Negative Utilitarianism

  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 11-04-13 15:47

Negative Utilitarianism

Act & rule utilitarians: happiness and suffering are symmetrical

Just as important to increase happiness as it is to reduce unhappiness.

Austrian philosopher - Karl Popper DISAGREED. 

  • Rejected classical utilitarianism, proposed negative utilitarianism.
  • Negative utilitarians belive the state should act to minimise suffering.
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Karl Popper

Popper said: 

  • Easier to determine the causes of suffering than it is to determine the causes happiness. 
  • Easier to minimise suffering than to maximise happiness.
  • Suffering has a ceiling, happiness is an elastic concept -> always possible to make a happy man HAPPIER
  • Possible to reduce suffering to the point where they are no longer suffering. 
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Negative Utilitarianism

Popper -> classical utilitarianism was utopian

In Utilitarianism the state is ultimately responsible for identifying and solving problems.

'Those who promise us paradise on earth never produce anthing but hell'

This quote from Popper stated that empty promises never work. 

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Classical & Negative - Differences

Negative Utilitarians - REJECT that happiness & suffering are symmetrical

Act & Rule Utilitarians - state should act to MAXIMISE happiness.

Negative Utilitarians - state should act to MINIMISE suffering

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Realisation of the negative utilitarian ideal of a world from suffering would entail EXTERMINATION of mankind - unrealistic

Negative utilitarian ideal - suffering eradicated in society. However suffering may be good for us. 

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Is suffering desirable?

'Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is suffering that develops the powers of the mind'                                                                                                                  - Marcel Proust.

'The only way into truth is through one's own annihilation; through dwelling a long time in a state of extreme and total humiliation.'                                             - Simone Weil. 

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Hedonistic Paradox

Many philosophers, including Peter Singer, have identified that the harder we look for happiness the more elusive it seems - this is termed the hedonistic paradox

'Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.'     -Friedrich Nietzsche. 

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