I remember an undergrad. who did his final year dissertation on the practicality of Utilitarianism:1 his idea was that he would live for a week as a Utilitarian and then report on his experiences. He happened to be in one of my ethics discussion groups in the same year, and the reactions when he told us about his dissertation project tended towards a faint sense of unreality, almost as though he’d announced that he’d be experimenting with living as a doomsday cultist or a conspiracy theorist. (It probably didn’t help the cause of Utilitarian moral philosophy that he was planning to keep it strictly secret which was the week of the experiment, so as to prevent people’s taking advantage of his temporary commitment to promoting the greatest happiness of the greatest number.)
Perhaps the people planning to ‘live like a Roman Emperor’ at Exeter’s ‘Stoic Week’ have enjoyed less incredulous reactions. Though I wonder what it might signify if they have...
- His original plan was to attempt a comparative experimental study of Utilitarianism and Kantianism, before he scaled down his ambitions. ↩
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