What Should We Do With Bill?
A person who believe in utilitarianism believes that making a group of people content
and satisfied is better than making an individual content and satisfied. A utilitarian believes in
what more people would benefit from even if it causes some individuals pain and suffering so as
long as it benefits more people. A utilitarian would say to the sheriff to hand over Bill to the
angry townsfolk that has gathered in front of the sheriff’s building. The reason is that if the
sheriff keeps Bill safe and does not hand him over to the gathering mob outside, it will cause
more people to get angry and possibly more potential casualties to Bill’s relatives which would
be a negative gain compared to if they just hand Bill over and lose one life instead of five. If the
sheriff hands Bill over to the angry mob to hang him, it will overall make more people content
and possibly lose lower the casualties that can be involved. Let’s say Bill is kept safe by the
sheriff and away from the outraged mob. The overall gain would be +100 points. On the other
hand, if the sheriff hands Bill over to the protesting mob outside, the overall gain would be +200
points. If the sheriff keeps Bill safe, that would net the gain to -100 points. If the sheriff hands
Bill over, the total gain would be +100. So overall, the utilitarian thinking is group happiness
over individual happiness even if something terrible has to be done to benefit more people.
What’s important is the majority being more satisfied and the total gain which would always be
the group of people over the individual.