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Utilitarianism Introduction to Political Theory. Utilitarianism Major Utilitarians Modifications of Classical Liberalism The Psychology of Pleasure and.

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Presentation on theme: "Utilitarianism Introduction to Political Theory. Utilitarianism Major Utilitarians Modifications of Classical Liberalism The Psychology of Pleasure and."— Presentation transcript:

1 Utilitarianism Introduction to Political Theory

2 Utilitarianism Major Utilitarians Modifications of Classical Liberalism The Psychology of Pleasure and Pain The Greatest Happiness Principle Democratic Theory Problems with the General Theory

3 Major Utilitarians Jeremy Bentham John Stuart Mill

4 Freedom of Speech Paternalism

5 Freedom of Speech John Stuart Mill argued that the liberty of thought and discussion must be permitted in all circumstances for the following four reasons: 1.The popular point of view (the "received" opinion) may be false. If dissent is suppressed, the truth may be lost. 2.Even though the popular point of view is true, the dissenting point of view may contain a particle of the truth that enhances our understanding of the truth. 3.Although the popular point of view may be completely true, and the dissenting point of view completely false, the truth needs to be challenged by falsehood, or else the truth will be held as dogma. 4.If the meaning of the truth is held as dogma, the meaning of the truth will be lost.

6 Paternalism Paternalism is legislation whose purpose it is to protect the individual from his or her own actions. Examples The Harm Principle

7 Examples of Paternalism 1.Laws that prohibit swimming at public places without lifeguards on duty. 2.Laws that require drivers of automobiles to wear seatbelts. 3.Laws that require motorcyclists to wear protective helmets. 4.Laws that require the licensing of the professions, such as law and medicine. 5.Laws that require the prior approval by government agencies (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration) of medical substances. 6.Laws that enforce and maintain morality through the restriction of commercial and entertainment activities at certain times (e.g., Blue laws that prevent the purchase of certain items on Sunday). 7.Laws against moral vice.

8 The Harm Principle In On Liberty Mill defines the “harm principle.”... The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used by physical force in the form of legal penalties or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self- protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. Second Quote

9 The Harm Principle cont’d "As soon as any part of a person's conduct affects prejudicially the interests of others, society has jurisdiction over it, and the question whether the general welfare will or will not be promoted by interfering with it, becomes open to discussion. But there is no room for entertaining any such question when a person's conduct affects the interests of no persons besides himself, or needs not affect them unless they like (all the persons concerned being of full age, and the ordinary amount of understanding). In all such cases there should be perfect freedom, legal and social, to do the action and stand the consequences."

10 Modifications of Classical Liberalism There is no natural law. There is no social contract. Value is grounded in human subjectivity. –Not Reason –Not God Pleasure and pain are the determinants of value. The Greatest Happiness Principle is the determinant of policy and action.

11 The Psychology of Pleasure and Pain We are constructed psychologically to pursue pleasure and to avoid pain. Good is identified with that which produces pleasure. Evil is identified with that which produces pain. The "principle of utility" approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever according to the happiness it produces. Words associated with pleasure are: utility, benefit, advantage, good, and happiness. Words associated with pain are: evil, unhappiness, and mischief.

12 The Greatest Happiness Principle The “greatest happiness principle” states that individual or governmental action should be calculated to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of those concerned. In Bentham’s own words: "that principle which states the greatest happiness of all those whose interest is in question, as being the right and proper, and only right and proper and universally desirable, end of human action: of human action in every situation, and in particular in that of a functionary or set of functionaries exercising the powers of Government." Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. London, 1789 (revised edition 1823).

13 Democratic Theory Every person’s pleasures and pains are considered equal. Each person counts for one, and only one. Majority opinion indicates the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

14 Problems with the General Theory The Problem of Expertise –Should every person’s opinion be counted as equal? Can utilitarianism be considered a “pig’s” philosophy? –Is Metallica as good as Mozart? –Should everyone be allowed to vote? –Should a scheme of weighted voting be adopted? The Problem of Minority Rights –Although majorities are protected in utilitarianism, what about minority rights? –Does the Greatest Happiness Principle protect minorities or those with unpopular points of view? The Problem of Cause and Effect –Determinism requires cause and effect. –Morality requires freedom. –Utilitarianism requires cause and effect in its assessment of consequences. –Can utilitarianism address issues of morality?


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