Utilitarians believe that we should maximize happiness and minimize unhappiness. Sometimes “happiness” is replaced with some other word or phrase, like “pleasure”, “utility”, “living standards”, and so on, but the claim is generally the same. Critics of utilitarianism often accuse utilitarians of being imprecise in their conception of happiness. If happiness is what matters, what makes people happy in the first place? Some utilitarians seem to smuggle in very peculiar conceptions of happiness without justifying or substantiating them. As someone with utilitarian leanings, I think the critics are owed a more comprehensive response than they’ve received, so that’s what I set out to do today.
Mahatma Gandhi died in 1948. Martin Luther King Jr. died in 1968. Now Nelson Mandela has died in 2013, and the last of the big three satyagrahi has turned out the lights, and for the first time peacefully, in his own time, rather than in response to the inescapable mandate of the bullet. This has me wondering what future role nonviolent civil resistance has to play in world affairs. Above all others, it is the Arab Israeli cause that seems to me most in need of a leader of this kind. Here’s why.
The other day, there was a terrorist attack in Woolwich, London. Lee Rigby, a drummer in the army, was attacked and stabbed by two assailants. This has brought up the subjection of the relationship between Islam and terrorism. It has also raised the question of whether or not permitting Muslim immigration leads to terrorism. Today, I’ve decided to weigh in on the whole mess.
When civil disobedience comes up, we often think of Gandhi, King, Mandela, men who are heroes to many and who fought great injustices. However, it must be recognised that civil disobedience is a tool and not an end in itself–it can be used for bad as well as good. So how does one determine when it is ethically permissible to use civil disobedience? It is a question the answers to which I frequently find unsatisfactory, so today I will attempt to unpack it myself.