Superman

Enhanced Consequentialism: Up, Up… and Away?

Last week Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal featured a fun, and genuinely thought-provoking, cartoon. Click below to see the cartoon at FULL SIZE, then come back to hear my take on it:


Poor Superman, trapped in a spiral of consequentialist logic! If one really is as powerful as Superman, then it’s no use pleading for a bit of “me time” on the grounds that one’s individual decisions don’t make that much of a difference. For Superman, it really is true that “every second of quibbling is another dead baby.” Even if we let Superman assign a little more value to his own interests and projects (such as fighting criminals) than to those of everyone else, his preferences still completely disappear in the consequentialist calculus. He might find a life of turbine-operation incredibly miserable, but the loss of good to others if he stops is just astronomically large.

Fine, you’ll say: consequentialism makes outrageous demands of comic book characters. So what? Well, I’m about to argue, the rest of us may soon become much more like Superman in this regard – and if you’re a consequentialist, you don’t get a (moral) choice in the matter.

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