This preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.
This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.View Full Document
Unformatted text preview: Phil 104 sec 2-12 February 25, 2008 handout utilitarianism and consequentialism page 1 Utilitarianism and Consequentialism I the basic idea and its history A) the basic idea: Utilitarianism is one of the most ancient theories of ethics. Utilitarianism is the view that pleasure is the good, that pain is the bad, and that a good action is one that maximizes total pleasure and minimizes total pain among all those capable of feeling pleasure. The best action or policy produces the greatest good for the greatest number. ( The earlier name of the theory was hedonism from the Greek word for pleasure hedone ().) Utilitarianism, as a guide to action, is impartial. Any pleasure, whether yours or someone elses, counts in every determination of the goodness or badness of an action. That means that the goodness of an action of a person is the sum of the pleasure that action produces for everyone and minus the sum of the pains it brings about for everyone. In a given situation, the best action is the one with the highest balance of pleasure over pain. In a bad situation, that balance might be negative, in which case the best action is not so good. Utilitarianism is a natural theory of the good and bad. Organisms are built to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Utilitarianism also lends itself to quantification and to scientific calculation. Pleasures and pains are the sorts of things that can be measured, so that complex calculations of what the best thing to do would be could be treated mathematically. (Utilitarianism is different from the sort of view Callicles advanced in the Gorgias . Callicles view was that the good for Callicles was pleasure for Callicles. Callicles held the view that the good for each person was the action that would produce the maximum pleasure and minimum pain for that person . This sort of ego-centric hedonism does not recommend seeking an objective over-all good, but just the hedonistically-conceived good for oneself. It is thus akin to relativism. It is doubtful whether such a view is coherent as a view of an objective good. You could hold that only your own pleasure contributes to the objective good. In that case, you would argue that other peoples actions are good to the extent that they contribute to your pleasure. It would be difficult to convince other people of this doctrine.) B) history The earliest important philosopher to argue for utilitarianism was Epicurus (342-270 BC), who was born about five years after Platos death. Epicurus held that there was nothing in the world except micro-particles interacting. He regarded the soul or mind as a physical system, basically a structure of micro-particles. The Greek philosopher Democritus (460-370 bc), a few generations before Epicurus, proposed the atomic theory of the way the world worked that was adopted by Epicurus. The view became popular again in the Renaissance, although it had to adapt itself to Christian doctrines. Epicurus interest was primarily in giving people advice on how to live a happy Christian doctrines....
View Full Document
This note was uploaded on 04/14/2008 for the course PHIL 104 taught by Professor Bontly during the Spring '08 term at UConn.
- Spring '08