Desire Utilitarianism – My Problem With It

Lately, I have been thinking about what I want to do with my life. I have decided that I want to make an impact on how humans view ethical problems as a whole. In my search for an ethical theory, I came across desire utilitarianism(desirism), and at first was pretty convinced by it. But now I no longer see it as a correct ethical theory and instead believe error theory to be more plausible. Allow me to explain how I arrived at this conclusion. I haven’t concluded a sure fire moral theory to follow, but I have concluded that desirism is not it.

I believe desirism to be false because in the end it does not solve the problem of morals being objective. When it is attempted to be explained, it really doesn’t get to what is really right and what is really wrong. It attempts to explain this by saying our desires have value, and it is up to us to ‘discover’ what is right and wrong. This is where I found problems with the reasoning of desirism. Allow me to explain.

The obvious answer to this is what if I desire to murder? Wouldn’t this render desirism an impossible moral theory to follow? The general response is that our desires have good and bad reasons on why we should follow them. Can you think of a good reason to murder? Surely you can think of many bad reasons to kill. But this is just begging the question. What makes those reasons bad, and the other ones good? What if i state that the reason for murder is justified and no matter what you state can change that? In the end, this becomes a purely subjective view of the world and I feel that it doesn’t answer what is truly right and wrong.

Using this theory, we must accept that some sort of objective truth exists in the propositions that we put forth. When I state that setting puppies on fire is immoral, that proposition has some sort of ethical truth to it. But why does it have this ethical truth? Why is setting puppies on fire an immoral act? Lets examine both sides to see the outcome.

Setting puppies on fire is immoral because it is harmful to the puppies, not only is it a cruel, evil, terrible act. But the puppies would probably argue against it(presuming they could). If we examine the person lighting the puppies on fire, what gives him the right to do this? I already mentioned that it was a cruel, evil, terrible act. But what does it take for an act to be considered this? How do we not know if petting those puppies is an evil, cruel, terrible act? What constitutes an act to be considered evil, cruel and terrible? How do we know that’s what constitutes it? How do we know that it’s not morally acceptable since the person burning the puppies is fulfilling his desire to do so? How do we know that does not outweigh all of the other desires against it? These questions are simply impossible to answer under this moral theory, and the problem that this moral theory proclaims to solve is simply false.

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