Humanities 2B Reader, Lecture 3, Bentham Reading

Humanities 2B Reader, Lecture 3, Bentham Reading - An...

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An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation By Jeremy Bentham Chapter I Of The Principle Of Utility ature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure . It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think: every effort we can make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it. In words a man may pretend to abjure their empire: but in reality he will remain. subject to it all the while. The principle of utility 1 recognizes this subjection, and assumes it for the foundation of that system, the object of which is to rear the fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and of law. Systems which attempt to question it, deal in sounds instead of sense, in caprice instead of reason, in darkness instead of light. N But enough of metaphor and declamation: it is not by such means that moral science is to be improved. 1 Bentham added the following footnote to a later edition of his book: To this denomination has of late been added, or substituted, the greatest happiness or greatest felicity principle: this for shortness, instead of saying at length that principle which states the greatest happiness of all those whose interest is in question, as being the right and proper, and only right and proper and universally desirable, end of human action: of human action in every situation, and in particular in that of a functionary or set of functionaries exercising the powers of Government. The word utility does not so clearly point to the ideas of pleasure and pain as the words happiness and felicity do: nor does it lead us to the consideration of the number , of the interests affected; to the number , as being the circumstance, which contributes, in the largest proportion, to the formation of the standard here in question; the standard of right and wrong , by which alone the propriety of human conduct, in every situation can with propriety be tried. This want to a sufficiently manifest connexion between the ideas of happiness and pleasure on the one hand, and the idea of utility on the other, I have every now and then found operating, and with but too much efficiency, as a bar to the acceptance, that might otherwise have been given, to this principle. II. The principle of utility is the foundation of the present work: it will be proper therefore at the outset to give an explicit and determinate account of what is meant by it. By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever. according to the tendency it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question: or, what is the same thing in other words to promote or to oppose that happiness. I say of every action
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2010 for the course HUM 2B at San Jose State University .

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Humanities 2B Reader, Lecture 3, Bentham Reading - An...

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