Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pig Philosophy Is Best Left Up To Pigs

There was once a very busy farmer named Farmer Ben. Farmer Ben lived and worked on a big farm with rolling hills, a big red barn, and lots of animals. Every morning, Farmer Ben would wake up before the sun and get ready for his day. Farmer Ben’s wife, Mrs. Ben, would make him breakfast using fresh things from the farm that Farmer Ben had collected the day before--including fresh eggs and fresh milk.

Everyday, Farmer Ben had very many chores to attend to. Farmer Ben had to feed all the farm animals, collect eggs, and milk the cows. He also had to clean all the farm animals’ roosts, pens, stalls, and other animal homes. After working in the hot sun all day caring for the animals as well as doing other chores around the farm, Farmer Ben was tired!

Farmer Ben had a son, Joe, who was away at college studying philosophy; it was only his first semester. One night, while on the phone with Joe, Farmer Ben learned about what his son called a “Calculus of Felicity.” As Joe explained the theory, Farmer Ben listened intently. He learned that according to a philosopher named Jeremy Bentham, one can determine if one’s actions are morally right by how much pleasure is derived from the actions. Joe went on to explain detailed methods of measuring pleasure.

The next day, Farmer Ben woke up before the sunrise and began his day. It was midsummer, and by late morning, it was already quite hot outside. Farmer Ben was wearing his big straw hat to keep the sun out of his eyes, but he was very hot.

As Farmer Ben went about his farm chores, he noticed the pigs lolling about in the mud. Farmer Ben paused and wondered what it would be like to have nothing to do but roll around in the cool mud. Farmer Ben decided that it would make him very happy to lounge in the mud with the pigs instead of spending the day in the hot sun doing his chores. Happily, Farmer Ben also remembered what Joe had told him the previous night about philosophy.

Farmer Ben spent a leisurely day rolling, napping, and idling about in the mud with the pigs. Farmer Ben did not get any of his chores finished.

When evening came, Farmer Ben went inside to see what Mrs. Ben had made him for dinner. Mrs. Ben was appalled to discover Farmer Ben covered in mud.

“What happened?” She exclaimed. “And where are the eggs? Where is the milk?”

Farmer Ben patiently explained to his wife about this newly learned philosophy. He explained that, although he had not accomplished his chores, what he had done was to be considered "morally right" because of the Felicity Calculus.

“Oh, you ridiculous man!" Mrs. Ben exclaimed. "Don’t you see? Pig philosophy is best left up to pigs!”

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Whoever supposes that this preference takes place at a sacrifice of happiness- that the superior being, in anything like equal circumstances, is not happier than the inferior- confounds the two very different ideas, of happiness, and content. It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low, has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect. But he can learn to bear its imperfections, if they are at all bearable; and they will not make him envy the being who is indeed unconscious of the imperfections, but only because he feels not at all the good which those imperfections qualify. It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides. ~from UTILITARIANISM by John Stuart Mill

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