Utilitarianism

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  • Utilitarianism
    • John Stuart Mill
      • Greatest Happiness Principle
        • Higher and lower pleasures
          • Higher pleasures: Success, love
            • Higher pleasures are of greater value even if in smaller quantity
              • "Some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and valuable than others", qualitative not quantitative
          • Lower pleasures: Food, sex
      • Eudamonistic Utilitarian (Emphasis on happiness not pleasure)
        • 'Eudamonia', human flourishing
      • Paradox of Hedonism: Seeking pleasure makes it harder to find
        • "To suppose that life has no higher end than pleasure is a pig philosophy fit only for swine"
      • Private and public actions
        • We can flourish in our own ways alone as long as our actions are not detrimental to others
        • "The common good"
        • Actions should not be state imposed
        • "My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins
      • Extended Weak Rule Utilitarianism (Michael Palmer)
        • Prepared to break moral rules of happiness if they override the general maxims of justice
          • Calculus rules can be broken to obtain justice
      • Universability Prinicple
        • Influenced by Kant's Categoriccal Imperative
        • Egalitarian
        • "Each person's happiness is good to that person and therefore the general happiness is the aggregation of all persons", Utilitarianism, 1963
    • Jeremy Bentham
      • Hedonistic Utilitarianism
        • Good is pleasure, flee from pain
          • "The good is that will bring about the greatest sum of pleasure and lleast pain for the greatest number"
      • Psychological hedonist
        • "Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as determine what we should do."
        • Abstract inalienable human rights are "Nonsense on stilts"
          • e.g. Divine Command Theory, Natural Law
          • Rights only make sense when they are based on observable and empircal evidence
            • The language of metaphysics in ethics should be replaced with the 'principle of utlity'
      • Redical empiricism
        • Secular, pleasure is experienced then and now, through the five senses (feel, hear smell, see and taste)
        • Felicific or Hedonistic Calculus
          • Duration: How long will it last
          • Intensity: How intense is it
          • Propinquity: How near or remote
          • Certainity: How probable is it
          • Extent: How widely it covers
          • Fecundity: Does it lead to other pleasures?
          • Purity: How free from pain is it?
          • Bentham believed that ethics could be a science, and good could be proven through the felicific calculus and the principle of utility
          • Bentham's calculus is both egalitatiran and democratic, no persons pleasure is considered more important than anothers
            • "Everybody is to count for one, nobody is to count for more than one" Jeremy Bentham
              • However is this an optimistic view? Humans have a selfish nature, considering only their own happiness
      • Egalitarian
        • "Pushpin is as good as poetry"
          • All pleasure is good -pleasure, whether lower or higher/interlectual
        • Similarities to a Christian ethic whilst still appealing to a secular morality
          • "You are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3;28
    • Strengths
      • Secular Morality: No divine rule. Decisions are made on the situation, not based on metaphysical and religious a priori. More flexible and free.
      • Refoermist: Benthamite and Mill reform
        • Mill campaigned with Harriet Taylor for women's suffrage
        • Prison Reform
        • Poor Law
        • Removal of the juvenile death penalty
      • Democratic, ruled by the majority greatest good for the greatest number
    • Weaknesses
      • Paradox of Hedonism: Seeking happiness makes it harder to find
      • Lack of intrinsic goods: Evils may be justified as consequentially they 'may' lead to goods
        • War on Terror following 9/11 could be justified as it may lead to goods, even considering the extreme collateral damage surrounding it.
      • Secular: No higher moral influences of right and wrong
      • Democratic fallacy: The self interested actions of the masses overrule the minority educated view
        • 'Tyranny of the Masses', John Stuart Mill
        • E.g. the German population voting in the Nazi Party
      • The minority's views are never considered e.g. disabled rights
      • Commits the naturalistic fallacy
        • Someone may wish to take hard drugs as it produces a high amount of pleasure, but is that consequentially good?
          • Thought pleasure ought to be good, is it always good in itself?
      • People are seperate and unique
        • "Utilitarianism does not take seriously the sperateness of persons, the idea being that it subordinates the rights of the individual to solidarity with the general welfare"
          • Professor Simon Blackburn
      • "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy"
        • Challenge and struggle are what enables life to have meaning and purpose
        • A life of pursuing happiness does not lead to the life of wisdom and meaning that comes from hardship.
    • Historical Perspective
      • The Scientific Enlightenment
        • David Hume (Scottish Skeptic)
          • "Divnity, and metaphysics, cast them into the flames, for they contain nothing but sophistry and illusion"
        • No intrinsic goods (natural/divine law)
          • Away from deontology (an action is considered good or bad in itself), towards a consequential morality
            • Teleological thinking (answers lie in nature, empirical evidence)
        • Secular: Rejection of religion, towards science, empiricism (based on sensual evidence)
          • Rejects the Decalogue, Aquinas, Natural Law
            • God is contrary to rational thought and evidence
      • Victorian Britain
        • A class riddled society: Charles Dickens discussed exploitation of child labour and the subjugation of women in his novels
        • The pioneers of utilitarianism (John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, Mary Wolstoncraft) campaigned for social change which would create happiness in peoples lives
    • The basic concepts
      • Teleological approach to ethics, athetism about the end product, a consequential ethic
      • Based on Bentham's Theory of Psychological Hedonism and empiricism
      • The maximisation of pleasure is the equivalent of Kant's summon bonnum (one good), equal to the minimisation of pleasure
      • Democratic and Egalitarian
      • J,s, Mills Utilitarianism based more on eduamonia (true human happiness/flourishing) than hedonistic pleasure

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