It’s Teleology All the Way Down (Blogathon 4/12)

This post is number four of twelve for the Secular Student Alliance Blogathon.  I’m responding to comments in the “Go Ahead, Tell Me What’s Wrong with Homosexuality” thread all day.  You can read an explanation of the Blogathon and a pitch for donations (even if you’re religious) here.

And now to disagree with someone who’s technically on my side (kind of). Smrda wrote:

I find utilitarian ethics perfectly satisfying – if an action doesn’t produce a victim, then it isn’t wrong. If a relationship makes people happy and nobody is being oppressed, go for it.

Your idea of taking a ‘disinterested point of view’ and seeing what in accordance with flourishing is no such thing – you are clearly invested in a particular perspective and its assumptions about what ‘flourishing’ entails are shaping how you perceive human relationships.

Previously, commenters have accused every moral system being utilitarianism in disguise, with varying definitions of the utils we’re trying to maximize.  I’d like to turn the tables on Smrda.  If you think people can be mistaken about what makes them happy, or that they can substitute a lower pleasure for a higher one, then you can’t accept “happy people not oppressing others” as the best goal.

Trying to figure what will make people happy is at least as hard as figuring out what will make them flourish, and it’s a lot less fortified against questions about duties to ourselves and obligations against self harm.

Books that Change the Way You Think [Radio Readings]
Learning Math Adds Up to Good Citizenship
Of Morality and Mandelbrot [Pope Francis Bookclub]
Some Tools for Failing to Live Perfectly Well
About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."