Utilitarianism
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Utilitarianism. PHIL 320 (Ethics) – July 3, 2013. The Greatest Happiness Principle and the Felicific Calculus. Bentham on Pleasure.

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Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism

PHIL 320 (Ethics) – July 3, 2013


The greatest happiness principle and the felicific calculus

The Greatest Happiness Principle and the Felicific Calculus


Bentham on pleasure

Bentham on Pleasure

“To a person to consider by himself, the value of a pleasure or pain considered by itself, will be greater or less, according to the . . . following circumstances:”

  • Intensity

  • Duration

  • Certainty (or Uncertainty)

  • Propinquity (or Remoteness)

  • Fecundity

  • Purity

  • Extent


Bentham s felicific calculus stage 1

Bentham’s Felicific Calculus(Stage 1)

  • Of the value of each distinguishable pleasure which appears to be produced by it in the first instance.

  • Of the value of each pain which appears to be produced by it in the first instance.

  • Of the value of each pleasure which appears to be produced by it after the first. This constitutes the fecundity of the first pleasure and the impurity of the first pain.

  • Of the value of each pain which appears to be produced by it after the first. This constitutes the fecundity of the first pain and the impurity of the first pleasure.


Bentham s felicific calculus stage 2

Bentham’s Felicific Calculus(Stage 2)

  • Sum up all the values of all the pleasures on the one side, and those of all the pains on the other. The balance, if it be on the side of pleasure, will give the good tendency of the act upon the whole, with respect to the interests of that individual person; if on the side of pain, the bad tendency of it upon the whole.

  • Take an account of the number of persons whose interests appear to be concerned; and repeat the above process with respect to each.


Bentham s felicific calculus stage 3

Bentham’s Felicific Calculus(Stage 3)

  • Sum up the numbers expressive of the degrees of good tendency, which the act has, with respect to each individual, in regard to whom the tendency of it is good upon the whole: do this again with respect to each individual, in regard to whom the tendency of it is bad upon the whole.

  • Take the balance; which, if on the side of pleasure, will give the general good tendency of the act, with respect to the total number of community of individuals concerned; if on the side of pain, the general evil tendency, with respect to the same community.


Mill s proof of the greatest happiness principle

Mill’s Proof of the Greatest Happiness Principle

  • People desire their own happiness for its own sake.

  • If some is desired for its own sake, then it is desirable.

  • Thus, each person’s own happiness is desirable for that person (from 1 and 2).

  • If something is desirable, then it is intrinsically good.

  • Therefore, one’s own happiness is an intrinsic good for oneself (from 3 and 4).

  • If each person’s own happiness is an intrinsic good for that person, then the general happiness is intrinsically good for the aggregate of persons.

  • Thus, the general happiness is an intrinsic good for the aggregate of persons (from 5 and 6).

  • All other things besides the general happiness that are desired for themselves are really only desired as parts of the end of general happiness.

  • THEREFORE, THE GENERAL HAPPINESS IS THE SOLE INTRINSIC GOOD (from 7 and 8).


Mill s defense of utilitarianism

Mill’s Defense of Utilitarianism

(Class Handout)


Utilitarianism as a moral theory

Utilitarianism as a Moral Theory


Utilitarianism as a moral theory theory of value

Utilitarianism as a Moral Theory (Theory of Value)

  • HAPPINESS is intrinsically good; it is the summumbonum (the highest good).

  • PAIN is intrinsically bad.

  • The extrinsic value of value-neutral things or states of affairs depends on whether they contribute to happiness or not.

    • Something is extrinsically good if it contributes to happiness without much pain.

    • Something is extrinsically bad if it produces more pain than happiness.


Utilitarianism as a moral theory theory of conduct

Utilitarianism as a Moral Theory(Theory of Conduct)

  • THE GREATEST HAPPINESS PRINCIPLE: “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.”

  • ACT-UTILITARIANISM

    • Calculate the amount of happiness produced to all of the people involved in the scenario.

    • Calculate the amount of pain produced to all of the people involved in the scenario.

    • If pain produced exceeds happiness produced, the action is FORBIDDEN.

    • If happiness produced exceeds pain produced, the action is PERMISSIBLE.

    • If the net happiness produced is greater than the net happiness produced by some other (alternative) activity, the action that produces the greatest net happiness is OBLIGATORY.


Utilitarianism as a moral theory theory of character

Utilitarianism as a Moral Theory (Theory of Character)

  • A person is VIRTUOUS if one has a character that overall contributes to the greatest happiness.

    • Competent Judge

    • Nimble Calculator of Consequences

    • Move Beyond Act-Utilitarianism to Rule-Utilitarianism

  • A person is VICIOUS if one has a character that does not contribute to the greatest happiness.

    • Egoist (does not move from one’s own sense of happiness to the notion of the greatest happiness)

    • Not Nimble at Calculating Consequences

    • Unsanctioned Moral Training


Sanctions moral training

Sanctions(Moral Training)

  • EXTERNAL SANCTIONS are pleasures and pains meted out in response to a given behavior in order to encourage or deter the behavior

    • Punishment of crime

    • Detention

    • Embarrassment

  • INTERNAL SANCTIONS are self-produced sanctions that affirm or deny certain actions or behaviors within oneself

    • Pride

    • Shame


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