Feb. 27, 2014
• Termed coined by Jeremy Bentham – moral happiness based on greatest happiness for the
• Happiness – defined in terms of pleasure – man
• Ethical theory by which we judge moral & immoral actions (blame-worthiness vs. praise-
• Theory based on actions with the best possible outcomes
• Preference satisfaction
• Pleasure and pain are opposites
• Strongly egalitarian – “everybody counts for 1 and no more than 1”
• Axiomatic stance – considered self-evident (“all men are created equal…”)
• Goodness measures in ‘utiles’(figurative term of measurement)
• Kant & Rawls would have objected that an action can be morally outrageous, but it can
benefit some good (Ex: hostage situation where you must decide to kill 5 people or 1
• Deontology – non-reducible rights and duties (irreducible to pleasure or pain)
• An ethnic majority may not oppress a minority not a utilitarian good
Standard Objections to Bentham’s Utilitarianism
1- Incommensurability of values
• The good we are trying to derive from our actions are not all on 1 scale.
Intuitive – can we really compare pleasures?
• Not able to gain 1 pleasure against another
2- Adaptive preferences
• Utilitarianism is a preference based theory. What if our preferences change? • Causes problems
3- Multiple values
• Even if we could measure happiness by pleasure, happiness cannot be traded to
other values that are not reducible to pleasure
• The genuineness of an experience might be valuable in itself
• Nozick – pleasurable memory machine – no one would choose it
• Utilitarianism is blind to distribution
• If a community sacrifices 1 person to benefit the others
• Fairness seems to imply that everyone is equal, but utilitarianism doesn’t care
about equal individuals, just the happiness of the majority.
• 10-10-10 vs. 7-13-10
• When is it ok to stop giving to the greatest good?
• Always have to be helping others?
• Give up all personal things in order to serve the greater good
1- Argument against multiple values
• All individuals’pleasure is equal
• Evaluative/Qualitative distinctions between pleasures (higher vs. lower)
• It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied, than to be a pig satisfied.
• The life of Hayden vs. an oyster (lower pleasure but longer life span) • multiple lower pleasure by a number of years and reach a high pleasure
• Mill says you can’t do this. Lower pleasures cannot reach the same status as
• Kant andAristotle don’t have a problem with ranking pleasures (philosophy vs.
• Mill – there is a relation based on the principle of utilitarianism
2- Justice and Equality (chap. 5 of Mills’Utilitarianism)
• Defends view that espouses justice
• Aggregate happiness will be increased by following justice and equality
3- Preference Satisfaction
• Problem of external preferences – what if your preferences are based on denying the
preferences of another? (ex: racism or homosexuality)
4- Shift from utilitarianism to consequentialism
• Even consequentialism is subject to the problem of over-demandingness
• Undermines personal goals, attachments, and personal values. Self-defeating – brings
about worse consequences.
Shift from ACT utilitarianism/consequentialism to RULE utilitarianism/consequentialism
• Act is right if it’s the best option (outcome) compared to all other options (for the entire