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UTILITARIANISM

• 18th-19th century
• English philosophers and economists
JEREMY BENTHAM and
JOHN STUART MILL
Principle
• An action is right if it tends to promote
happiness and wrong if it tends to produce
the reverse of happiness – not just the
happiness of the performer of the action
but also that of everyone affected by it.
Nature of Utilitarianism
• It is an effort to provide an answer to the
practical question
“WHAT OUGHT A PERSON DO?
ANSWER
• The person ought to act so as to produce
the best consequences possible.
BASIC CONCEPTS
• According to J.S. Mill: “acts should be
classified as morally right or wrong only if
the consequences are of such significance
that a person would wish to see the agent
compelled, not merely persuaded and
exhorted, to act in the preferred manner.”
• Bentham and Mill were hedonists, i.e.,
happiness is the balance of pleasure over
pain and that these feelings alone are of
intrinsic value and disvalue.
• Bentham and Mill both believed that
human actions are motivated entirely by
pleasure and pain.
• For Mill, motivation is the basis for the
argument that since HAPPINESS is the
sole end of human action, the promotion of
happiness is the test by which to judge all
HUMAN CONDUCT.
Rule of Thumb of Utilitarianism

“The greatest happiness to the greatest


number of people.”
Quantitative/Gross Utilitarianism
of Jeremy Bentham
1. DIMENSIONS OF PLEASURE
The standard of valuation of pleasure is
quantitative and has seven (7)
dimensions
(1) intensity;
(2) duration;
(3) proximity;
(4) certainty;
(5) purity (freedom from pain);
(6) fecundity (fruitfulness); and
(7) extent, i.e. number of persons
affected
2. PSYCHOLOGICAL HEDONISM

“Nature has placed man under the empire of


pleasure and pain. We owe to them all our
ideas; we refer to them all our judgments
and all the determination of our life. His o
oject is to seek pleasure and shun pain.
The principle of utility subjects everything
to these two motives.”
“Nature has placed mankind under the
governance of these two sovereign
masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them
alone to point what we ought to do, as well
as to determine what we shall do.”
Bentham argues that because we do desire
pleasure, therefore we ought to desire
pleasure. He bases ethical hedonism on
psychological hedonism.
3. HEDONISTIC CALCULUS

“Weigh pleasures and weigh pains, and as


the balance stands, will stand the question
of right and wrong.”
THEREFORE, for Bentham

AN ACTION IS RIGHT IF IT GIVES


PLEASURE OR EXCESS OF PLEASURE
OVER PAIN.
An ACTION is WRONG if it gives PAIN or
EXCESS OF PAIN over pleasure.
THUS, RIGHTNESS CONSISTS in
pleasurableness; WRONGNESS consists
in PAINFULNESS.

In calculating pleasures and pains we


must take into account intensity,
duration, proximity, certainty,
purity, fecundity and extent.
4. GROSS UTILITARIANISM

- Any one pleasure is as good as another


provided they are equal in quantity.
- When Bentham speaks of PURITY, he is
referring to freedom from pain. Not any
superior quality.
4. ALTRUISM

- Bentham’s Hedonism is altruistic because


he takes into account the extent of
pleasures, i.e. the number of persons
affected by them.
- Pleasure shared by many persons is
preferred over those enjoyed by
only one person.
5. EGOISM

- Bentham recognizes natural egoism of man.

- “To obtain the greatest portion of happiness of himself is


the object of every rational being. Every man is nearer to
himself than he can be to any other man, and no
other man can weigh for him his pleasures and pains.
He himself must necessarily be his own
concern. His interest must, to himself, be the
primary interest.”
- Bentham admits man’s egoistic nature but
advances altruistic hedonism.

DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLE OF JUSTICE

- “Each is to count for one, and no one for


more than one.”
Bentham’s Moral Standard:

“Greatest Pleasure of the greatest number”


calculated upon the basis of the QUALITY
of the claim of all.
5. MORAL SANCTIONS
- Transition from egoism to altruism is
through the 4 external sanctions.

a. PHYSICAL/NATURAL SANCTION-
physical pain d/t disregard of natural laws,
e.g. laws of health. It is law of nature to
satisfy our appetites moderately;
if we violate it by over-indulgence,
disease and pain follow.
b. POLITICAL SANCTION

- Follows d/t penalties inflicted by authorities


of the State.
- Intended to prevent individual from
violating political laws and hope for a
reward from the State prompts him to
perform actions beneficial to
society.
c. SOCIAL SANCTION

- Pains inflicted by society upon the


individual, e.g. social rejection
d. RELIGIOUS SANCTION

- Fear of punishment in hell and the hope of


reward in heaven.
QUIZ 2
QUIZ

1. Explain the concept of Utilitarianism. (10


points)
2. Explain: “acts should be classified as
morally right or wrong only if the
consequences are of such significance
that a person would wish to see the agent
compelled, not merely persuaded and
exhorted, to act in the preferred manner.”
1. (10 points)
3. Is utilitarianism a viable ethical principle?
Explain and provide samples. (10 points)
4. Give your own criticisms about Bentham’s
concept of Gross Utilitarianism. (10 points)