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Lecture 2 Outline - Basic Insights of Utilitarianism Key...

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Utilitarianism Lecture 2 Summer School PHIL 102 1 Consequences: The rightness and wrongness of acts is solely a matter of the goodness and badness of their consequences Maximising: We should seek to maximise (or increase) good consequences Impartial: “Everyone counts for one and only one” (Bentham) Principle of Utility: “Always act so as to maximise ‘utility’ for all affected” Key Ideas 2 What is it we are trying to maximise? ‘Utility’ - (welfare, benefit, advantage, good) Classical (Hedonistic) Utilitarianism = happiness/ pleasure Preference Utilitarianism = preferences/desires Ideal Utilitarianism = beauty, friendship, knowledge Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) Peter Singer (1946-present) 3 Classical Hedonistic Utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) 4 Classical Hedonistic Utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) What should be maximised is the sum total of felt well-being (happiness) Happiness = pleasure Maximising utility means promoting pleasure and reducing pain At every point in time each individual (person, sentient being) is at a certain level of well-being (the “hedonic situation of the individual”) What matters is how the situation at this moment is experienced by this person (Does it feel better than a moment ago? Is it roughly the same? Worse?) 5 excerpted from T.Tännsjö, Understanding Ethics , (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002) 6
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Experiences of pleasure have a certain quality or ‘tone’ Every conscious experience has a ‘hedonic element’ Pleasure is positive, pain is negative and we can compare these ‘hedonic states’. We can plot these hedonic elements on a scale of intensity of happiness (pleasure/pain) “At each moment we feel what we feel and that is it” 7 1. Hedonism holds that pleasure is the only intrinsic good. Is this true? 2. Is pleasure really the same thing as happiness? 3. Is it true that there is a common ‘tone’ shared by all emotions, sensations, experiences that is measurable on a scale?
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