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27 MIN READ TIME

You Kant be Serious

(Originally published in the May 2018 issue of Scientific American)

WOULD YOU CUT OFF YOUR OWN LEG IF IT WAS THE only way to save another person’s life? Would you torture someone if you thought it would result in information that would prevent a bomb from exploding and killing hundreds of people? Would you politically oppress a people for a limited time if it increased the overall well-being of the citizenry? If you answered in the affirmative to these questions, then you might be a utilitarian, the moral system founded by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and encapsulated in the principle of “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

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