Utilitarianism

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  • Utilitarianism
    • Jeremy Bentham
      • "nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure" (Bentham).
      • Bentham worked on legal reform and wrote The Principles of Morals and Legislation, in which he put forward his ethical theory. 
      • We can divide his theory into three parts:
        • His view on what drove human beings, and what goodness and badness was all about
        • The principle of utility, which is his moral rule.
        • The hedonic calculus, which is his system for measuring how good or bad a consequence is. the Hedonic  calculus has seven parts. 
          • 1. Its intensity
          • 2. its duration
          • 3. Its certainty or uncertainty
          • 4. Its propinquity or remoteness
          • 5.ts fecundity, or the chance it has of being followed by, sensations of the same kind: that is, pleasures, if it be a pleasure: pains, if it be a pain.
          • 6. Its purity, or the chance it has of not being followed by, sensations of the opposite king: that is, pains, if it be a pleasure: pleasures, if it be a pain...
          • 7. Its extent; that is, the number of persons to whom it extends; or (in other words) who are affected by it. 
    • Rule utilitarianism
      • Rule utilitarianism focuses on general rules that everyone should follow to bring about the greatest good for that community.
      • Rule utilitarianism establishes the best overall rule by determining the course of action which, when pursued by the whole community, leads to the beset result. 
      • This form of utilitarianism is associated with John Stuart Mill and British legal philosopher John Austin, particularly in his book The Province of Jurisprudence Determined. 
      • A person should never lie because, as a general community rule, lying doesn’t bring about the greatest good for the community. In each case, the rule takes priority over the person’s immediate situation.
      • Rule utilitarianism seems to overcome some of the difficulties encountered in act utilitarianism. 
      • The British philosopher R. M. Hare notes a weakness with rule utilitarianism.
        • Suppose that a maniac is chasing someone who hides in a shop. The maniac runs into the shop and asks the shopkeeper where the person is. In this situation, our gut feeling would be to lie. 
        • A rule utilitarian would state that the shopkeeper has to be honest, because he or she is not allowed to break a rule even though, in this instance, the result is not the greatest good. 
      •  rule utilitarian could still permit certain practices, such as slavery, that appear to be morally unacceptable. 
        • There’s no guarantee that minority interests will be protected. As long as the slaves are the smaller proportion of the people, the greatest food might be to keep them enslaved, because of the benefits that this would give to the majority.
    • Act utilitarianism
      • Bentham’s approach is closer to act utilitarianism.
        • Jeremy Bentham
          • "nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure" (Bentham).
          • Bentham worked on legal reform and wrote The Principles of Morals and Legislation, in which he put forward his ethical theory. 
          • We can divide his theory into three parts:
            • His view on what drove human beings, and what goodness and badness was all about
            • The principle of utility, which is his moral rule.
            • The hedonic calculus, which is his system for measuring how good or bad a consequence is. the Hedonic  calculus has seven parts. 
              • 1. Its intensity
              • 2. its duration
              • 3. Its certainty or uncertainty
              • 4. Its propinquity or remoteness
              • 5.ts fecundity, or the chance it has of being followed by, sensations of the same kind: that is, pleasures, if it be a pleasure: pains, if it be a pain.
              • 6. Its purity, or the chance it has of not being followed by, sensations of the opposite king: that is, pains, if it be a pleasure: pleasures, if it be a pain...
              • 7. Its extent; that is, the number of persons to whom it extends; or (in other words) who are affected by it. 
      • The principle of utility must be directly applied for each individual situation. When faced with a moral choice, a person must decide what action will lead to the greatest good in a particular situation. If that person is in a situation in which lying will create the greatest pleasure, then they should lie. If in the next situation, lying brings about a lesser result than telling the truth, then they should tell the truth. 
      • According to the act utilitarian’s, when determining whether the act is right, it is the value of the consequences of the particular act that counts. A person may break any law if, in that situation, greater happiness will result.
      • Act utilitarianism has the benefit of flexibility, being a bit to take into account individual situations at a given moment, although the actions that it justifies can change.
      • There are a number of criticisms of act utilitarianism. First, it has the potential to justify virtually any act if, in that particular case, the result generates the most happiness.
        • A second problem is that it is impractical to suggest that we should measure each and every moral choice every time, especially as we may not have all the information required by the hedonic calculus. 
          • A third difficulty is that act utilitarianism can have some quite extreme results
    • John Stuart  Mill
      •  Mill accepted the utility principle of the greatest food for the greatest number, he was concerned about the difficulty raised in the example of the sadistic guards. 
        • If the greatest good for the greatest number was purely quantitative, based on the quantities of pleasure and pain caused, what would stop one person’s pleasure from being completely extinguished if the majority gained pleasure from that act? 
      • Mill was aware that utilitarianism was being criticised as promoting nothing other than desire and the pursuit of pleasure and that it lowered human nature to that of swine because of its baseness.
      • Higher and Lower Pleasures
        •  Mill distinguished between higher and lower pleasures, and the higher pleasure were qualitatively better and more important than the lower pleasures. 
        • He argued that, ‘Human beings has faculties more elevated than the animal appetites and, once made conscious of them, do not regard anything as happiness which does not include their gratification’
        • It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied’
        • Mill maintained that the pleasure of the mind were higher than those of the body.  By failing to nurture an appreciation of the higher pleasure, they become inaccessible, and then the decline into more base gratification can happen. 
        • In Mill’s view, according to the greatest happiness principle the ultimate aim is life as far away from pain, an as rich as possible in enjoyments both qualitatively and quantitatively. Judging the mix of these things is difficult but it can be done. 
        • Mill goes on to stress that utilitarian morality does recognise that there are times when the greatest food is served by self-sacrifice, though of itself sacrifice is not good. 
    • Principle of utility

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