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《经济学人》:实用主义者并非好人

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Moral philosophy
道德哲学

Goodness has nothing to do with it
无关善良

Utilitarians are not nice people
实用主义者并非好人

Sep 24th 2011 | from the print edition

IN THE grand scheme of things Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill are normally thought of as good guys. Between them, they came up with the ethical theory known as utilitarianism. The goal of this theory is encapsulated in Bentham’s aphorism that “the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.”

大体来看,约翰•穆勒和杰里米•边沁通常是被看做好人,因为这二者设想建立了叫做实用主义的一种道德理论。这一理论的意义就深藏在边沁的一句格言中:道德与法律的根本在于大多数人的最大程度上的幸福。

Which all sounds fine and dandy until you start applying it to particular cases. A utilitarian, for example, might approve of the occasional torture of suspected terrorists—for the greater happiness of everyone else, you understand. That type of observation has led Daniel Bartels at Columbia University and David Pizarro at Cornell to ask what sort of people actually do have a utilitarian outlook on life. Their answers, just published in Cognition, are not comfortable.

这些听起来真是完美无瑕,但当你开始将其应用在某一特殊案例中,完美理论就瓦解了,比如说,一个实用主义者或许会认可对恐怖主义嫌疑分子做一些拷问折磨,为了每个人最大程度的幸福,当然你会理解。此种观察引起哥伦比亚大学的Daniel Bartels和康纳尔大学的David Pizarro二位学者的疑问:怎样的人群是真正抱有实用主义的人生观?而二人在《认知》杂志上揭晓出的答案让人不太舒服。

One of the classic techniques used to measure a person’s willingness to behave in a utilitarian way is known as trolleyology. The subject of the study is challenged with thought experiments involving a runaway railway trolley or train carriage. All involve choices, each of which leads to people’s deaths. For example: there are five railway workmen in the path of a runaway carriage. The men will surely be killed unless the subject of the experiment, a bystander in the story, does something. The subject is told he is on a bridge over the tracks. Next to him is a big, heavy stranger. The subject is informed that his own body would be too light to stop the train, but that if he pushes the stranger onto the tracks, the stranger’s large body will stop the train and save the five lives. That, unfortunately, would kill the stranger.

检测人们选择实用主义地办事的意愿如何有一个经典的方法,叫做“电车学”。该研究的主体要受到一些思维实验的考验,是有关一列运行中的有轨电车或是火车。但它们都涉及抉择,而且任选其一都无法避免死亡。举个例子,在火车前方的铁轨上有5个铁路工人,火车正在前进,这些人必死无疑除非实验主体即故事中的旁观者不袖手旁观。设定他站在铁道上的一座桥上,站在他旁边的是一个巨胖的陌生人,而他自己无力阻止列车前行;但是如果他把那个陌生人退下去,此人的巨大身体会阻拦住列车从而就拯救了五条人命。不幸的是,这也会使这个陌生人丧生。

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