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Jeremy 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
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 motivation of human beings
Bentham maintained that human beings were motivated by pleasure and pain, and so he can
be called a hedonist.
He said, in Principles of Morals and Legislation, `Nature has placed mankind under the
governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone o point out what
we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do'
Bentham believed that all human being pursued pleasure and sought to avoid pain.
He saw this as a moral fact, as pleasure and pain identified what we should and shouldn't do.
Pleasure was the sole good and pains the sole evil.
The principle of utility
The rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its `utility' or usefulness.
Usefulness refers to the amount of pleasure or happiness caused by the action
It is a teleological ethical theory which determines a good act by the ends it brings about. T
The theory is known as the greatest happiness principle, or a theory of usefulness.
`An action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number', where the greatest
good is the greatest pleasure or happiness and the least pain or sadness, and the greatest
number are the majority of people.
Good are the maximisation of pleasure and the minimisation of pain.
The ends that Bentham's theory identifies are those with the most pleasure and l east pain.
Bentham argued that one should choose to act in such a way that brings about the maximum
possible happiness for the most people.
However, the possible consequences of different possible actions must be measured clearly to
establish which option generates the most pleasure and the least pain.
The hedonic calculus
The hedonic calculus weighs up the pain and pleasure generated by the available moral
actions to fine the best option.
It considers seven factors:
1. Its intensity
2. Its duration
3. Its certainty or uncertainty
4. Its propinquity or remoteness
5. Its 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...
And one other, to wit:
7. Its extent; that is, the number of persons to whom it extends; or (in other words)
who are affected by it.

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In the hedonic calculus Bentham considers how strong the pain or pleasure is, whether it is
short-lived or life- long and how likely it is that there will be pain or pleasure.
He considers how immediate the pain or pleasure is and how likely it is to lead to more of the
same, the extent to which there might be a combination of pains and pleasure, and lastly, the
number of people affected.…read more

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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.…read more

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Jeremy Bentham theory has a number of clear benefits.
It seems reasonable to link morality with the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of pain
and misery, and this connection would receive popular support.
It also seems natural to consider to consequences of our actions when deciding what to do.
Utilitarianism offers a balanced, democratic morality that promotes the general happiness.
Utilitarianism does not support individual pursuits that are at the expense of the majority.…read more

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One might argue that base sexual appetite is a lower pleasure than the refineries of excellent
opera, and yet passionate and tender lovemaking could be much more important for a couple
than a visit to Madam Butterfly.
Indeed a person might attend opera frequently and without much thought and treat encounters
with their lover in the same way.…read more

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Singer makes it clear that newborn babies are not persons as, like the unborn baby, they are
not autonomous, and they do not see themselves as having a future.
In effect they have no interests to take into account. The issue of what defines a
person who has interests is central to preference utilitarianism.
He has no concept of long-term future and is driven by his addiction, not any familiar
kind of rational autonomy.…read more


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