abnormal, which allows anti-gays to use normality as an argument against them. However, it's common enough and not thought pathological by the psychologists, so it's as normal as having red hair or being lefthanded from that point of view.

As for rape, while most would agree that rape isn't normal behavior (isn't behavior we want to promote), it's normal for a certain percentage of any population to be rapists.

Most people (60%) are Asian.  From a statistical point of view, then, non-asian humans are abnormal.


No - it has nothing to do with statistics.

Asian people and non- asian people are normal.

If rape were made legal tomorrow, do you think that more people would start doing it?


Thats right It isnt behaviour that we want to promote because the greater society says no.

It intereferes with our yuk factor.

I have to admire your pluck, entering into a philosophical debate with people who appear to have the background to discuss this matter. Expect to get bruised but expect to learn as well. 

I don't think the two positions are incoherent

I agree, the two positions work together to form a system that creates justice for both individuals and society as a whole.



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