t on Tue, 30 Mar 1999 13:27:29 +0200

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Syndicate: "true victims" - Michael Benson's logi

I mentionned the emphasis on utilitarian ethics: Michael Benson's mail
gives a good example. He demands "empathy" with the "true victims".

Empathy is not a basis for moral judgement: however, utilitarianism is
defined by the claim that it is. In Bentham's original version, moral
judgements should be taken from the point of view of a fictional
"empathic observer". This "observer" would add up all the emotions of
all the people affected, and make a decision beased on this net result.

However, in the political use of this type of ethics, it is necessary to
claim suffering. So first it is necessary to specify atrocities in a
particular way. The anti-abortionists using photos of Auschwitz, are a
typical example. Another good example is the libertarian Rummel, who
adds up all genocides, and says they were all committed by "The

In turn, political opponents (in this type of dialogue) try to
disidentify suffering. So Michael Benson's distinction between "victims"
and "true victims" is a product of this underlying utilitarian approach.
Don't forget, although not many people know Bentham's name, he is one of
the most influentiual western philosophers.

Paul Treanor