My first post on disutilitarianism began with the realization that simply rubbing together the different utility functions of individuals is by itself completely impotent to reconcile them. You can’t build a society out of disagreeable men unless they have some prior common basis for reaching a mutual agreement about how to proceed, despite their differences, in a coordinate way. And their different preference schedules cannot themselves furnish any such basis.
I want this, you want that: unless we have some idea that an agreement between us would be better than disagreement, we have no way even to get started talking together, and all we may then do is war.
Any agreement among men presupposes their shared understanding – i.e., their agreement – that agreement is better than disagreement. And even given that understanding, unless they agree also about what sorts of things are important and good in objective reality, regardless of their personal preferences, they won’t be able to proceed to any agreement.
Another way to say this is that unless men’s notions of what characterizes an acceptable sort of solution to the problems of living together are rather tightly constrained as a forecondition of their mutual negotiations, they will not be able to negotiate – in which case, negotiation will be a pointless waste of resources, and they will proceed directly and only to Hobbesian war.
Society then is not just a bunch of men with raw preferences rubbing elbows with each other. That’s just the matter of society. You need form, too, and a telos of the whole shooting match that all its members can apprehend as transcendent to, and superordinate of, and thus informing and ordering, and indeed ordaining and commanding, their own personal preferences.
Thus the cult. It is the fundamental forecondition of society, the sine qua non. And what is a cult? It is a joint understanding of the order of being, and of the proper way to orient oneself thereto. Lack that, and you cannot even talk to each other in the same language.
Utility then is never raw. It is always cooked. We never value things as individuals only, but always as individuals who are characteristic members of a distinct group. Our individual preference schedules are inherently social. E.g., I prefer that my children live a long and happy life more than that I do. My own idiosyncratic preferences are ordered to the realization of theirs. And so likewise with all my preferences. Every one of them is conditioned by considerations of what is best for my fellows.
This is the polar opposite of the sociopath or the narcissist. People whose preference schedules are defectively ordered to society – who, say, enjoy murder – are insane.
Utilitarianism then is rather like trying to explain a wedding cake by reference only to the ingredients of the recipe. You can’t get a wedding cake by just mixing together the ingredients. They must be mixed under the aegis of a superordinate form, that ramifies out, not just so far as the artifice of the decorator’s knife, but on to the very limit in the doctrine of sacramental marriage and its implicate in the Divine Will toward the Good of all creatures.
I meant to put all this into the first paragraphs of that first post, but then a brainstorm began. I got carried away with recording the insights as they arrived, and lost track of it.