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Utilitarianism Maximize good. Jeremy Bentham Principle of utility: Maximize good... the greatest happiness of the whole community, ought to be the end.

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Presentation on theme: "Utilitarianism Maximize good. Jeremy Bentham Principle of utility: Maximize good... the greatest happiness of the whole community, ought to be the end."— Presentation transcript:

1 Utilitarianism Maximize good

2 Jeremy Bentham Principle of utility: Maximize good... the greatest happiness of the whole community, ought to be the end or object of pursuit.... The right and proper end of government in every political community, is the greatest happiness of all the individuals of which it is composed, say, in other words, the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

3 Benthams Principle By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency 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. By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency 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.

4 John Stuart Mill ( ) The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.

5 Consequences Consequentialism: an acts value depends on its consequences (effects on the amount of good) Consequentialism: an acts value depends on its consequences (effects on the amount of good) Universalism: everyones good counts equally Universalism: everyones good counts equally

6 Motives, intentions, etc. Utilitarians treat what comes before the act as relevant, but only because of consequences: Utilitarians treat what comes before the act as relevant, but only because of consequences: 1. An intention is good if it tends to lead to good actions. 1. An intention is good if it tends to lead to good actions. 2. A motive is good if it tends to lead to good intentions. 2. A motive is good if it tends to lead to good intentions. 3. A character trait is good if it tends to lead to good motives. 3. A character trait is good if it tends to lead to good motives. 4. A person is good if he/she tends to have good character traits. 4. A person is good if he/she tends to have good character traits. 5. A society is good if it tends to have good people. 5. A society is good if it tends to have good people.

7 Intrinsic good Maximize what? Utilitarians need a theory of basic or intrinsic good Moral good = maximizing basic good Basic good = ?

8 Hedonism Intrinsic good: Happiness Intrinsic good: Happiness What is happiness? What is happiness?

9 Happiness Bentham & Mill: pleasure and the absence of pain Bentham & Mill: pleasure and the absence of pain Hedonism: pleasure and pain are the only sources of value Hedonism: pleasure and pain are the only sources of value

10 Benthams Utilitarianism A good act increases the balance of pleasure over pain in the community A bad act decreases it The best acts maximize the balance of pleasure over pain

11 Benthams Utilitarianism We must consider, not just ourselves, but everyone affected We must consider, not just ourselves, but everyone affected Individualism: effect on community is sum of affects on members Individualism: effect on community is sum of affects on members

12 Moral Calculus People affected People affected A B... Z Total Total Pleasure Pain Difference P(A) L(A) B(A) P(B) L(B) B(B)... P(Z) L(Z) B(Z) P LB

13 Benthams Arguments Common sense: common sense moral judgments agree with PU Common sense: common sense moral judgments agree with PU Arguments for other principles assume PU: if people dont follow this rule, bad things happen. Arguments for other principles assume PU: if people dont follow this rule, bad things happen. We can resolve conflicts; we must have a measure of value that allows us to do that We can resolve conflicts; we must have a measure of value that allows us to do that

14 Bentham against conscience Principle of sympathy and antipathy tends to severity or leniency Principle of sympathy and antipathy tends to severity or leniency Capricious: peoples reactions differ Capricious: peoples reactions differ Confuses motive with justification Confuses motive with justification PU is justification, not motive PU is justification, not motive

15 Carlyles Objection Thomas Carlyle: Pig philosophy! Utilitarianism: good = feeling good

16 Qualities of pleasures Mill: pleasures differ in quality as well as quantity It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. We are capable of better pleasures than pigs are

17 Judging Quality Which pleasures are higher? Which pleasures are higher? See what the competent judges prefer See what the competent judges prefer Who is competent to judge? Those with experience of both Who is competent to judge? Those with experience of both

18 Qualities of Pleasure Intellectual Intellectual Social Social Sensual Sensual

19 Virtue Even if higher pleasures were not more intrinsically valuable, utilitarianism would not be pig philosophy Higher pleasures > virtues > benefits for others

20 Bentham v. Mill Bentham agrees that pleasures differ in quality: In regard to well-being, quality as well as quantity requires to be taken into account. He has an entire chapter on kinds of pleasures

21 Bentham v. Mill But Bentham thinks you are the most competent judge of quality for you: But Bentham thinks you are the most competent judge of quality for you: Quantity depends upon general sensibility, sensibility to pleasure and pain in general; quality upon particular sensibility: upon a man's being more sensible to pleasure or pain from this or that source, than to ditto from this or that other. Quantity depends upon general sensibility, sensibility to pleasure and pain in general; quality upon particular sensibility: upon a man's being more sensible to pleasure or pain from this or that source, than to ditto from this or that other.

22 Bentham on Liberty I can know quality for me by reflection I can know quality for me by reflection But I can judge qualities for others only by what they say and do But I can judge qualities for others only by what they say and do So, each can judge best for him/herself: every man is a better judge of what is conducive to his own well-being than any other man can be. So, each can judge best for him/herself: every man is a better judge of what is conducive to his own well-being than any other man can be.

23 Mill on Liberty Harm principle: Harm principle: The only justification for restricting liberty is harm to others The only justification for restricting liberty is harm to others Self-regarding actions: sphere of liberty Self-regarding actions: sphere of liberty We ought to be free to do what we please so long as we dont violate someone elses rights We ought to be free to do what we please so long as we dont violate someone elses rights

24 Mill on Rules Principle of utility justifies acts Principle of utility justifies acts It need not be a motivation or even a practical test It need not be a motivation or even a practical test We apply it by secondary principles, common sense moral rules We apply it by secondary principles, common sense moral rules We justify these rules by utility We justify these rules by utility We appeal to the principle of utility only when secondary principles conflict We appeal to the principle of utility only when secondary principles conflict

25 Maimonides ( ) Reconciling faith with reason Gods 613 commandments consistent with reason All those pertaining to human relations required by reason They maximize good

26 Maimonides: Basic Good Happiness is intrinsically good Happiness is intrinsically good But so is virtue But so is virtue People seek to be kind, brave, generous, etc., for their own sakes, even at the expense of happiness People seek to be kind, brave, generous, etc., for their own sakes, even at the expense of happiness Intrinsic good = feeling good + being good Intrinsic good = feeling good + being good

27 Maimonides on Rules Rule utilitarianism: act according to the rules that maximize good Kinds of acts are fundamental Judge individual acts by rules justify rules as maximizing good

28 Act v. Rule Utilitarianism Act utilitarianism (Bentham): an act is right if it maximizes good Act utilitarianism (Bentham): an act is right if it maximizes good Utility > act Utility > act Rule utilitarianism (Maimonides): an act is right if it accords with the rules that maximize good Rule utilitarianism (Maimonides): an act is right if it accords with the rules that maximize good Utility > Rules > Act Utility > Rules > Act Disagree when a rule conflicts with utility Disagree when a rule conflicts with utility

29 Maimonides: Breaking Rules What if we can do better by breaking a (good) rule? What if we can do better by breaking a (good) rule? Dont break it! Dont break it! Rules essential to moral thought Rules essential to moral thought We are tempted to break rules for our own advantage We are tempted to break rules for our own advantage Well usually go wrong Well usually go wrong Moral chaos Moral chaos

30 Interpreting Mill Is Mill an act or rule- utilitarian? His greatest happiness principle speaks of acts But he stresses secondary principles

31 Mill: Breaking Rules Letter to John Venn: Letter to John Venn: Advocates act utilitarianism Advocates act utilitarianism But agrees with Maimonides But agrees with Maimonides If we break a rule, well usually go wrong If we break a rule, well usually go wrong So, better to obey the rule So, better to obey the rule

32 Mill: Acts and Rules Act utilitarianism is right, but act as a rule utilitarian Act utilitarianism tells us what makes right acts right But rule utilitarianism is a better practical test


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