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  • Created by: Zoe
  • Created on: 09-03-13 12:06
  • Utilitarianism:

    •  teleological (opposite of deontological), right or wrong according to their telos
    • consequentialist, good or bad based on consequences
    • first fully articulated by Jeremy Bentham
    • "greatest happiness of the greatest number"
    • "a theory of usefulness" implies whatever is useful is moral. immoral decisions lead to useless bad actions, amoral leads to no actions at all 
    • link with majority rule in democratic politics - acceptable to choose government without consent of minority vote 
    • Plato and Aristotle believed good equated with happiness
    • epicureans stressed pleasure as main aim of life
    • pleasure not same as happiness, happiness comes from use of reason and cultivating the virtues 
    • demands people put the interests of the group before their own interests


    • child prodigy
    • Bentham was concerned with social and legal reform, wanted to develop a theory whether something good or bad according to benefit for majority of people
    • principle of utility:  "the greatest good of the greatest number"
    • good defined as pleasure
    • Bentham theory is quantitive, focuses on greatest number
    • that which is good, equals greatest sum of pleasure and least sum of pain: "utilitarian calculus"
    • hedonistic theory because good is defined by pleasure, actions are judged as a means to an end 
    • this is measured through the hedonic calculus. (hedone: Greek for pleasure)
    • Ancient hedonism pursues physical pleasure and avoids physical pain
    • by adding up amounts of pleasure and pain for each possible act we should be able to choose the right thing to do. Happiness = pleasure - pain
    • Bentham: "the principle of utility aims to promote happiness which is the supreme ethical value. Nature has placed us under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. An act is right if it delivers more pleasure than pain and wrong if it brings about more pain than pleasure"
    •  hedonic calculus measures amount of pleasure and pain under seven criteria:

    1. Intensity

    2. Duration

    3. Certainty

    4. Remoteness

    5. Chance of succession

    6. Purity

    7. Extent

    • Bentham’s view is described as Act Utilitarianism

    Problems with Bentham’s theory:

    •  Based on a quantitative measure, can quantity actually be measured in this way?
    • relies strictly on predictive value
    • What counts as pleasure? 
    • Organs of one healthy patient to save the lives of several others. Would surgeon be justified in killing the healthy patient for the sake of the others?
    • Should a police chief frame a man of murder  if it results in peace and neighborhood riots ending? 


    • child prodigy, son of Bentham's friend and follower James Mill
    • has a positive view of human nature, people have powerful feelings of empathy for others cultivated by education
    • understood the problems in Bentham's approach but also a hedonist, accepted happiness is of greatest importance
    • Stressed happiness rather than pleasure. wanted to define pleasure more carefully, shifting quantity to quality
    • qualitative
    • The Greatest Happiness Principle: actions are right in proportion if they tend to promote happiness, intended pleasure and absence of pain. agrees with principle of utility


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