The Meaning of “Utility” In The Context Of Philosophical Inquiry

I keep running into questions over the meaning of ‘utility’. It means only that all actions are in the pursuit of ends. The end might be just the emotional reward that comes from an experience like learning, or a flavor, or the elegance of a composition, or the pleasure of interacting with others. This approach, the analysis of actions and ends, avoids any number of errors in casual philosophizing. Not the least of which is confusing reactions to arbitrary norms with objective truths.

Philosophy is a process. It can be constructed an aesthetic religion as if our tastes are a truth rather than a learned response. It can, and usually is, used to construct a religion of norms: a means of coercing others to adopt the same values under the presumption of equality of abilities and desires. It can be used as a means of constructing institutions and processes so that people can cooperate despite having different abilities, desires, and norms.

(I’m avoiding the term knowledge and use the term norms, since I break knowledge into aesthetic/experiential, prescriptive/how and propositional/what categories, and it’s communicability into tacit, explicit and normative — which is why our arguments get lost: assuming it’s just one state rathe than a spectrum. Likewise, philosophy can be used to describe the spectrum of ethics from the aesthetic to the personal to the political.

But spectra emerge only in the context of action. I am never sure whether the desire to define a philosophical concept as a state rather than a spectrum is a means of coercion — of either the self or others — or as a means for AVOIDING UNDERSTANDING AND AVOIDING ACTION. Which is, for example the purpose of most religions. Hinduism, buddhism and Islam have all succeeded in calcifying because of this error.

So I am not relying on ‘utilitarianism’ as an aesethetic philosophy, which Is what I think a few people hear. I’m relying upon action as a means of avoiding errors in reasoning that come from the desire to create states rather than spectra. Where states are largely the regurgitation of static norms, and spectra allow us access to the aesthetic, normative and political. And where my interest is the political, because I do not believe it is possible to create a universal set of norms.

Not that anyone cares. But that’s why use or utility is important: as the object of action, where action is a test of our philosophical reasoning, as something other than the coercion of the self or others in order to avoid the problem of gaining knowledge by which to improve our actions, which in turn improve our experiences. Arguably this is a matter of time preference but that’s another topic altogether.

– Thanks

Leave a Reply