Tagged: Utilitarianism

John Stuart MILL: UTILITARIANISM (1863)

A brief overview of the reading: Jeremy Bentham’s (1748-1832) principle of utility is open to the objection that it may well sacrifice the rights of the minority for the sake of the happiness of the majority. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), himself a utilitarian, sought to rescue utilitarianism from this and other objections. In his essay Utilitarianism, Mill argues that respect for individual rights as “the most sacred and binding part of morality” is compatible with the idea that justice rests ultimately on utilitarian considerations. But is Mill right to be confident? Can the principle of utility support the notion that some...

Jeremy Bentham: Principles of Morals and Legislation. 1780

One can also approach ethics from the perspective of usefulness and utility. What will produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people? The philosopher associated with this kind of thinking about morality is Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). In his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1780), Bentham argues that the principle of utility should be the basis of morality and law, and by utility he understands whatever promotes pleasure and prevents pain. Is this principle enough to guide us through the difficult questions of ethical decision-making? Here are some excerpts: Chapter I. Of the Principle...

Ethical Systems

  The picture above suggests a way to integrate ethical systems on the basis of the structure of action. Ethical reflection can begin with the acting subject, the action itself, or the outcome.  Another consideration is the field of application: What actions can be subjected to ethical considerations? (Sneezing or falling from a tree is not an ethical act.) Furthermore, does ethics only apply to actions between subjects, like in the case of lying, or does it extend to other objects, like trees, animals, landscapes, etc.? The table below compares five different approaches to ethics: Relativism, Religious ethics, utlitarianism, deontology,...