Goodness (was Re: [Advaita-l] 'End' not 'Means')

Ram Garib garib_ram at
Sun Apr 30 05:44:43 CDT 2006

Namaste Sri Jayanarayanan. I went through your series
on mimamsa and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, here I
would like to take some of your arguments against
utilitarian theory of ethics:
> You appear to be saying that good = something that
> gives pleasure or
> that which helps preseve one's body. etc.
> This is called the "utilitarian theory of ethics",
> and is indeed the
> most common worldly view.
> According to this view:
> 1) Free Fornication is a good thing.
> 2) Eating dead bodies as they are a source of
> vitamins, minerals and
> proteins is a good thing.
> 3) But studying the Vedas does not result in any
> directly perceptible
> utility and is therefore "useless".

The above seems to me more like a trivialization of
utilitarian theory. I will try to construct an ethical
behaviour on the above using utilitarian theory.

1) Free fornication can result in the dissolution of
family life and the happiness associated with it.
Therefore, it is unethical from utilitarian point of

2) Eating dead bodies offends our innate sense of
beauty and of those around us and creates a natural
repulsion among the substantial population of humanity
and is therefore unethical from utilitarian point of

3) studying veda-s gives one spiritual happiness and
is therefore ethical from utilitarian point of view.

I do not want to suggest that utilitarian theory of
ethics does not have its problems, however it
certainly carries more depth to it than what could be
demolished by superficial examples. Overall, it does
not seem to fare any better or worse than any other

Secondly, let me point out that scripture based ethics
is also not without its problems. Scripture based
ethics might suggest you that people like me who do
not believe in the authority of veda-s (or any other
scriptures) would be in a state of utter spiritual
confusion in regard to what is right and wrong. Let me
assure you that for the most part I do not find myself
faring substantially worse in matters of ethics
compared to those who believe in the authority of

Thirdly, it can be demonstrated that a very
substantial portion of our ethical choices are decided
intuitively without any recourse to utilitarian theory
or veda-s. For more complex issues of ethical
decision, bottom line seems to be pretty bland and
unexciting. It is usually in form of a broad consensus
 or majority wins. It is philosophically irrelevant
whether the consensus is on veda-s or utilitarianism.
As far as this discussion is concerned it might be
interesting to note that, this consensus has not been
a static phenomenon and seems to be evolving over

With regards,
Ram Garib  

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