Utilitarians believe that moral behavior is about securing the greatest good for the most people. But what would you call people who believe moral behavior is about securing the greatest good for the most "good" people, or maybe securing the greatest good for the "best" people? Perhaps they might even believe moral behavior is about securing good for "good" people and harm for "bad" people.

Suppose a bolder is rolling down a hill toward two people, who are frozen with fear or otherwise unable to move. One volunteers at a homeless shelter and the other is a convicted murderer. You can push the boulder to one side or the other, but only a little. You must choose to save the volunteer or the mass murderer. According to utilitarianism, there is no rule applying immediately that would cause you to choose one or the other. Perhaps you might suspect the murderer might strike again, but ignoring that possibility you would have to flip a coin to choose which potential victim to save.

Someone subscribing to this philosophy might decide the volunteer is a good person and the murderer is a bad person, and for that reason decide to save the volunteer instead of the murderer.

Some of these people might divert the boulder toward two "bad" people away from one "good" person or even start the boulder rolling themselves, being careful to aim it at the "bad" person and miss the "good" one.

EDIT: To clarify, I'm wondering if the above describes a particular school of thought with a name and not so much how many people subscribe to it.

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    The term is "Sensible" – Ask About Monica May 25 '17 at 20:58
  • In an unavoidable accident, should an autonomous vehicle run over baby Hitler or Mother Teresa? Hard to say. If you kill baby Hitler, arguably Stalin takes over Europe and today we're all eating borscht. How will you decide who's naughty and who's nice? Santa Claus? – user4894 May 25 '17 at 21:27
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    Welcome to Philosophy.SE. If you would like, here is a link to take the tour. Thanks for your participation. – PV22 May 27 '17 at 19:01

The answer is obvious, you kill the murderer. The process by which you came to that conclusion is irrelevant because you have extremely limited information on which to base your decision. You have no foreknowledge of the future so the butterfly effect is irrelevant. Morality aside, the man who performs a useful function should automatically be saved. If you want to assign worth to a life then yes I would argue a volunteer is worth more than a murderer because he adds something positive to the world rather than something negative. Morality is too relative and subjective, but functionality is universal.

  • Welcome to Philosophy.SE. If you would like, here is a link to take the tour, and guidelines on how to best answer questions LINK – PV22 May 27 '17 at 18:55

The word I would use for those sorts of people is "normal." What you describe is the standard way nearly everyone behaves. As a general rule, when a group of people encompasses 99.999% of a population, we tend to not bother giving that group a named identity that is distinct from the name of the population as a whole.

The general philosophy you describe is "all other things being equal, choose the person who historically has shows themselves to be aligned with your beliefs." This is an incredibly rational position.

The more interesting question would be who would save the bad guys and why. They're the outliers. Religious arguments involving saving souls may provide a backdrop for a rational argument like this. But very few would make it.

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