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background of theory
• Teleological, consequentialist, subjective and relative theory
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principle of utility
the theory of usefulness; the greatest good for the greatest number
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the view that pleasure is the chief good, group of ancient Greeks who sought true pleasure which has no pain
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act utilitarianism
general rule, situations judged individually, Jeremy Bentham, pain and pleasure, rights for majority
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bentham quote
‘nature has please us under the governance of two sereign masters, pain and pleasure’
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bentham = most moral act...
maximise pleasure and minimise pain Happiness= pleasure – pain
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bentham - principle of utility
looking at which part has the greatest, guided by this rather than rules
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principle of utility quote
‘the right course of action is that which brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number’
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the hedonic calculas qualities
Purity, remoteness, extent, duration, intensity, certainty, to be followed by
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greatest happiness for greatest number , (Eudemonia= Flourishing by Aristotle but Bentham takes it to mean pleasure is happiness)
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Hume strength of act util
• Realisitic – Human nature does seek pleasure and avoid pain – “Reason ought to be slave to the passions” – Hume
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strength of act util - prison
• His ideas drove social reform – he designed a new, more humane prison, called panopticon, which was built in Barcelona
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The naturalistic fallacy - weakness of act
can’t define goodness
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act weakness rawles
• Difficulty of predicting consequences – Requires humans to act under “a veil of ignorance” – Rawles
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mill objection to act
• Mill, who was saved from mental breakdown by Wordsworth’s poetry, objected to the pleasures being equally valued
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pig philosophy
• A pig enjoying a good wallow is more valuable than Socrates having a slightly sad think – hence, Bentham’s act utilitarianism is known as ‘the pig philosophy’
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rule util
establishing a general rule, applied to specific cases
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background of rule utilitarianism
• Consequentialist, universalistic, qualitative, relative, deontological (set rules)
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the greatest happiness principle
“actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure”
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hedonic calcular - rule util
rejects, quality over quantity
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higher pleasures
satisfy the mind e.g. reading – some are higher pleasures as they engage those parts of the brain which distinguish humans from animals in intelligence
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lower pleasures
satisfy the body e.g. eating
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J.S Mill famous quote
• "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied"
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principle of universalisability
what is right or wrong for one person in a situation is right/wrong for all - rule
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strong rule
rules should never be broken even if that means the overall happiness might be reduced
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weak util
Mill, more flexible, accepts there are occasions when it breaks e.g. telling the truth may be set aside because it could result in more harm
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weak rule
rules can be broken if necessary to maximise happiness (Mill was one)
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strong util
insisted principle of utility without exceptions
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thomas hobbes weakness of rule
would probably find Mill’s view of human nature hopelessly optimistic
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weakness of rule naturalistic fallacy
• Naturalistic fallacy – Moves from an is “I aim for my own happiness” to an ought “I ought to aim for everyone’s happiness”
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preference util
• Moral actions are right or wrong according to how they fit the preferences of those involved
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preference quote
• “Our own preferences cannot count any more than the preferences of others”
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principle of utility


the theory of usefulness; the greatest good for the greatest number

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act utilitarianism


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bentham quote


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