Utilitarianism @F-L-O-W

Utilitarianism @F-L-O-W

Sandra LaFave
West Valley College
The notion of an ethics based on utility — usefulness for human concerns, especially human happiness — was one of the revolutionary Continental ideas of the Enlightenment period. Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794), for example, in his extremely influential work On Crimes and Punishments, argues that punishments should be inflicted only insofar as they are useful for human purposes; and that governments should not think themselves free to punish inhumanely in the name of God. Beccaria is joined by thinkers such as Hobbes, Hume, Diderot, Helvetius, and Montesquieu.

These notes focus mainly on the version of utilitarianism defended by John Stuart Mill as expressed in his classic work Utilitarianism (1861).

[STUDENTS, PLEASE NOTE! His name is "M-I-L-L" (not "Mills").]

But Mill (1806-1873) was not the first English-speaking utilitarian philosopher; Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), a friend of James Mill, J. S. Mill’s father, is usually considered the founder of British utilitarianism. The contemporary philosopher Paul Taylor traces the foundations of British utilitarianism back even further, to David Hume (1711-1776), the famous British empiricist, who claims in his Treatise that people invent rules for conduct because having such rules is most useful for society as a whole.

However, the differences among the early utilitarians are slight, so that most of what is said in these notes regarding Mill is equally applicable to Hume and Bentham.

One important difference between Bentham and Mill arises regarding the question, “What is the ultimate desideratum?”. Bentham says pleasure is the highest natural good, and does not think any pleasures are “objectively” better than any others: “Pushpin is as good as poetry.” But Bentham does not mean all pleasures are equally valuable either; pleasures are better if more intense, long-lasting, certain, nearby, fecund (capable of producing even more pleasures), pure (not mixed with pain), and wide-ranged (the more people who enjoy, the better). According to Bentham, these attributes are part of the calculus of felicity, which you should use to compute the overall value of any pleasure. Mill, by contrast, says that some pleasures are in themselves better than others (whether or not they are intense, long-lasting, certain, etc.).

Source: http://instruct.westvalley.edu

More Info @F-L-O-W

Disclaimer  |  Terms of Service  |  Earnings Disclaimer  |  Privacy Notice  |  Contact Support Buy the Book