The classical utilitarians bentham and mill pdf

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This volume includes the complete texts of two of John Stuart Mill's most important works, Utilitarianism and On Liberty, and selections from his other writings, including the complete text of his "Remarks on Bentham's Philosophy. John Stuart Mill; Jeremy Bentham; Jeremy Bentham. Utilitarianism is also a consequentialist theory – in that only the consequences of Bentham, one of the earliest founders of Utilitarianism was an English philosopher and .. This position has been called “classical liberalism. The Classical Utilitarians, Bentham and Mill book. Read 7 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. This volume includes the complete texts.

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The Classical Utilitarians Bentham And Mill Pdf

Trove: Find and get Australian resources. Books, images, historic newspapers, maps, archives and more. Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action The Classical Utilitarians, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, identified. John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, John Troyer. Click here if your download Classics) pdf · Read Online The Classical Utilitarians (Hackett Classics) pdf.

The distinction between quantity and quality of pleasures is absent from the utilitarianism of the older generation Bentham was as concerned with quality as with quantity … [he has been] typecast as a villain in a story in which he was presenting a shallow quantitative approach. Mill, for example, has been accused, again and again, of being an inconsistent utilitarian because he held that, when comparing the value of two pleasures, we should not forget to take their quality into account. Bentham, on the other hand, is said to have been more consistent, but less subtle, because he thought that we should take only quantity into consideration. I do not see a difference of quality at all Emphasis added.

These advantages enable us to think more cogently about how to respond to important questions: What motivated people to develop and defend utilitarian ideas? In choosing to defend utilitari- anism, what alternatives were these thinkers rejecting? This chapter addresses these questions in the hope of making utilitarianism more intelligible — not simply as embodying philosophical theses and argu- ments, but as expressing and shaping modes of moral, political, and religious life.

The analysis of Anglican utilitarianism offered here strives to make it comprehensible by seeing it as the synthesis of two cur- rents of thought, both of which developed in the seventeenth century: Protestant natural law theory and the modern revival of Epicureanism.

Cumberland and Locke cumberland It would be too weak to say that the most famous of the classical utilitarians — Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill — rejected the idea of a law of nature. Rather, they ridiculed it. Though the idea that there is a universal moral law extends back to the Stoics, natural law morality received a seminal development at the hands of Thomas Aquinas and still remains an important part of Catholic moral phi- losophy today.

In the period after the Protestant Reformation, how- ever, a new school of natural law morality, Protestant natural law, began. Without God, obligation — and therefore morality — is impossible. Two things seem noteworthy. First, it was not unusual to claim that the end of natural law is the common good indeed, Aquinas does so. Second, the common good provides a public standard that makes shared reasoning about right and wrong possible.

This denial rests on a different determi- nation of what nature reveals that God wills for his creatures — what law God establishes for humans. Though Locke disagrees with Cumberland and Anglican utilitar- ians about the proximate criteria for right action, he nevertheless establishes and, with the growth of his authority in England, legit- imates the philosophical path that the utilitarians will largely follow.

In particular, he does two important things. He defends a voluntarist theory of obligation to natural law in which God plays an essential role and he argues for various egoistic and hedonistic theses. As noted above, one key tenet of utilitarianism — all things are valuable only insofar as they promote happiness i. Under the latter, Locke includes the useful utile and virtue or the honorable honestum. I do not see how they would be reckoned good at all.

Happiness is a reckoning of pleasures and pains. Third, an egoist thesis about motivation: everyone pursues individual happi- ness — we are exclusively motivated to act by our desire to get pleas- ure and avoid pain. In hedonistic theories, the main deliberative problem is often trying to determine what things pro- mote and what things reduce pleasure.

If our desire for pleasure were left unchecked, it would undermine mor- ality and social life. In making the argument for passive obedi- ence, Berkeley relies on natural law to formulate a clear utilitarian position.

Nevertheless, his theory is important both for its originality and because it provides a useful historical instance show- ing that utilitarian ideas can be employed for conservative indeed, potentially reactionary ends.

As we come to maturity, we are able to comprehend that immediate pleasures often lead to pain and vice versa. But God enjoying in himself all possible perfection, it follows that it is not his own good, but that of his creatures.

All the absolute laws are negative precepts and include commands not to commit adultery, murder, steal, lie, or resist the supreme power i. In addition, we are unable to calculate the consequences of actions for the general good, and even if we could, we would lack the time to do it. This rigorism about the moral law serves the purpose of defending passive obedience against those who would claim that some circumstances or acts by the sovereign could justify rebellion.

In mak- ing that case, Berkeley anticipates some of the arguments that would be made in subsequent centuries against act utilitarianism. Hutcheson — was a Scottish-Irish Presbyterian who pro- foundly shaped the Scottish Enlightenment through his writings and his teaching as professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow.

For Hutcheson, unlike for the more stand- ard utilitarians of the period, what is morally important is not happi- ness. Actions are ultimately evaluated not by their consequences for happiness, but by the underlying motives that produced the action. Nevertheless, there are a number of reasons not to consider Hume a utilitarian. Third, he claims some virtues e. These two emphases led to increased interest in moral philosophy, and Anglican utilitarianism attracted a dominant share of that interest.

It was the only instance in the eighteenth century of utilitarianism gaining prominence among an institutionally established elite. There are continuities in the criterion of morality, moral psychology, and value theory, but distinct differen- ces in moral obligation and in how revisionary moral philosophy was taken to be.

Greater familiarity with Anglican utilitarianism offers, among other things, a richer appreciation of the relations of Benthamite utilitarianism to mainstream eighteenth-century British moral and political thought.

Gay — was educated at Cambridge, where he was a fellow and tutor from to First, the Anglican utilitarians develop in some novel ways Epicurean hedonism. Second, they defend a utilitarian criterion of right action. We will address each in turn.

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Gay complicates Epicurean egoism and hedonism, however, by agreeing with Hutcheson and others that we do approve of and pursue things like virtue or money for their own sakes.

He never- theless reconciles these phenomena with his hedonism through associationism. We originally love things like money as a means to happiness. Eventually, however, the association of money with pleasure can become so strong that we begin to pursue money for its own sake, not merely as a means to something else — the money itself becomes pleasurable. The same thing often happens with virtue — we begin by loving it for the personal pleasure it brings, and end up, through the power of association, loving it because it itself is pleasurable.

So, the power of association explains how we move from seeing virtue as a means to happiness to seeing it as itself pleasurable, to be pursued for its own sake. Virtue is not and should not be valued independently of its connection to pleasure, but it can be valued for its own sake in the sense of being an ultimate rather than a subordinate end for action.

These are tightly related for him, as they are for his fellow utilitarians. The next natural question: What does God will for us? Indeed, the atheist would seem to have good reason to pursue his pleasure. But the inclusion of God solves this problem. Bentham, in contrast to Mill, represented the egoistic branch — his theory of human nature reflected Hobbesian psychological egoism. If anything could be identified as the fundamental motivation behind the development of Classical Utilitarianism it would be the desire to see useless, corrupt laws and social practices changed.

Accomplishing this goal required a normative ethical theory employed as a critical tool. What is the truth about what makes an action or a policy a morally good one, or morally right? But developing the theory itself was also influenced by strong views about what was wrong in their society. The conviction that, for example, some laws are bad resulted in analysis of why they were bad.

And, for Jeremy Bentham, what made them bad was their lack of utility, their tendency to lead to unhappiness and misery without any compensating happiness. If a law or an action doesn't do any good, then it isn't any good. He famously held that humans were ruled by two sovereign masters — pleasure and pain.

Yet he also promulgated the principle of utility as the standard of right action on the part of governments and individuals. Actions are approved when they are such as to promote happiness, or pleasure, and disapproved of when they have a tendency to cause unhappiness, or pain PML.

Combine this criterion of rightness with a view that we should be actively trying to promote overall happiness, and one has a serious incompatibility with psychological egoism. Thus, his apparent endorsement of Hobbesian psychological egoism created problems in understanding his moral theory since psychological egoism rules out acting to promote the overall well-being when that it is incompatible with one's own.

For the psychological egoist, that is not even a possibility.

The Classical Utilitarians by Jeremy Bentham (ebook)

This generates a serious tension in Bentham's thought, one that was drawn to his attention. He sometimes seemed to think that he could reconcile the two commitments empirically, that is, by noting that when people act to promote the good they are helping themselves, too.

But this claim only serves to muddy the waters, since the standard understanding of psychological egoism — and Bentham's own statement of his view — identifies motives of action which are self-interested.

Yet this seems, again, in conflict with his own specification of the method for making moral decisions which is not to focus on self-interest — indeed, the addition of extent as a parameter along which to measure pleasure produced distinguishes this approach from ethical egoism. Aware of the difficulty, in later years he seemed to pull back from a full-fledged commitment to psychological egoism, admitting that people do sometimes act benevolently — with the overall good of humanity in mind.

Bentham also benefited from Hume's work, though in many ways their approaches to moral philosophy were completely different.

Hume rejected the egoistic view of human nature. Hume also focused on character evaluation in his system. Actions are significant as evidence of character, but only have this derivative significance.

In moral evaluation the main concern is that of character. Yet Bentham focused on act-evaluation. There was a tendency — remarked on by J. Schneewind , for example — to move away from focus on character evaluation after Hume and towards act-evaluation.

Recall that Bentham was enormously interested in social reform. Indeed, reflection on what was morally problematic about laws and policies influenced his thinking on utility as a standard. When one legislates, however, one is legislating in support of, or against, certain actions. Character — that is, a person's true character — is known, if known at all, only by that person.

If one finds the opacity of the will thesis plausible then character, while theoretically very interesting, isn't a practical focus for legislation. Further, as Schneewind notes, there was an increasing sense that focus on character would actually be disruptive, socially, particularly if one's view was that a person who didn't agree with one on a moral issues was defective in terms of his or her character, as opposed to simply making a mistake reflected in action. But Bentham does take from Hume the view that utility is the measure of virtue — that is, utility more broadly construed than Hume's actual usage of the term.

This is because Hume made a distinction between pleasure that the perception of virtue generates in the observer, and social utility, which consisted in a trait's having tangible benefits for society, any instance of which may or may not generate pleasure in the observer. But Bentham is not simply reformulating a Humean position — he's merely been influenced by Hume's arguments to see pleasure as a measure or standard of moral value.

So, why not move from pleasurable responses to traits to pleasure as a kind of consequence which is good, and in relation to which, actions are morally right or wrong? Bentham, in making this move, avoids a problem for Hume. On Hume's view it seems that the response — corrected, to be sure — determines the trait's quality as a virtue or vice.

But on Bentham's view the action or trait is morally good, right, virtuous in view of the consequences it generates, the pleasure or utility it produces, which could be completely independent of what our responses are to the trait. So, unless Hume endorses a kind of ideal observer test for virtue, it will be harder for him to account for how it is people make mistakes in evaluations of virtue and vice.


Bentham, on the other hand, can say that people may not respond to the actions good qualities — perhaps they don't perceive the good effects. But as long as there are these good effects which are, on balance, better than the effects of any alternative course of action, then the action is the right one. Rhetorically, anyway, one can see why this is an important move for Bentham to be able to make. He was a social reformer. He felt that people often had responses to certain actions — of pleasure or disgust — that did not reflect anything morally significant at all.

One is the physical antipathy to the offence…. The act is to the highest degree odious and disgusting, that is, not to the man who does it, for he does it only because it gives him pleasure, but to one who thinks [?

Be it so, but what is that to him? Bentham OAO, v. This reduces the antipathy to the act in question. This demonstrates an optimism in Bentham. This is distinct from the view that a pain or pleasure based on a false belief should be discounted.

Bentham does not believe the latter. Thus Bentham's hedonism is a very straightforward hedonism. The one intrinsic good is pleasure, the bad is pain. We are to promote pleasure and act to reduce pain. When called upon to make a moral decision one measures an action's value with respect to pleasure and pain according to the following: intensity how strong the pleasure or pain is , duration how long it lasts , certainty how likely the pleasure or pain is to be the result of the action , proximity how close the sensation will be to performance of the action , fecundity how likely it is to lead to further pleasures or pains , purity how much intermixture there is with the other sensation.

One also considers extent — the number of people affected by the action. Keeping track of all of these parameters can be complicated and time consuming. Bentham does not recommend that they figure into every act of moral deliberation because of the efficiency costs which need to be considered. Experience can guide us. We know that the pleasure of kicking someone is generally outweighed by the pain inflicted on that person, so such calculations when confronted with a temptation to kick someone are unnecessary.

It is reasonable to judge it wrong on the basis of past experience or consensus. Bentham's view was surprising to many at the time at least in part because he viewed the moral quality of an action to be determined instrumentally. It isn't so much that there is a particular kind of action that is intrinsically wrong; actions that are wrong are wrong simply in virtue of their effects, thus, instrumentally wrong.

This cut against the view that there are some actions that by their very nature are just wrong, regardless of their effects. Some may be wrong because they violate liberty, or autonomy. Again, Bentham would view liberty and autonomy as good — but good instrumentally, not intrinsically.

Thus, any action deemed wrong due to a violation of autonomy is derivatively wrong on instrumental grounds as well. This is interesting in moral philosophy — as it is far removed from the Kantian approach to moral evaluation as well as from natural law approaches.

It is also interesting in terms of political philosophy and social policy. On Bentham's view the law is not monolithic and immutable. Since effects of a given policy may change, the moral quality of the policy may change as well. A law that is good at one point in time may be a bad law at some other point in time. Thus, lawmakers have to be sensitive to changing social circumstances.

To be fair to Bentham's critics, of course, they are free to agree with him that this is the case in many situations, just not all — and that there is still a subset of laws that reflect the fact that some actions just are intrinsically wrong regardless of consequences. Bentham is in the much more difficult position of arguing that effects are all there are to moral evaluation of action and policy. This left him open to a variety of criticisms. First, Bentham's Hedonism was too egalitarian.

Simple-minded pleasures, sensual pleasures, were just as good, at least intrinsically, than more sophisticated and complex pleasures. The pleasure of drinking a beer in front of the T. Second, Bentham's view that there were no qualitative differences in pleasures also left him open to the complaint that on his view human pleasures were of no more value than animal pleasures and, third, committed him to the corollary that the moral status of animals, tied to their sentience, was the same as that of humans.

While harming a puppy and harming a person are both bad, however, most people had the view that harming the person was worse. Mill sought changes to the theory that could accommodate those sorts of intuitions. To this end, Mill's hedonism was influenced by perfectionist intuitions. There are some pleasures that are more fitting than others. Intellectual pleasures are of a higher, better, sort than the ones that are merely sensual, and that we share with animals.

To some this seems to mean that Mill really wasn't a hedonistic utilitarian. His view of the good did radically depart from Bentham's view. However, like Bentham, the good still consists in pleasure, it is still a psychological state. There is certainly that similarity. Further, the basic structures of the theories are the same for more on this see Donner The rationale for all the rights he recognizes is utilitarian.

He doesn't attempt a mere appeal to raw intuition.

Instead, he argues that those persons who have experienced both view the higher as better than the lower. Who would rather be a happy oyster, living an enormously long life, than a person living a normal life?

Mill also argued that the principle could be proven, using another rather notorious argument: The only proof capable of being given that an object is visible is that people actually see it…. In like manner, I apprehend, the sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything is desirable is that people do actually desire it.

If the end which the utilitarian doctrine proposes to itself were not, in theory and in practiced, acknowledged to be an end, nothing could ever convince any person that it was so. Moore — criticized this as fallacious. The distinctions he makes strike many as intuitively plausible ones.

Bentham, however, can accommodate many of the same intuitions within his system. This is because he notes that there are a variety of parameters along which we quantitatively measure pleasure — intensity and duration are just two of those.

His complete list is the following: intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, propinquity or remoteness, fecundity, purity, and extent. Thus, what Mill calls the intellectual pleasures will score more highly than the sensual ones along several parameters, and this could give us reason to prefer those pleasures — but it is a quantitative not a qualitative reason, on Bentham's view.

When a student decides to study for an exam rather than go to a party, for example, she is making the best decision even though she is sacrificing short term pleasure. That's because studying for the exam, Bentham could argue, scores higher in terms of the long term pleasures doing well in school lead to, as well as the fecundity of the pleasure in leading to yet other pleasures.

However, Bentham will have to concede that the very happy oyster that lives a very long time could, in principle, have a better life than a normal human. Mill's version of utilitarianism differed from Bentham's also in that he placed weight on the effectiveness of internal sanctions — emotions like guilt and remorse which serve to regulate our actions. This is an off-shoot of the different view of human nature adopted by Mill.

We are the sorts of beings that have social feelings, feelings for others, not just ourselves. We care about them, and when we perceive harms to them this causes painful experiences in us. When one perceives oneself to be the agent of that harm, the negative emotions are centered on the self.

One feels guilt for what one has done, not for what one sees another doing. Like external forms of punishment, internal sanctions are instrumentally very important to appropriate action. Mill also held that natural features of human psychology, such as conscience and a sense of justice, underwrite motivation. The sense of justice, for example, results from very natural impulses. Like Bentham, Mill sought to use utilitarianism to inform law and social policy. The aim of increasing happiness underlies his arguments for women's suffrage and free speech.

We can be said to have certain rights, then — but those rights are underwritten by utility. If one can show that a purported right or duty is harmful, then one has shown that it is not genuine.

Improving the social status of women was important because they were capable of these cultivated faculties, and denying them access to education and other opportunities for development is forgoing a significant source of happiness.

The Classical Utilitarians

Further, the men who would deny women the opportunity for education, self-improvement, and political expression do so out of base motives, and the resulting pleasures are not ones that are of the best sort.

Bentham and Mill both attacked social traditions that were justified by appeals to natural order. The correct appeal is to utility itself.

In the latter part of the 20th century some writers criticized utilitarianism for its failure to accommodate virtue evaluation.

However, though virtue is not the central normative concept in Mill's theory, it is an extremely important one. In Chapter 4 of Utilitarianism Mill noted … does the utilitarian doctrine deny that people desire virtue, or maintain that virtue is not a thing to be desired? The very reverse. It maintains not only that virtue is to be desired, but also that it is to be desired disinterestedly, for itself.

Whatever may be the opinion of utilitarian moralists as to the original conditions by which virtue is made virtue … they not only place virtue at the very head of things which are good as a means to the ultimate end, but they also recognize as a psychological fact the possibility of its being, to the individual, a good in itself, without looking to any end beyond it; and hold, that the mind is not in a right state, not in a state conformable to Utility, not in the state most conducive to the general happiness, unless it does love virtue in this manner … In Utilitarianism Mill argues that virtue not only has instrumental value, but is constitutive of the good life.

A person without virtue is morally lacking, is not as able to promote the good. Wendy Donner notes that separating virtue from right allows Mill to solve another problem for the theory: the demandingness problem Donner This is the problem that holds that if we ought to maximize utility, if that is the right thing to do, then doing right requires enormous sacrifices under actual conditions , and that requiring such sacrifices is too demanding.

With duties, on Mill's view, it is important that we get compliance, and that justifies coercion. Henry Sidgwick Henry Sidgwick's — The Methods of Ethics is one of the most well known works in utilitarian moral philosophy, and deservedly so.

It offers a defense of utilitarianism, though some writers Schneewind have argued that it should not primarily be read as a defense of utilitarianism. On Sidgwick's view, utilitarianism is the more basic theory. A simple reliance on intuition, for example, cannot resolve fundamental conflicts between values, or rules, such as Truth and Justice that may conflict.

Further, the rules which seem to be a fundamental part of common sense morality are often vague and underdescribed, and applying them will actually require appeal to something theoretically more basic — again, utilitarianism. Yet further, absolute interpretations of rules seem highly counter-intuitive, and yet we need some justification for any exceptions — provided, again, by utilitarianism.

Sidgwick provides a compelling case for the theoretical primacy of utilitarianism. Sidgwick was also a British philosopher, and his views developed out of and in response to those of Bentham and Mill. His Methods offer an engagement with the theory as it had been presented before him, and was an exploration of it and the main alternatives as well as a defense.

Sidgwick was also concerned with clarifying fundamental features of the theory, and in this respect his account has been enormously influential to later writers, not only to utilitarians and consequentialists, generally, but to intuitionists as well. Sidgwick's thorough and penetrating discussion of the theory raised many of the concerns that have been developed by recent moral philosophers.

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