Thursday, November 19, 2009

Truth and Utility

(this post is for extra credit)

Recently in a class discussion we talked about what things in a society are necessary for that society to function. The question can be taken one step further: what things in society are absolutely necessary for a global society to function? More specifically, what universals are necessary for our inter-societal exchanges (such as commerce, communication, etc.) to function?

I think that all societies value at least two things (it does not matter if they have knowledge of these things): truth and utility. Further, truth and utility are necessary for inter societal exchanges to work. Truth is easy to explain as being necessary to and valued by societies and relationships between societies (on a global scale). Societies value truth because without truth or honesty, relationships would break down because such relationships require truth. Less circularly, without truth or honesty, we would have no reason to believe or value anything (i.e. no reason to believe a teacher, friend, doctor, business, vendor, product, etc.). The more specific reasons as to why truth is required vary like opinions: philosopher Kant would say that it would be contradictory (irrational) for a society not to place any value on truth; Hume might say that truth is very useful, thus it pleases us, and we do or like things that please us.

Utility is the second requisite that I believe is necessary for a society or a global society to function. Utility is more than just hedonistic pleasure (which is a common conception); it is usfulness, satisfaction, desirability... Economists say that utility varies from person to person, but that it is very important; it is our preferences. (It is important to point out that democracy/peace does not equal a quest for profits.) Without utility, people, and on a larger scale societies would have no reason to interact with one another, because there would be no derivation of utility.

-Stefan Larson

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