Human-ities · Philosophy · Science · Vital-Edible-Health

The Morality Pill

Writing in the New York Times, Peter Singer and Agata Sagan ask “Are We Ready for a ‘Morality Pill’?” I dunno. Why?

The infamous Milgram and Stanford Prison experiments showed that given the right circumstances, most of us act monstrously. Indeed, given pretty mundane circumstances, most of us will act pretty callously, hustling past people in urgent need in simply to avoid the hassle. But not all of us do this. Some folks do the right thing anyway, even when it’s not easy. Singer and Sagan speculate that something special must be going on in those peoples’ brains. So maybe we can figure out what that is and put it in a pill!

If continuing brain research does in fact show biochemical differences between the brains of those who help others and the brains of those who do not, could this lead to a “morality pill” — a drug that makes us more likely to help?

The answer is: no. And I think the question invites confusion. Morality is not exhausted by helping. Anyway, help do what?

Singer is perhaps the world’s most famous utilitarian, so maybe he’s got “help people feel more pleasure and less pain” in mind. Since utilitarianism is monomaniacally focused on how people feel, it can be tempting for utilitarians to see sympathy and the drive to ease suffering as the principal moral sentiments. But utilitarianism does not actually prescribe that we should be motivated to minimize suffering and maximize happiness. It tells us to do whatever minimizes suffering and maximizes happiness. It’s possible that wanting to help and trying to help doesn’t much help in this sense.

Written by Will Wilkinson, Big Think. Continue HERE

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