Jim and the Indians
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: Philosophy|
|✅ Wordcount: 1231 words||✅ Published: 1st Jan 2015|
Utilitarianism and Williams’ Unsuccessful Objection in Regards to the Jim and the Indians Scenario
In this essay I argue that Williams is not successful in his objection to Utilitarianism in the case of Jim and the Indians. To begin, I will briefly explain the case of Jim and the Indians and then give my insight as to the proper action to take in his unfortunate situation and my reasoning behind choosing this option as best. Secondly, I will discuss Williams’ objection to the idea of Utilitarianism in this case followed by why I disagree with his objection. The case of Jim and the Indians goes as follows.
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This story revolves around a very unfortunate man by the name of Jim, who has fallen prey to the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ scenario. Jim, after losing his way during a botanical expedition, comes across a very unpleasant execution scene and is given one of two equally horrid options1. Being that he is apparently granted “guest’s privilege” 1 he may choose to rather pick one Indian and kill him/her which sets the others free, or he can decide to not kill one Indian which would then result in the death of the entire group of Indians1. This certainly sounds more like the Captain, Pedro, is not so much praising and rewarding their honored guest, but instead is trying to wash his hands of all guilt as it will not be his command that kills anyone but that of Jim’s decision. A brief mention was made, at the end of the scenario, of Jim’s thought to instead introduce a third option of rather grabbing a gun and holding up the Captain and soldiers in order to disallow any killing of Indians at all1. Now, Jim does think that the outcome may be fatal for both the Indians and himself1 but is it really that irrational of an idea to just dismiss so quickly? I don’t believe so. Think of the soldiers and the Captain as the traditional idea of a snake, where the soldiers represent the body and the Captain represents the head. The body of the snake cannot survive without its head therefore, if by some chance the head is threatened or killed, the body will rather surrender or become incapacitated respectively. In this case, killing the Captain would definitely not be the best action to take, as the soldiers may become leaderless but they still have weapons and it is doubtful that they will hesitate to shoot him on the spot. To rather just hold up the Captain would be the appropriate action to take. With a little bit of luck and a take-charge attitude, Jim could keep the soldiers and Captain at bay until the Indians are freed. As we are keeping with the snake theory, the soldiers should not fire on Jim as they may kill the Captain. With this advantage Jim could easily use the transferred command (from the Captain, as he is currently being held at gunpoint) to order the release of the prisoners as well as the disposal of all weapons so that Jim may escape safely as well after the fact.
Among all three possible options, in terms of Utilitarianism’s greatest good for the greatest number of people, I believe this third option is best as not a single person is hurt, except for possibly the pride of the Captain and soldiers. If Jim had instead decided to kill one chosen Indian to save the rest1, it may in fact be best to suit Utilitarian view because one dies to save everyone but it still means that one innocent person has to be killed. The second view would not be best in terms of Utilitarianism because if everyone is killed1 then it defeats the purpose of the term where there is no greatest good for any person except for Jim himself who may possibly leave with his own life is luck is on his side. Therefore, to truly accomplish a Utilitarian view to the utmost extent, the third option to take charge and save everyone is best because the outcome is evidently best not only for the greatest amount of people but for every single person. Williams takes a stance against Utilitarianism in the case of Jim’s decisions and will be explained next.
Williams objects to the idea of Utilitarianism because he is under the belief that this theory creates “obvious answers” 1 to any question presented by using only the required conclusion, if the outcome is best for the majority of people than it should be done. The issue with this, as stated by Williams, is that Utilitarianism leaves absolutely leeway for “consideration” 1. What Williams means by this is that when trying to make a decision under Utilitarian rule there is no room for personal feelings, what Williams refers to as “integrity” 1, acknowledged in the process. In most cases where the decision process only has two options, the Utilitarian view will evidently take the side which defends the greatest number of people regardless if the person making the decision feels that it goes against any personal morals and values. In the case of Jim and the Indians, a question may arise regarding the choice of a third option and whether it is a choice based on personal beliefs or Utilitarian rule? This can be seen as an exception to the rule where traditional Utilitarian rule does not take precedent. The reason for this is because the decision to save everyone trumps the decision to save the majority of the people and because personal feelings were involved and Utilitarianism is indeed the best for the most amount of people this option will fall under a newly formed and less traditional rule. This option does, then, partially fall under the Utilitarian view but because some form of personal feeling was in fact a primary purpose for the introduction of this decision, it is shown that Utilitarianism does leave room for some consideration which leads to even better results being introduced instead of the traditional restricted results that Williams sees Utilitarianism as allowing1. Therefore, because of this exception shown, Williams was not successful in objecting to the idea of Utilitarianism as there are still possibilities of more options based on personal “integrity” 1, it just takes time and rational thought to put together a more efficient argument.
In conclusion, I have argued and shown that Williams was unsuccessful in his objection of Utilitarianism and presented why by using his own example of Jim and the Indians and the third rational option. Utilitarianism can be used as an effective system if only used properly and with the addition of personal integrity () that can be introduced to make all decisions more sufficient.
Utilitarianism. (2010). Dictionary.com. Lexicon Publishing Group. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/utilitarianism
Williams, “Utilitarianism, Integrity and Responsibility,” in The Elements of Philosophy:
Readings from Past and Present, eds. Tamar Szabo Gendler, Susanna Siegel and Steven M. Cahn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 96-97
 Williams, “Utilitarianism, Integrity and Responsibility,” in The Elements of Philosophy: Readings from Past and Present, eds. Tamar Szabo Gendler, Susanna Siegel and Steven M. Cahn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 96-97
 Utilitarianism. (2010). Dictionary.com. Lexicon Publishing Group. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/utilitarianism
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