Utilitarianism vs LONANG, in brief

Bix holds that “[i]t is difficult to argue with the [utilitarian] position that pleasure and happiness are good, pain and unhappiness are bad, and in nearly every circumstances it is better if the good things can be maxmi[z]ed and the bad things minmi[z]ed.”[1]

Ironically, Bix then easily argues with the position: “[t]he problem for Utilitarian[ism] . . . is to determine when the increased pleasure or happiness or welfare of a few . . . can justify suffering and sacrifice by the remainder.”[2] Just as it is not hard at all to argue against utilitarianism, so too it is not a “problem for Utilitarianism” that it can justify some people expediently inflicting suffering and sacrifice onto others: that infliction is not a problem for Utilitarianism but rather a feature of Utilitarianism.

(A) Two Utilitarian Inevitabilities: Expedient Sterilization, and Expedient Killing

(1) Expedient Sterilization. Utilitarianism’s expedient infliction of suffering onto others arose in Buck v. Bell,[3] wherein Justice Holmes declared the social value of destroying a woman’s fallopian tubes—sterilizing her against her will—because “[t]hree generations of imbeciles are enough.”[4]

(2) Expedient Killing. Moreover, Utilitarianism’s expedient infliction of suffering onto others arises in no place more plainly than when a Republican woman on the Supreme Court opined that it is unlawful for laws to “unduly burden” a woman who seeks to kill her child for convenience;[5] and when Holmes spoke of doctors as knowing “whether [unborn children] [should] live at all, or remain unrealized possibilities, as belonging to a stock not worth being perpetuated.”[6]

(B) LONANG. Another term for Utilitarianism’s obsession with chasing pleasure and fleeing from pain—is hedonism. No less than LONANG warns against the hedonism of Utilitarianism: “But the one who is living for self-gratification is dead while [they] live[].”[7]


1. Brian H. Bix, Jurisprudence Theory and Context, 227 (8th ed., 2019).

2. Id.

3. 274 U.S. 200 (1927).

4. Id. at 273 (“It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains [forced] vaccination is broad enough to cover [the forced] cutting [of a woman’s] Fallopian tubes. . . . .[:] Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” (citation omitted)).

5. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 874 (1992) (“Only where state regulation imposes an undue burden on a woman’s ability to make this decision [to kill her child for convenience] does the power of the State reach into the heart of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause.”).

6. Oliver Wendell Holmes, The young practitioner (1871) (“The young [doctor] knows his patient, but the old [doctor] knows also his patient’s family, dead and alive, up and down for generations. He can tell beforehand what diseases their unborn children will be subject to, what they will die of if they live long enough, and whether [the unborn children] [should] live at all, or remain unrealized possibilities, as belonging to a stock not worth being perpetuated.” (emphasis added)), https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2700/2700-h/2700-h.htm#link2H_4_0011.

7. First Tim. 5:6 (AFV).

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