Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Common Good

“The common good” (or “the public interest”) is an undefined and undefinable concept: there is no such entity as “the tribe” or “the public”; the tribe (or the public or society) is only a number of individual men. Nothing can be good for the tribe as such; “good” and “value” pertain only to a living organism—to an individual living organism—not to a disembodied aggregate of relationships.

When “the common good” of a society is regarded as something apart from and superior to the individual good of its members, it means that the good of some men takes precedence over the good of others, with those others consigned to the status of sacrificial animals. What makes the victims accept it, and permit a society to perpetrate a moral atrocity of that kind?

The answer lies in philosophy. In philosophical theories on the nature of moral values.


Ayn Rand

2 comments:

Engin Kurutepe said...

This is a huge pile of simplistic crap. Of course, it is possible to define a common good. For instance: Let every member of society have their own independent utility function. Then "the common good" is the course of action that maximizes the sum of the utility functions over all members of that society. Some members of the society will have a smaller utility (read less happy) as a result of this course of action but the overall utility (read happiness) of the society will increase.

Ahmet C. Toker said...

as a scientist, you should reserve such definitive claims in my humble opinion.

there are three questions, i myself cannot answer, that are relevant to your response, two being mathematical and one being ethical.

first of all, when developing such a model, it should be asked if the the set of utilities you are talking about admits the sum operation. in other words, does me being happy and you being happy makes us happy too? in our case yes, but i am not sure if this is true for all the utility maximizing agents for which you define your total utility.

secondly, even if addition is possible, some decisions may lead to negative utility, meaning being sad. how do you account for that?

lastly, the ethical question is the following. how do you, or who define this function, justify to the agents that they should prefer this utility function to their own. and this excerpt is related more to this aspect.

in my opinion, the principle of no coercion should be considered. that is it should be up to the agents to decide if it makes sense for them to join the group, and prefer the total sum rather than their own.