Presentation on theme: " Jeremy Bentham was an English philosopher and political radical. He is primarily known today for his moral philosophy, especially his principle of utilitarianism,"— Presentation transcript:
Jeremy Bentham was an English philosopher and political radical. He is primarily known today for his moral philosophy, especially his principle of utilitarianism, which evaluates actions based upon their consequences. The relevant consequences, in particular, are the overall happiness created for everyone affected by the action. Influenced by many enlightenment thinkers, especially empiricists such as John Locke and David Hume, Bentham developed an ethical theory grounded in a largely empiricist account of human nature. He famously held a hedonistic account of both motivation and value according to which what is fundamentally valuable and what ultimately motivates us is pleasure and pain. Happiness, according to Bentham, is thus a matter of experiencing pleasure and lack of pain.moral philosophyJohn LockeDavid Hume
Asperger’s Syndrome and the Ecentricity and Genius of Jeremy Bentham It is well known that Bentham was eccentric. He was ‘reclusive and inaccessible [...] had a favourite walking stick named Dapple [...] an ancient cat [...] called the Reverend Dr John Langborn, and a jokey vocabulary [...] [using] expressions like “antejentacular circumgyration”, meaning a walk before breakfast’.2 After his death his body was dissected, in accordance with his will, in front of a group of his friends. Bentham was also a genius, producing remarkable work of undisputed contemporary importance. Clearly he had an extraordinary mind. We asked ourselves whether an explanation for Jeremy Bentham’s unusua positive and negative qualities might emerge if his life were assessed from a present-day psychological, psychodynamic or psychiatric perspective. While aware of the reductionist pitfalls of psychobiography, we believed such an effort might illuminate aspects of Bentham’s character and motivations and thereby assist future biographers. Our findings suggested that, had he lived in the present century, it is likely he would have received the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. The Auto-Icon Story: Project/who/autoiconhttp://www.ucl.ac.uk/Bentham- Project/who/autoicon
At the beginning of the Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Bentham writes: Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think: every effort we can make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it. (Ch. 1)
….Bentham’s moral philosophy reflects what he calls at different times “the greatest happiness principle” or “the principle of utility”—a term which he borrows from Hume. In adverting to this principle, however, he was not referring to just the usefulness of things or actions, but to the extent to which these things or actions promote the general happiness. Specifically, then, what is morally obligatory is that which produces the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people, happiness being determined by reference to the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain. Thus, Bentham writes, “By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question: or, what is the same thing in other words, to promote or to oppose that happiness.” And Bentham emphasizes that this applies to “every action whatsoever” (Ch. 1). That which does not maximize the greatest happiness (such as an act of pure ascetic sacrifice) is, therefore, morally wrong.
Natural Rights – the idea that there exists universal rights the exist independent of social organizations. For Bentham, the term “natural rights” is “simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense,—nonsense upon stilts.” Bentham’s ideas are also echoed in the work of John Stuart Mill
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” –John Stuart Mill Happiness = pleasure, and the absence of pain Unhappiness = pain, and the absence of pleasure
English philosophers John Stuart Mill ( ) and Jeremy Bentham ( ) were the leading proponents of what is now called “classic utilitarianism”. The Utilitarians were social reformers They supported suffrage for women and those without property, and the abolition of slavery. Utilitarians argued that criminals ought to be reformed and not merely punished (although Mill did support capital punishment as a deterrent). Bentham spoke out against cruelty to animals. Mill was a strong supporter of meritocracy. Proponents emphasized that utilitarianism was an egalitarian doctrine. Everyone’s happiness counts equally.
Utilitarianism = Hedonism? Objection: There is more to life than pleasure; knowledge, virtue and other things are important too. Utilitarianism is a doctrine worthy only of swine. Reply: Utilitarianism requires that we consider everyone’s pleasure, not just our own. Also, says Mill, there is more to life than physical pleasure. Pleasures of the “higher faculties” (including intellectual pleasures inaccessible to lower animals) are of higher quality than physical pleasures (and thus count for more). Mill: "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of adifferent opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question".
Jeremy Bentham ( ) and the utilitarians Bentham offered the following argument for an equal distribution of income: The diminishing marginal utility of income suggests that an equal distribution of income would maximize social welfare.
1. As noted by Bentham: Equality diminishes incentives, thus diminishing long-run social welfare. Hence the distribution of income should be more equal, but not perfectly equal. 2. Interpersonal utility comparison - comparing the utility one person receives from a good with the utility another person receives from the same good. We cannot empirically measure utility. As a person accumulates more income we can expect marginal utility of each dollar to decline. However, we do not know the starting point. So it may not be the case that the marginal utility of an additional dollar for a rich person is necessarily lower than the marginal utility of an additional dollar for a poor person.
JOHN S. MILL MAY 20, 1806-MAY 8,
JOHN S. MILL The particulars of Mill's life are laid out in his famous Autobiography (1873) In a nutshell: son of the Ricardian economist James Mill, trained from an early age to be a genius, "lent" by his father to utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, became a utilitarian, followed his father into the British East India Company, broke with Bentham, had an existentialist crisis, turned to the doctrines of Saint-Simon and Comte, met Harriet Taylor and waited twenty years for her husband to die became a Whig politician, etc., etc.
DIFFICULT CHILDHOOD Father James Mill, disciple of Jeremy Bentham MADE HIM a CHILD PRODIGY 3 yrs read Greek 8 yrs had read the Greeks in their own language
CHILDHOOD read Hume and other philosophers and was taught mathematics by his father At 13 learn Latin and became teacher to his siblings At twenty suffered mental depression
WORKS A System of Logic (1843) Principles of Political Economy (1848) On Liberty (1859) Considerations of Representative Government (1861) Utilitarianism (1863) Auguste Comte and Positivism (1865) The Subjection of Women (1869) One can argue that the primary text in economics moves from Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nation (1776) David Ricardo: Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817) John Stuart Mill: Principles of Political Economy (1848) Alfred Marshall: Principles of Economics (1890) John Maynard Keynes: The General Theory (1936) Paul Samuelson: Foundations of Economic Analysis (1947)
RICARDO AND MARX Mill is in essence a hybrid of Ricardo and Marx. From Ricardo he takes much of his economic theory. To Marx, in principle but not literally, he is similar in his critique of 19 th century English society.
BACK TO RICARDO’S IRON LAW OF WAGES Of Wages It is when the market price of labour exceeds its natural price, that the condition of the labourer is flourishing and happy, that he has it in his power to command a greater proportion of the necessaries and enjoyments of life, and therefore to rear a healthy and numerous family. When, however, by the encouragement which high wages give to the increase of population, the number of labourers is increased, wages again fall to their natural price, and indeed from a reaction sometimes fall below it. Notwithstanding the tendency of wages to conform to their natural rate, their market rate may, in an improving society, for an indefinite period, be constantly above it; for no sooner may the impulse, which an increased capital gives to a new demand for labour, be obeyed, than another increase of capital may produce the same effect; and thus, if the increase of capital be gradual and constant, the demand for labour may give a continued stimulus to an increase of people.... Thus, then, with every improvement of society, with every increase in its capital, the market wages of labour will rise; but the permanence of their rise will depend on the question, whether the natural price of labour has also risen; and this again will depend on the rise in the natural price of those necessaries on which the wages of labour are expended.... As population increases, these necessaries will be constantly rising in price, because more labour will be necessary to produce them. If, then, the money wages of labour should fall, whilst every commodity on which the wages of labour were expended rose, the labourer would be doubly affected, and would be soon totally deprived of subsistence. Instead, therefore, of the money wages of labour falling, they would rise; but they would not rise sufficiently to enable the labourer to purchase as many comforts and necessaries as he did before the rise in the price of those commodities.... These, then, are the laws by which wages are regulated, and by which the happiness of far the greatest part of every community is governed. Like all other contracts, wages should be left to the fair and free competition of the market, and should never be controlled by the interference of the legislature.
THE PRINCIPAL PROBLEM OF POLITICAL ECONOMY “Political Economy, you think, is an enquiry into the nature and causes of wealth -- I think it should rather be called an enquiry into the laws which determine the division of produce of industry amongst the classes that concur in its formation. No law can be laid down respecting quantity, but a tolerably correct one can be laid down respecting proportions. Every day I am more satisfied that the former enquiry is vain and delusive, and the latter the only true object of the science.” David Ricardo, “Letter to T. R. Malthus, October 9, 1820”, in Collected Works, Vol. VIII: p Ricardo From the Preface of “Principles of Political Economy and Taxation” The produce of the earth—all that is derived from its surface by the united application of labour, machinery, and capital, is divided among three classes of the community; namely, the proprietor of the land, the owner of the stock or capital necessary for its cultivation, and the labourers by whose industry it is cultivated. But in different stages of society, the proportions of the whole produce of the earth which will be allotted to each of these classes, under the names of rent, profit, and wages, will be essentially different; depending mainly on the actual fertility of the soil, on the accumulation of capital and population, and on the skill, ingenuity, and instruments employed in agriculture. To determine the laws which regulate this distribution, is the principal problem in Political Economy.
DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES “The things once there mankind, individually or collectively, can do with them as they please. They can place them at the disposal of whomsoever they please, and on whatever terms..... Even what a person has produced by his individual toil, unaided by anyone, he cannot keep, unless by the permission of society. Not only can society take it from him, but individuals would and could take it from him, if society... did not employ and pay people for the purpose of preventing him from being disturbed in [his] possession. The distribution of wealth, therefore, depends on the laws and customs of society. The rules by which it is determined are what the opinions and feelings of the ruling portion of the community make them, and are very different in different ages and countries, and might be still more different, if mankind chose....” John Stuart Mill [Heilbroner: ].
MILL A SOCIALIST? Not in the sense of Marx. Mill believe that if workingmen are educated to control their passions, the problem raised by Malthus would be removed. Consequently wages would rise, and eventually the bargaining power of labor would eventually lay claim to the capital and a “higher stationary state” (relative to Ricardo) would emerge.
VERY BASIC LABOR ECONOMICS Output is produced via the efforts of capital (i.e. machinery, etc..) and labor The owner of the firm provides the capital. Workers are obviously the labor. After the output is sold, the returns are then given to the capital or labor. How much should capital and labor be paid? If capital and labor markets are competitive, then each input is paid according to their economic contribution (i.e. how productive the input is and the value of that production in the competitive market). This comes from the work of John Bates Clark If the market is not competitive… well, it all depends on the bargaining power of the owner and workers. Marx thought workers were at a disadvantage. Mill didn’t seem to think that had to be the case.
THE SUBJECTION OF WOMEN (1869) There is much debate whether he authored this or he was a ghost writer for Harriet Taylor Mill He (or she) addresses such issues as wage disparity. When, however, we ask why the existence of one- half the species should be merely ancillary to that of the other – why each woman should be a mere appendage to a man, allowed to have no interests of her own, that there may be nothing to compete in her mind with his interests and his pleasure, the only reason that can be given is, that men like it.
VALUE THEORY Three possibilities 1.Perfectly inelastic supply (good is of absolutely limited supply) 2.Perfectly elastic supply (cost of production determines pricee 3.Traditional supply and demand W.r.t. Mill explained clearly how equilibrium prices are determined by the forces of supply and demand. “Happily, there is nothing in the laws of value which remains for the present or any future writer to clear up; the theory of the subject is complete.”
INTERNATIONAL TRADE THEORY Ricardo’s Theory of Comparative Advantage argues that all nations benefit from free trade But how much do nation’s benefit? More specifically, what are the “terms of trade” and how are they determined? Terms of trade are determined by the relative demand for imports. (i.e. the elasticity of demand)
THE DEFENSE OF SAY’S LAW AND MONETARY THEORY Mill made the distinction between excess supply for a market vs. the economy. Mill discussed three possible economies Barter system Money w/o credit Money with credit In the first two, supply must equal demand. However, if money is also a store of value, supply could exceed demand in the current period. The process is as follows: Credit is extended in periods of expansion. Credit is withdrawn during contractions. If credit is scarce, people will wish to hold onto money, thus demand for goods will fall. Hence, supply could exceed demand. As prices adjust, however, supply will once again equal demand and full employment will be achieved. Mill discussed a “psychological theory of business cycles” which is a forerunner of Keynes’s “animal spirits”.
THE ROLE OF THEORY AND CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS Mill concurred with Richard Jones [Essay on the Distribution of Wealth (1831)] Abstract theory must be tempered by a consideration of prevailing institutions. The economic scientist desires precision and predictability, hence the tendency to rely on abstract theory. The economic artist attempts to marry the two approaches.
CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY In general, Mill supports both Capitalism and Democracy, but he wishes to have the votes of the educated to be worth more and government action to mitigate the negative consequences of Capitalism.
NECESSARY ROLES OF GOVERNMENT Power to Tax Coin Money Establish Uniform System of Weights and Measurements Protection against Force and Fraud Administration of Justice and enforcement of Contracts Establishment and Protection of Property Rights Protection of Minors and Mental Incompetents
MORE NECESSARY ROLES Provision of certain Public Goods and Services: roads canals dams bridges harbors lighthouses sanitation
OPTIONAL ROLE OF GOVERNMENT Interference of the Government into the market could be required by some great good. Thus, Mill might have supported Consumer Protection EPA FDA Public utility regulation etc.
Thomas Carlyle ( ) Idealized the military society of Prussia and preferred society to be led by a charismatic leader, not a democratically elected official. (Carlyle sided with the Prussians in the war of ; in 1874 he was awarded the high Prussian order "Pour le Merite Believed that genuine freedom could only be achieved in the context of a society based on shared values and common goals. Carlyle favored a hierarchical society where each member of society understood his/her role and function. Gave us the phrase “Dismal Science”
Why is Economics a “dismal science”? The Myth: Everyone knows that economics is the dismal science. And almost everyone knows that it was given this description by Thomas Carlyle, who was inspired to coin the phrase by T. R. Malthus's gloomy prediction that population would always grow faster than food, dooming mankind to unending poverty and hardship
Carlyle and Race The essay, which was the opening salvo in a battle that raged over the next fifty years, was entitled "An Occasional discourse on the Negro Question." First published in 1849, it contains the following paragraph: ◦Truly, my philanthropic friends, Exeter Hall Philanthropy is wonderful; and the Social Science—not a "gay science," but a rueful—which finds the secret of this universe in "supply- and-demand," and reduces the duty of human governors to that of letting men alone, is also wonderful. Not a "gay science," I should say, like some we have heard of; no, a dreary, desolate, and indeed quite abject and distressing one; what we might call, by way of eminence, thedismal science. These two, Exeter Hall Philanthropy and the Dismal Science, led by any sacred cause of Black Emancipation, or the like, to fall in love and make a wedding of it,—will give birth to progenies and prodigies; dark extensive moon-calves, unnameable abortions, wide-coiled monstrosities, such as the world has not seen hitherto! Even this short excerpt illustrates the spirit of Carlyle's argument: When economics joins with Exeter Hall, in support of such causes as ending slavery, bad things will happen.
The Anti-Slavery Coalition html html The Exeter Hall that Carlyle mentioned was a real building. Located on the Strand in London, it served as the political center of British evangelicalism. By invoking the marriage of economics and Exeter Hall, Carlyle is reminding us of a vastly important fact about 19th century British politics: Exeter Hall was not the only moral center of the British anti-slave movement. In the fight against slavery, Christian evangelicals such as William Wilberforce and Thomas Macaulay were joined by political economists, such as James Mill, Harriet Martineau, J. S. Mill, Archbishop Richard Whately and John Bright. The two sides agreed that slavery was wrong because Africans are humans, and all humans have the same rights. They however disagreed over exactly what it is that ties us together. The economists drew on their assumption that deep down, we all share the same basic human nature. The evangelicals drew on their assumption that we are literally all brothers and sisters since we share the same first parents, Adam and Eve. Carlyle disagreed with the conclusion that slavery was wrong because he disagreed with the assumption that under the skin, people are all the same. He argued that blacks were subhumans ("two-legged cattle"), who needed the tutelage of whites wielding the "beneficent whip" if they were to contribute to the good of society
Carlyle’s Influence html html By laying out the argument against economics in detail, Carlyle revived the pro-slavery movement in mid-19th century Britain. His argument was taken up by calmer critics, who eschewed his polemical excesses while retaining his basic assumptions. For example, W. R. Greg, who together with Francis Galton, founded the eugenics movement, attacked Mill for arguing that land-reform would help solve the problem of poverty in Ireland: ◦"Make them peasant-proprietors," says Mr. Mill. But Mr. Mill forgets that, till you change the character of the Irish cottier, peasant-proprietorship would work no miracles. He would fall behind the instalments of his purchase-money, and would be called upon to surrender his farm. He would often neglect it in idleness, ignorance, jollity and drink, get into debt, and have to sell his property to the newest owner of a great estate.... In two generations Ireland would again be England's difficulty, come back upon her in an aggravated form. Mr. Mill never deigns to consider that an Irishman is an Irishman, and not an average human being—an idiomatic and idiosyncractic, not an abstract, man
John Stuart Mill on Race In choosing Mill as their target, Carlyle and his allies chose well. Like most classical economists, Mill treated such characteristics as race as analytically irrelevant. When doing economics, one would simply ignore race, and look at incentives. Here are Mill's acidic words on the matter, words which might have drawn Greg's ire: ◦Is it not, then, a bitter satire on the mode in which opinions are formed on the most important problems of human nature and life, to find public instructors of the greatest pretensions, imputing the backwardness of Irish industry, and the want of energy of the Irish people in improving their condition, to a peculiar indolence andinsouciance in the Celtic race? Of all vulgar modes of escaping from the consideration of the effect of social and moral influences on the human mind, the most vulgar is that of attributing the diversities of conduct and character to inherent natural differences
Adam Smith on Race This idea, that people are just people, can be traced from Mill back to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. In it, Smith put forward the hard rational choice doctrine that there are no natural differences among people. There are no natural masters; there are no natural slaves. All human differences can be explained by incentives, history and luck: ◦The difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause, as the effect of the division of labour. The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature as from habit, custom, and education. When they came into the world, and for the first six or eight years of their existence, they were, perhaps, very much alike, and neither their parents nor playfellows could perceive any remarkable difference. About that age, or soon after, they come to be employed in very different occupations. The difference of talents comes then to be taken notice of, and widens by degrees, till at last the vanity of the philosopher is willing to acknowledge scarce any resemblance."