Utility monster

Utility monster

The utility monster is a thought experiment in the study of ethics. It was created by philosopher Robert Nozick in 1974 as a criticism of utilitarianism.

In the thought experiment, the idea of a monster is proposed who can turn resources into his own utility far more effectively than anyone else. If one unit of resource brings "me" one unit of pleasure, one unit of resource brings the utility monster 100 units of pleasure.

If the utility monster can get so much pleasure from each unit of resources, it follows from utilitarianism that the distribution of resources should acknowledge this. If the utility monster existed, it would justify the mistreatment and perhaps annihilation of everyone else, according to the doctrine of utilitarianism.

According to the philosopher Robert Nozick::"Utilitarian theory is embarrassed by the possibility of utility monsters who get enormously greater sums of utility from any sacrifice of others than these others lose . . . the theory seems to require that we all be sacrificed in the monster’s maw, in order to increase total utility." [Robert Nozick, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia" (1974)]

This thought experiment attempts to show that utilitarianism is not actually egalitarian, even though it appears to be at first glance.

It is the opposite of the mere addition paradox, which argues that utilitarianism may lead to a very heavily populated dystopic world.


ee also

*Average and total utilitarianism

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