Happiness is the concern both to the public and the philosophers. But the contradiction of individual happiness and the collective happiness is always the argument in many theories. In the view of Utilitarianism, collective happiness should be in the most significant status. In order to achieve this aim, it is worthy to sacrifice the minority’s individual happiness. But whether that is the most efficient and effective way? And in such a circumstance, whether the individual happiness can be fulfilled?
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The essay is talking about that under the points of Utilitarianism; the social aim is to achieve a greatest happiness for a greatest number of people. And according to this guide, as long as the action can lead to a good outcome, this action should be agreed and protected, even that is an action of killing innocent people. However, to be a human being living in such a society; the individual happiness cannot be remained because of the demand from the whole society.
On the other hand, the individual happiness is the personal business which did not related with the collective happiness according to Chuang Tzu. The changes happened in outside world, no matter good or bad, are just the nature course of development. The individual wills and power cannot change it at all.
The theory of Utilitarianism is talking to achieve the collective happiness, while Chuang Tzu focused on the individual happiness. But both of them are too extremely to peruse the one and abandon the other one. However there is no an original contradiction between these two happiness. The crux in it is the different understanding of the concept of collective happiness as well as the freedom to choose a happy life for individuality.
In summary, there is no conflict between the collective happiness and individual happiness, and the freedom to choose constitute a part of human happiness, which will in turn help construct a happy society.
The case of two patients
According to the points from John Harris (1975), “let us support that organ transplant procedures have been perfected; in such circumstances if two dying patients could be saved by organ transplants then”, and these two patients named Y needs a new heart and Z needs a new lung.
If a doctor cannot save the patients because of no spare organs in stock, no one will blame the doctor.
“If there are no spare organs in stock and none otherwise available, the doctors have no choice; they cannot save their patients and so must let them die. In this case we would be disinclined to say that the doctors are in any sense the cause of their patients’ deaths.” (Harris, 1975)
But if a doctor didn’t save the patients in the situation of that there are other organs available. Everyone will criticize the doctor for his activity just like he has shot the patients dead.
“If surgeons have the requisite organs in stock and no other needy patients, but nevertheless allow their patients to die, we would be inclined to say, and be justified in saying, that the patients died because the doctors refused to save them.” (Harris, 1975)
These situations always happen in reality; everyone will make decisions and make some judgments following the common sense. But supposing that patients Y and Z own a chance to argue for their lives, they insist that the doctor should kill another healthy people to get the new organs for them. Although obviously that breaks the law, it is really a reasonable account in the side of the patients.
“They point out that if just one healthy person were to be killed his organs could be removed and both of them be saved. We and the doctors would probably be alike in thinking that such a step, while technically possible, would be out the question.” (Harris, 1975)
In the whole process, all of the steps seem to be justifiable. But we can find the contradiction in the difference between “killing and letting die”.
The analysis of this case from the view of utilitarianism
There are three core ideas in the theory of utilitarianism; the first one is the “consequentialism”.
According to this first core idea, consequences are the unique standard to determine whether the activities are right or wrong. Therefore, killing people will become an action can be considered for the “correct reason”.
“There are a great many people believe that whether an action is right or wrong depends upon its consequences. So what makes something like killing another person wrong is that it is an act with a very bad consequence.” (Driver, 2006)
Back to the case of those two patients, the doctor killing a healthy people for the reason to save another two persons. The purpose of killing is to save life, so that the action of killing people is totally right and necessary.
And in the view of utilitarianism, it suggests that we should do the things to purchase “the best consequence” which will have the best effects for the most people in the collectivity. Following this logic, doctor should and must kill the third the one to maintain the lives of his two patients because the number of two is greater than one. Saving two lives is meaningful to lead a good consequence, and killing one people to save another two is worthy.
On the other hand, the principle of utility from the view of Bentham is also the basic of the theory utilitarianism. And both law and the individuals’ actions should be scrutinized according to this principle.
“By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves of every action whatever, according to the tendency which it appears to have augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question; orâ€¦to promote or to oppose that happiness.” (Driver, 2006)
As the result, happiness or pleasure is the basic good in this theory, and it is also the intrinsic value; but “what has intrinsic disvalue is pain-that is the basic bad.” (Driver, 2006) And according the view from Bentham, the pleasure or happiness can be measured along with the following parameters:
“Purity (how much pain is accompanied by it);
Intensity (degree of pleasure);
Duration (how long it will last);
Fruitfulness (ability to produce further pleasure);
Likelihood of any act to produce it (probability of an action’s bringing about the expected consequence.)” (Driver, 2006)
Back to the two patients case again, using the elements to calculate that whether it will lead to a pleasure or a pain.
Purity & Intensity: although one life will be lose in the process to save the two patients, but the pleasure of the two patients alive is great than the pain to lost one life.
What’s more, saving the two lives, their lives will be extended by sacrificing the other one, and they can create more happiness and pleasure in the rest of lives, which is what they expect. Therefore the other elements are totally matched.
Under the logic of utilitarianism, a doctor killing a healthy and innocent people to save his patients is the action can be calculated to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people and avoid the pain.
We can treat this case happened in a society which just has four persons-the two patients, the doctor as well as the healthy and innocent people. However this situation can be extended to the real society. Support that the whole society is a big machine which was consisted of many different components. Once some components were destroyed, and sacrificed the other one can fix these problems, we should absolutely abandon this one to maintain the whole. That is the reason in the utilitarianism to scarify the minority to achieve the majority’s happiness or pleasure. That will also construct a good society as Bentham described.
“A good society” is constructed according to the logic of utilitarianism
The definition of a good society
Human being always consider to build a good society in which each people can perform his/her strengths in a professional scope; and then the society will be developed and consolidated in a high degree cooperation. For instance, a man who has talent in learning and running, but his ability of learning is better than running, while he like running more than learning. As the result, in order to make the best effect to the society and earn the most for him, this man should stay in university to be a professor rather than take part in the Olympic Game to be an athlete.
From the view of utilitarianism, that is the most efficient and effective way to fulfill the aim to build a good society. Because everyone in the society will have their own talent, as long as people can be in a status which is match with their strengths, that will make the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Otherwise, live in the circumstance like that; people can earn their most happiness or pleasure. Back to the choice of that man, if he prefers an athlete to a professor, that will diminish the positive effect to the society and go against the principle of utility.
But there may be a contradiction between the individual’s strength and the personal choice. Maybe someone’s favorites are not the things which he is good at. That is a dilemma for us-whether to choose the favorite or the strength? Following the logic of Utilitarianism, we should choose to develop in the scope of our strength rather than our favorite, because that will contribute to the collectivity, and construct a good society.
The human being living in such a society
Living in such a good society, everyone will have their own status, just like a component working in a big machine. Although it will make the machine work smoothly, it also makes the component lose its existence value. Because when there are some new or more valuable components appear, or other parts have some problems which need the component to scarify to fix, this single one will be put away.
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That will be ok in a machine, but talking about the reality, it will produce lots of social problems. Also use that man as an example; he is good at learning and running, and he should choose to be a professor because he is more talent in learning than running. In order to make the society gain the maximum happiness, he have to spent all his time in learning but not any other things. This is acceptable in Utilitarianism, as well as the view from consequentialism.
Although it will lead to a good consequence, the individual engage in it will become a component working in the big machine which represents the collectivity, and lose his personality, but just passively contribute himself. Give an example about that, the man spent his life to study and finally became a professor to make a greatest happiness for the collectivity, but he know nothing except learning. If he is replaced by others or there is no need of professors for the further development, this man will be abandoned because of the principle of utility. What’s more, though this man’s favorite is running, but for the purpose to achieve the aim of a good society, he have to choose to learn as his life career. And that is the individual’s cost for the good society.
But we have to ask whether that is the unique definition of a good society? And whether there must be a contradiction between a good society and personal choice as well as individual development?
Personal happiness in the view of individuality from Chuang Tzu
Relative happiness and absolute happiness
According to Chuang Tzu’s theory about individuality, happiness can be divided into two different concepts; the first one is relative happiness while the other one is absolute happiness.
Relative happiness will come true when someone follows one’s nature which is various from different individuals. This happiness is non-controllable because it depends on the circumstance which including nature environment as well as human condition. Therefore, each one’s happiness is unique, no one should impose his or her likes and dislikes on others.
“Happiness is relative to the nature of each being: what may be happiness for the marquis is not the necessarily happiness for a bird; what is happiness for the duck is not happiness for the crane.” (Imamichi, Wong, & Liu, 1998)
However there are many ways in which freedom can be obstructed, for the reason that one’s happiness is not always within one’s own control.
On the other hand, although the relative happiness is out of individual’s control, human being can also pursue the absolute happiness. The general conditions to achieve this goal is that we have proper understanding of the nature of things as well as unaffected by external things or changes as it not dependent upon them. In a word, that required us to follow the nature, but identify the nature firstly.
“There is another line of Taoist thought, however, which emphasizes the relativity of the nature of things and the identification of man with the universe. To achieve this identification, man needs knowledge and understanding of still a higher level, and the happiness resulting from this identification is really absolute happiness.” (Fung, 1960)
According to Chuang Tzu, there are two ways to achieve the absolute happiness, that is the forget(å¿˜) and understand(åŒ-), and that is also the attitude to the outside world. This attitude insists the external factors are not regarded as significant. As a result we will not be affected by the changes of the world. Furthermore, changes, good or bad from the outside society are accepted as part of the natural course of development, so that the individual activities and happiness will not and should not be affected by the outside society.
“He is absolutely happy, because he transcends the ordinary distinctions of things. He also transcends the distinction between the self and the world, the ‘me’ and the ‘non-me.’ Therefore he has no self.â€¦He may rule the whole world, but his rule consists of just leaving mankind alone, and letting everyone exercise his own natural ability fully and freely.” (Fung, 1960)
In conclusion, Chuang Tzu’s theory insists that happiness is totally an individual business. If someone’s happiness has to depend on something, that’s just a relative happiness, because this man cannot control or change his own relative happiness. However, in a society, everything is related with the nature development, therefore, the absolute happiness just can come true in the condition of staying alone and living far away from the collectivity.
A contradiction or a combination
There is an obvious diversity between the ideas in Utilitarianism and Chuang Tzu. The theory of Utilitarianism focuses on the collective happiness which can be extended to the individual scope. While according to the view from Chuang Tzu, individual happiness will be achieved by personal choose, but no related with the collective happiness and the outside world changing.
Use the man talented in learning and running to explain the difference between these two theories. On the basis of Utilitarianism, even this man prefer running to learning, he still should choose to learn to be a professor for the reason that this will make the a greatest happiness for the whole society. But it ignores his individual happiness.
Besides, according to the principle from Chuang Tzu, this man should prefer to be an athlete because of his talent and interested. Even his choice will make less happiness for the society than to be a professor; he should persist in it as usual. Because no matter the society become good or bad is the nature development for individual, this should not and cannot be influenced by the personal choice, ever worse to scarify the personal happiness to satisfy the social development.
The theory of Utilitarianism treats the individual happiness and the collective happiness is completely a contradiction, and requires one to scarify itself to realize the other one. But from the points of Chuang Tzu, actually there is no relationship between individual and collectivity; individual person should be loyal to his or her interest and happiness and let alone the social development which is just the nature course.
The first theory treats the individual happiness and collective happiness is entirety. But the collective happiness should be put on a more important status, and the individual persons living in it is just in the status to cooperate and service for the whole society. There is a separation in the process, once there is an interest conflict between them; the individual will be given up for certain.
And that is the opposing view from Chuang Tzu; individual person and collectivity is totally different and irrelevant. Although this theory gives a specific definition about the individual happiness, it makes them separate from the whole society. And there is some objective voice for this theory. If an individual person lives outside the society, he or she will lose his or her social connection and social function. That makes the individual person cannot achieve his or her happiness without a specific social circumstances.
Therefore, no matter describing these two kinds of happiness as a contradiction or treating them as two independent units, there is an alternative. But there is no original contradiction between two of them, the combination of them should be an appropriate way to be consider and achieve the win-win outcome.
Happiness cannot be calculated by adding the number of lives
Happiness is the consequence what human being pursues for; but there is no a specific definition of happiness. In the case of those two patients, happiness means a greater number of lives and longer lives. As the result, it is worthy to sacrifice another one to save their lives.
But that will bring out another problem. If these two patients are old people, even a successful organ transplant surgery can just give them a few years of life. And unfortunately, the doctor killed a young people to gain his organs. Whether it is still a happy ending of this case?
“It might of course be objected that it is likely that more old people will need transplants to prolong their lives than will the young, and so the scheme would inevitably lead to a society dominated by the old.” (Harris, 1975)
In the situation like that, the formula of happiness is not feasible. Although a greater number of lives will remain, there is another problem come along come with it–whether the number of lives will equal to the value which these lives can create? Does the productivity of elderly people correspond to the younger people?
Obviously, human being cannot be measured by the value they create. No matter the number of life or the value of life can not represent the greatest happiness which the theory of Utilitarianism talking about. Because each people in the society are unique, the value of this life is incomparable.
As the result, the happiness cannot be measured by the number of lives in a society.
The freedom to choose constitutes a part of human happiness, which will in turn help construct a happy society.
The freedom to choose is a part of personality as well as a part of individual happiness. In the case of those two patients, both the doctor and the innocent have no choice because of saving the two dying patients. That is the same with the talented man. Superficially the man has free choices, but under the requirement of a greatest happiness, actually this man can just choose to be a professor to create the most goods for the society. In a word, that is no choice.
According to the view of the Chuang Tzu, the freedom of individual people should be protected because that did not relate to any other one or the outside world which is considered the nature course of development.
Although both of the ideas from these two theories seem too extreme, they also can give us a concept about collective happiness and individual happiness. Thinking too much about the collective interest and happiness will make the individual lose their freedom to choose. This will construct a society in which the individual people have to shoulder a heavy burden, because he or she cannot freely plan his or her life, but have to follow the social demand. Or the people living in such a society will be the next one to be victims to sacrifice for the collective happiness that will make individual people live in a nervous circumstance.
In addition, individual happiness cannot be achieved without interacting with others in the society. Because only in the society and the relationship among people can create the circumstance for the people to plan their lives and fulfill the individual happiness.
There is no conflict between the individual happiness and the collective happiness
The individual happiness and the collective happiness are closed connected; each of them cannot be come true without the other one.
In general idea, a collective happiness is represented by the amount of wealthy and the quality of people’s life. But that is just one elements of happiness, the other one as well as the more significant one is the freedom choice of the individual person. Although the freedom choice of person may not maintain the wealthy of the whole society, it will guarantee the quality of life which has divers understanding of different people. Also using the talented man as an instance, if this man has the freedom to choose what he really wants but not to follow the demand of the society, this will lead him to reach the maximum individual happiness. If this man chooses to be an athlete and join in the Olympic Game, maybe he can never be a champion, but the process to achieve this dream is the greatest happiness for this man. What’s more, that is also the process to constitute the collective happiness.
In a word, the freedom to choose and fulfill individual happiness can also construct a happiness society. The happiness here is so different from the general happiness. This happiness cannot be calculated by the number of lives and the amount of social wealthy, but was accumulated by the individual happiness. And that is also the most stable and developed happiness both to collectivity and individuality.
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