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An angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean, “In return for your unselfish and exemplary behavior, the Lord will reward you with your choice of infinite wealth, wisdom, or beauty.”
“Give me infinite wisdom!” declares the dean, without hesitation.
Done!” says the angel before disappearing in a cloud of smoke.
All heads now turn to the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. “Well,” says a colleague, “say something brilliant.”
The dean stands and, with the poise of Socrates, opines, “I should have taken the money.”

Regarding worthwhile Canadian initiatives in general, I think Romeo Dallaire's Shake Hands With The Devil provides all the argument required for the fact that retaining one's humanity even in the face of great misery and injustice, is a more satisfactory course of action than embracing the utility standards of a pig. Wild boars are not known to be docile and loving creatures. They are doubtless happy creatures when they get what they value, but I suggest that it's doubly worthwhile to know where human happiness comes from and why it is preferable to the happiness of a beast.

Ryan - excellent!

RPLong - this is getting, I think, at a more Aristotelian conception of well-being. In a standard (i.e., not behavioural) economic model one does not question a person's preferences: utility is utility is utility. The more of it the better, hence a happy pig rather than an unhappy philosopher (unless one rejects all inter-personal utility comparisons, in which case it is impossible to ever know which is better, the life of the pig or the life of the philosopher).

From what I understand of the Aristotelian notion of the good life (which wouldn't even amount to a Wikipedia entry's worth), well-being comes from doing things like retaining humanity in the face of great misery, and not from the pursuit of pleasure. People like Amartya Sen would argue that economists should at least partial embrace this perspective.

"A human does not know the inner workings the porcine mind..."

Wittgenstein shows us this is wrong: the mind is visible in all of our gestures, expressions, and actions: "The human body is the best picture of the human soul." And so the porcine body of the porcine soul.

Does that hold for livers as well as brains?

Honestly, what a lot of hogwash.

Gene Callahan,

Agreed and the porcine body is the best picture of a pig's soul. They express their emotions very plainly (much moreso than humans) and develop relationships such that it is quite apparent what a pig thinks of you at a personal level. Among the farmyard animals, pigs are about the most intelligent, though dogs are more easily relatable IMO.

Frances Woolley

"Me, I would go for the life of the happy pig, frolicking in mud glorious mud."

It depends: if I am Socrates, do I have to read Mill's prose?

I'm not Socrates, but I do both get the satisfaction of finishing a philosophy paper or reading a book like Carnap's "Logical Foundations of Probability" AND even the crudest Beavis & Butthead jokes.

"Me, I would go for the life of the happy pig, frolicking in mud glorious mud"

I don't know. True, I don't get to live my life frolicking in glorious mud (at least, not literally). On the other hand, I'm unlikely to end my days as a BLT sandwich. Gotta say, I'm pretty sure that if the pig knew what was in store for him, he'd kick the mud off his trotters and go to law school.

"Does that hold for livers as well as brains?"

Were you addressing me, Patrick? If so, you might notice that neither me, nor Frances, nor Wittgenstein, ever mentioned "brains."

Gene - are you trying to say that Patrick is being boar-ish?

Patrick "hogwash"? Really? That remark is a bit of swine.

"Yet pigs and humans, fools and philosophers, are more alike than people once thought."

For example, this fool/biologist argues Homo Sapiens are the result of a pig-chimp hybrid. Seriously.


Very good. A beautiful example of the results of using poorly defined terms - something all too common among economists.

1) Better for whom?

2) Over what time frame?

3) With what weighting?

4) How do you deal with the problem of adding different utilities for an individual?

5) Depending on the answer to 1 above, you may also have to do utility comparison among individuals. The problems with this are well known.

5) Does the existence of words like "better" and "good" imply that there is some sort of Platonic Good?

6) If so what is its nature and how does it relate to utility?

7) For extra credit - What is the form of the round-square, and what color should it be once we invent one?

You might as well ask what the best form of fake airplane is for a cargo cult. Clearly even great Homer nods, and it is indeed annoying when he does.

Try formulating Mill's statement as a calculation on integrating inter-species indifference curves and see how far you get.

"The human body is the best picture of the human soul."

This is pure nonsense. Soul? Show me evidence that such a thing exists.

Any organism's body is the result of evolution/natural selection (modulo human intervention in the case of domestic pigs), and the brain in the body evolved with it. Just like, for example, the liver.


You can have a picture of Hercules. Are you seriously suggesting that Hercules exists?

I think you're being obtuse. Can you show me evidence that Hercules exists? You can't see quarks, but I can show you evidence that they exist. But let's not be silly.


The point is that the proposition that "The human body is the best picture of the human soul" does not imply that the human soul exists, anymore than "Quentin Blake's illustrations are the best pictures of the Big Friendly Giant" imply that the BFG exists.

(Not to mention that Wittgenstein was probably being metaphorical or using a non-standard meaning of 'soul' in that passage, but textual criticism of Wittgenstein is a mug's game.)

The quote from Mill is Mill trying to have his cake and eat it, too. He wants to say that some lives and some activities are better, qualitatively, than others - that poetry is better than pinpush. But this is grossly incompatible with his (and Frances') utilitarianism. So he claims that "better" means what is most preferred by someone who has experienced both. This is of course nonsense. Suppose Socrates decides one day to give up the search for wisdom and frolic, instead, in the mud, showing that he judges the porcine way of life to be superior. Mill would then be forced to find it so as well. He cannot say, as any reasonable person (but alas very few economists) can, that Socrates would be making a mistake. It's time economists jettisoned The Pig Philosophy, along with Mill's unstable make-shift! But I won't hold my breath.

@Patrick: "Show me evidence that such a [soul] exists."

What you actually won't be able to do, Patrick, is show me any evidence that the BRAIN exists, once you deny the soul (psyche) exists in the sense in which Wittgenstein is using it.

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