HideShow resource information

The work of Bentham

Utilitarianism is a posteriori argument so the righteousness is judged by the consequence. The principle of utility is applied which means to maintain good.Bentham was the founding father of utilitarianism & devised the hedonic calculus to maximise pleasure over pain

  • Purity of sensation
  • Remoteness of senses
  • Intensity of sensation
  • Certainity of situation
  • Extent of situation
  • Duration of situation
  • Fecuninity- will it produce more pain or pleasure           (Sensation- pleasure of senses)


  • Naturalistic fallacy- if nature follows certain rules it does not mean we must
  • Bentham's theory needs a lot of own knowledge- trying to find a solution for all is impractical
  • Lacks humanity- e.g. workhouses were originally thought to be good but they were bad
1 of 6

The work of JS Mill

John Stuart Mill saw himself as a legislator and Bentham was a judge. Mill rejects Benthams simplistic views of what causes human happiness. Actions themselves do not make people happy, it is neccesary for the right condition as well. The basic components for happiness include liberty Individual power, Free speech & Individualism  Forcing the masses to accept the greatest good for the greatest number is incorrect. Individual happiness is good overall. Golden rule of Jesus- individual happiness go hand in hand with human equality.

Mill believes human progress is achieved when liberty is applied. This is because we always want to achieve progess.

  • Higher pleasures- ones that make you progress higher in the long run
  • Lower pleasures- Immediate gratification then they are gone


  • Mill's mind is 19th century, evidence shows genes determine behaviour not autonomy
  • Higher/lower pleasures meaningless- either you feel satisfaction or you dont
  • Progess can be made by lower pleasures (babies)
  • Lacks evaluation and is too complex as Mill believes in exeptions to rules
2 of 6

Simililarities and Differences between Act & Rule


  • Pain/pleasure calculus built in
  • Happiness is highest good
  • Society exists for happiness
  • Belief in human progress
  • Rejects religion
  • Rejects priori truth


  • Bentham- quantity of happiness whereas Mill is Quality of happiness
  • Bentham is all pleasure is of the same value whereas Mill believes in higher/lower pleasures
  • Bentham's hedonism is based on experience. Mill's is practical based
  • Bentham focus' on the individual. Mill- aggregate the individual
3 of 6

Act & Rule


  • Rules should only be kept if they lead to total happiness
  • Act only right if it promotes happiness
  • Only right if outcome is utility
  • In comparison to other situations, it is right it it increases utility
  • No longer based on happiness- broader view on what keeps people content
  • Sidgwick says act may be moral/immoral @ different times. Strength- morally objective. Weakness- Morally inconsdident.


  • Moral rules must be obeyed, dependant on the situation
  • Moral laws are for the good of society
  • Rules prevent selfish utlitarian law and subjective POV
  • They have consequences and must be guided by general rules that maximise pleasure
  • Can not be self intentional
  • Rules do not need to be acted on and modern rule is influenced by social benifits Criticsms- Lack's universalizability. How can you create moral laws benifiting the global society? Moral laws conflict as well.
4 of 6


Peter Singer said we had a need for a good life.

  • Manifest is immediate needs.
  • True preference is reflective of knowledge
  • Society is full of individuals with preferences


  • What stage do you judge the preferences?
  • Harsayni says theres a difference between true and manifest, who decides it though?
  • In a world of limited resources,  there is no link between preference and welfare
5 of 6

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strenghts of Utilitarianism overall

  • Relates to human experience
  • Simple to understand (basis)
  • Answers why we should be morally good
  • Progressive- world better
  • Human welfare
  • Does not need out dated religion
  • Takes into account pleasure of all sentient beings- even animals


  • Outdated concept of nature
  • Ignores minorities
  • Focus on action, not intent of people- evil?
  • Ignores doing things out of duty
  • Ignores the important of love
  • Ignores self sacrifice and moral virtue
6 of 6


No comments have yet been made

Similar Ethics resources:

See all Ethics resources »