Chapter 35 – Why Doug Forcett Should Go to The Bad Place

The Good Place is sending contradictory messages about how the afterlife works in this episode.  The episode examines the life of Doug Forcett as a model of ethical behavior that would lead to earning a spot in The Good Place.  While the episode is intended as a criticism of utilitarianism, because it turns people into a happiness pump, the real lesson should have been that Doug Forcett would go to The Bad Place based on what we have learned about how the afterlife work.  To see why this is the case, let me explain what we have learned so far about how to earn a spot in The Good Place.

In the beginning of the series, we are told that Doug Forcett figured out how the afterlife works.  Michael goes on to explain how the afterlife works.  The image we are given is roughly utilitarian in nature.  Every action a person does creates consequences that ripple throughout time.  A point total is reached for every action a person does.  All of the positive and negative point values are totaled together at a person’s time of death.  If you score high enough, you go to The Good Place.  If you do not score high enough, you are sent to The Bad Place.

In later episodes, the concept of moral worth is introduced.  One must have the proper moral motivation in order for an action to count.  Without that, one does not receive credit for any positive consequences of one’s actions.  For example, Tahani receives no credit for her charity work because she old did it to show up her sister or win her parents approval.

When the Judge allows the humans to avoid death and return to their lives in an attempt to see if they would become good people, we are told that they cannot be told of the afterlife.  This is because if they only do good because of the reward, their actions will not count.  When they do find out about the afterlife, then Michael explains to them that whatever they do won’t count anymore.  Thus, they begin trying to help others earn their way into The Good Place.

When Michel and Janet visit Doug Forcett to learn how to live the best possible life, the life they see is not a good life.  Michael suggests to Doug that he relax because he certainly has enough points to make it into The Good Place.  Doug explains that he cannot take the risk.  What if something he does costs him just enough points to not be sent to The Good Place?  The result would be an eternity of torture.

Given that explanation, the only reason Doug is doing these actions is to avoid eternal punishment.  His motives lack moral worth.  In order for his actions to count, he would need to be going good actions for the sake of doing good actions.  Since his actions lack moral worth, then he would not get any points.  However, this episode and the next episode, Doug is treated as someone who is earning point and should go to The Good Place.  This flies in the face of over two seasons of afterlife development.