“Greatest good for the greatest number” is a great meaningless flim-flam. It is typical of all social thinking which reduces human beings _ who actually exist _ to human beans. Human beans are supposed to be little identical pebbles, easily washed and manipulated by the currents of historical process.
But neither I nor anyone I know is such a “bean.” I have been a unique and sometimes perverse individual from the time I was born. Moreover, each moment of my life I have been a somewhat _ sometimes radically _ different person than at other times. And often, I actually seem to be many conflicting personalities at the same time.
We can deal with what could possibly be meant by “greatest good” in a different essay. But the supposedly easy part about the “greatest number” is equally fallacious. Yes, I suppose I want myself, my tribe, my family to prosper _ at least unless I am mad at them. But even then I am not sure if my strange estranged uncle should count… There is _ even on the most fundamental level _ no adequate way to make piles of “almost identical” human beings.
Nor do most of us truly believe that all or even most humans are equally needy, equally deserving, or equally responsive.
Time to retire this meaningless phrase.