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  • Created on: 28-11-22 10:05

utilitarianism #1

  • The only thing of intrinsic value in utlitarianism is pleasure
  • Psychological hedonists believe human nature is naturally wired to seek pleasure and actively avoid pain in every situation
  • Ethical hedonists believe we should always actively avoid pain and seek pleasure in all our actions 
  • Hedonists believe we should always do things that maximise pleasure for ourselves
  • "The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation."- Bentham Quote
  • Act utilitarians believe we should always do actions that will provide the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number of people
  • Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory- focused on the consequences
  • Utilitarianism as a theory is teleological- focused on the end goals
  • Main philosophers of utilitarianism:
  • 1. Jeremy Bentham
  • 2. JS Mill
  • 3. Bernard Williams
  • 4. GE Smart
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utilitarianism #2

Jeremy Bentham's theory of the Hedonic Calculus

  • Act utilitarians say that we should maximise pleasure and minimise pain at all times
  • How would you measure all the pleasure and pain all the people are facing?
  • Bentham came up with a hedonic calculus to solve this issue
  • You would add up all of the pleasure from a group of people based on a number of factors such as remoteness and fecundity and subtract all the pain faced by the group of people.
  • This method in theory will measure the total net happiness of all individuals
  • However, there are a number of problems associated with this-- later cards
  • Bentham took a quantitative approach to utilitarianism
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utilitarianism #3

Problems with the Hedonic Calculus

  • 1. Higher and Lower Pleasures

There are certain pleasures which are spontaneous and only last for a short time, and only satisfy sensual desires. This may include having a muffin on a Monday morning, or for a more extreme example, drinking excessively. Higher pleasures involve the mind and last longer. For example, going to the opera, or listening to a philosophy lecture, will increase pleasure in the long run. "Better to be a pig satisfied than Socrates dissatisfied."- JS Mill-- other flashcard

  • 2. Preferences beyond happiness

Some people find that pleasure is not the only thing of intrinsic value in life. Others may include friendship, honesty, trust etc. This is highlighted by the thought experiement of Nozick's pleasure machine- most people want to find happiness through life experiences

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utilitarianism #3- continued

Problems with the Hedonic Calculus #2

  • 3. Moral status of particular relationships

In seekng happiness for the maximum number of people, the moral status of particular relationships may be damaged. For example, if you were cheating on your partner, then the maximum number of people will feel better (ie. you and the person you are cheating with), but your partner will feel pain. This particular relationship will be morally damaged.

  • 4. Tyranny of the Majority 

The Hedonic Calculus does not account for the minority's views. For example, if 49% of people don;t want someone to be killed, but 51% of people do, then this is undemocratic.

  • 5. Difficult to calculate

Bentham came up with a method to calculate happiness, but you still cannot assign a numerical value to the amount of pleasure someone is feeling.

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utilitarianism #4

JS Mill's rule utlitarianism

  • Mill focused on a gnereal set of rules rather than specific actions
  • He took a qualitative approach, rather than a quantitiative one
  • He came up with a general set of rules called secondary principles to make sure moral laws were being followed, as well as maximising pleasure
  • This provides a response to the Tyranny of the Majority problem of the hedonic calculus
  • There are two types of rule utilitarians:
  • 1. Weak rule utilitarian

Weak rule utilitarians follow the rules of utilitarianism until the decision for the actions they are faced with do not generate the maximum amount of happiness anymore

  • 2. Strong rule utilitarian

Strong rule utilitarians strictly follow the rules even when they do not maximise the amount of pleasure for the greatest number of people

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