Thought experiment on utilitarianism

Last night I came up with a thought experiment where utilitarian logic might stick in the eyes of many people, or not I’m not sure. I haven’t heard of this thought experiment before, but if someone already have written about it, I would love to hear more about it.

In this thought experiment, you are a teacher in a class where most students are normally gifted and follow the teaching corriculum without problem. Then there are a handfull of kids that are above average intelligent and are bored and held back by the slow pace. And then there are a couple of kids that are below average intelligent and struggles keeping up with the school work.

For the more intelligent kids to reach their full potential they need more focus from you as a teacher. This is true also for the struggling kids in the class. The problem here is of course that your time and energy as a teacher is limited. There is only so much time left outside of the ordinary corriculum, and so you will have to prioritize.

From a utilitarian standpoint, the best action is the one that maximizes total utility. Of course we don’t know which kids might have great success later in life, and perhaps becomes doctors and comes up with new cures for diseases, or becomes engineers and creates new fantastic software that will benefit humanity etc.

But the appropriate response to uncertainty is not turning a blind eye on the problem. Let’s assume in the experiment that the above average intelligent kids have a greater probability of creating great benefits for humanity by reaching their potential than their below average intelligent peers. Then the moral priority from an utilitarian standpoint would be for you to spend your extra time and energy on the more intelligent students, not on the less intelligent ones.

If you disagree with my analysis, please comment or send me a message.

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