Friday, December 09, 2005


I teach philosophy, and I try to teach my students a level beyond the slogan -- which means that they read the real Mill, the real Kant -- some Ross and Rawls. This also means that I reject calling utilitarinism "the greatest good for the greatest number of people".... which, has put me into a kind of play dispute with a colleague... especially when a common student made my argument against their formulation in Intro to Philosophy. I kind of think she was actually a bit irritated and surprised --- although she both knew that he was in my class AND that I taught utilitarianism as "the greatest good, all persons considered".

Yesterday she was so sure that Mill's formulation was "greatest good for the greatest number of people -- and when I told her that Mill's whole theory is contradicted by "greatest good for the greatest number of people" and the resulting ambiguity -- I also challenged her to find me someplace where he actually says that.

Thing is, I knew I was right -- I'd read Mill all the way several times, I also had logic to say that it wouldn't make sense to formulate it that way. Underlying the whole thing is a kind of attitude that, somehow because I don't have a PhD -- or, that my classwork is from NE, not MN -- that I just don't quite know what I'm doing. This whole sub-text could be my own insecurity, as I'm the only MA in the department.

Funny thing is that I actually did start to review Utiitarianism -- and so did she -- and, she didn't find her formulation at all.


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