Ethics should be based on
what is most Useful. To
determine whether an action
is right or wrong one must
look at what would be most
useful in that situation.
Believed happiness was most
important in determining
what is right or wrong.
“greatest happiness for the
Wanted to create a system of right and wrong - benefit all society.
One of the first Utilitarian view point.
Most useful thing in any moral dilemma is happiness. (leads people to make
right ethical decisions.)
Creating the Principle of Utility = Maximize pleasure – minimize pain
Neither Hume nor Hutcheson were Utilitarians, joining of the two
views: usefulness and happiness that makes Utilitarianism an ethical
““Nature has placed mankind under the governance of twoNature has placed mankind under the governance of two
sovereign masters, pleasure and pain. It is for themsovereign masters, pleasure and pain. It is for them
alone to point out what we ought to do...”alone to point out what we ought to do...”
Teleological (concerned with outcomes)Teleological (concerned with outcomes)
It alsoIt also HedonisticHedonistic
Principle of UtilityPrinciple of Utility==
Maximize pleasure – minimize painMaximize pleasure – minimize pain
Hedonic Calculus or way to seek pleasure (pleasureHedonic Calculus or way to seek pleasure (pleasure
Produce maximum happiness and minimum pain forProduce maximum happiness and minimum pain for
maximum number of people.maximum number of people.
2.2. Duration – how long it lastsDuration – how long it lasts
3.3. Certainty of pleasureCertainty of pleasure
4.4. Fecundity – ‘productive’ leads to other pleasuresFecundity – ‘productive’ leads to other pleasures
5.5. Propinquity – how near to pleasurePropinquity – how near to pleasure
6.6. Purity – some pleasure involve pain as well which arePurity – some pleasure involve pain as well which are
not as pure as pleasures that have no pain.not as pure as pleasures that have no pain.
7.7. Extent – more people that experience it the better.Extent – more people that experience it the better.
Act is right = more pleasure thanAct is right = more pleasure than
pain or prevents painpain or prevents pain
Act is wrong = more pain thanAct is wrong = more pain than
pleasure or prevents pleasure.pleasure or prevents pleasure.
But (part b evaluation):But (part b evaluation):
WhatWhat isis happiness/ pleasure?happiness/ pleasure?
IsIs allall pleasures morally good?pleasures morally good?
Is all pain morally bad?Is all pain morally bad?
John Stuart Mill ( 1806-1873) had some problems withJohn Stuart Mill ( 1806-1873) had some problems with
Bentham's Utilitarian arguments:Bentham's Utilitarian arguments:
1.1. The hedonic calculus attempts toThe hedonic calculus attempts to quantifyquantify happiness, ishappiness, is
this possible? Hard to apply when faced with anthis possible? Hard to apply when faced with an
immediate ethical dilemma.immediate ethical dilemma.
2.2. Bentham's utilitarian argument isBentham's utilitarian argument is teleologicalteleological ==
accurately predicting the consequences of an action. Notaccurately predicting the consequences of an action. Not
always possible.always possible.
3.3. What counts as pleasure? One person’sWhat counts as pleasure? One person’s pleasurepleasure isis
4.4. Does not distinguish betweenDoes not distinguish between different sortsdifferent sorts of pleasuresof pleasures
or give them a rank orderor give them a rank order
5.5. What aboutWhat about minoritiesminorities??
6.6. The emphasis onThe emphasis on pleasurepleasure Mill saw little more thanMill saw little more than
animal instinctsanimal instincts e.g. sex, food, drinke.g. sex, food, drink
““It is better to be a human being dissatisfiedIt is better to be a human being dissatisfied
than a pig satisfied:than a pig satisfied:
Better to be Socrates dissatisfiedBetter to be Socrates dissatisfied
than a fool satisfied.”than a fool satisfied.”
Higher/ Lower PleasuresHigher/ Lower Pleasures
Lower Pleasures =lowest pleasures shared with animalsLower Pleasures =lowest pleasures shared with animals
e.g. pigse.g. pigs
Highest pleasures = stimulate mind, only be experiencedHighest pleasures = stimulate mind, only be experienced
by humans.by humans.
• Mill recognised that in reality people do not always opt forMill recognised that in reality people do not always opt for
the higher pleasure.the higher pleasure.
• This is due to ignorance.This is due to ignorance.
A competent judge is someone who has experienced
both the higher and lower pleasures.
Their role is to help to define the amount of pain/pleasure
the action causes since they have experience of both.
Altruism (unselfishness/ love for others) was very
important to Mill
So he produced his Principle of Utility:So he produced his Principle of Utility:
1.1. Happiness is desirable.Happiness is desirable.
2.2. Happiness only thing desirable as an end in itself.Happiness only thing desirable as an end in itself.
3.3. General happiness of all is desirable.General happiness of all is desirable. IncreaseIncrease
happiness of others increases your own.happiness of others increases your own.
Also made links to Jesus’ Golden Rule: “To do as oneAlso made links to Jesus’ Golden Rule: “To do as one
would be done by, and to love one’s neighbour aswould be done by, and to love one’s neighbour as
oneself, constitutes the ideal perfection of Utilitarianoneself, constitutes the ideal perfection of Utilitarian
morality.” Millmorality.” Mill
(Why is Mill linking Utilitarianism with Christianity?)(Why is Mill linking Utilitarianism with Christianity?)
Philosophical Critics of MillPhilosophical Critics of Mill
• W.D Ross ‘a single factor’ they don't
account for complex lives and moral
decisions – family takes precedence over
• Henry Sidgwick – how can we distinguish
higher and lower pleasures from each
other... Which higher pleasure takes priority
in moral decisions?
Comparison: BenthamComparison: Bentham MillMill
• ““The greatest happinessThe greatest happiness
(pleasure) for the greatest(pleasure) for the greatest
• Focused on the individualFocused on the individual
situations – Actsituations – Act
• Relative ethical theory based onRelative ethical theory based on
each situation.each situation.
• Quantitative – Hedonic CalculusQuantitative – Hedonic Calculus
(Can be seen as absolute guide(Can be seen as absolute guide
to ethics)to ethics)
• In search of maximisingIn search of maximising
• Hedonistic based on pleasureHedonistic based on pleasure
• Teleological (end result) /Teleological (end result) /
• ““The greatest happiness for theThe greatest happiness for the
greatest number.”greatest number.”
• Focused on protecting commonFocused on protecting common
good universally – Rulegood universally – Rule
• Absolute ethical theory based onAbsolute ethical theory based on
universally applied rules.universally applied rules.
• Qualitative – higher / lowerQualitative – higher / lower
• Teleological/ ConsequentialistTeleological/ Consequentialist
Looks at the consequences ofLooks at the consequences of
an actionan action
Apply Hedonic Calculus toApply Hedonic Calculus to
every act to work out if it willevery act to work out if it will
maximise pleasure minimisemaximise pleasure minimise
StrongStrong: Bentham following: Bentham following
one principle – Principle ofone principle – Principle of
Utility. Must be adhered toUtility. Must be adhered to
without exception.without exception.
Rule UtilitarianRule Utilitarian
• General rulesGeneral rules
• applied Universally acrossapplied Universally across
societies to promote happinesssocieties to promote happiness
• These rules should not beThese rules should not be
broken as they are the basis ofbroken as they are the basis of
• Mill was aMill was a WeakWeak RuleRule
• He believed that the rulesHe believed that the rules
sometimes need to be brokensometimes need to be broken
inin extremeextreme situations.situations.
Preference UtilitarianismPreference Utilitarianism
R. M. Hare (1919-2002) – taught Peter SingerR. M. Hare (1919-2002) – taught Peter Singer
Need to consider our own preferences + those ofNeed to consider our own preferences + those of
Need to “Need to “stand in someone else’s shoesstand in someone else’s shoes” and” and
try to imagine what someone else might prefer –try to imagine what someone else might prefer –
What would I prefer in this situation?’What would I prefer in this situation?’
However, remember that it is a Utilitarian argument soHowever, remember that it is a Utilitarian argument so
aims to create greatest good for greatest number so isaims to create greatest good for greatest number so is
necessary to consider the preferences of others in ordernecessary to consider the preferences of others in order
to achieve this.to achieve this.
He says that “ equal
preferences count equally,
whatever their content.”
Peter SingerPeter Singer
““Our preferences cannot count any more than the preferences ofOur preferences cannot count any more than the preferences of
others” + equal valueothers” + equal value
Focus on 7Focus on 7thth
stage of HC – number of people affected.stage of HC – number of people affected.
Everyone’s individual preferences must be taken into considerationEveryone’s individual preferences must be taken into consideration
when deciding what was in the best interest of the group – “when deciding what was in the best interest of the group – “act asact as
an impartial spectatoran impartial spectator.”.”
So in Singer’s view, killing a person who prefers to go on livingSo in Singer’s view, killing a person who prefers to go on living
would be wrong and not killing a person who prefers to die wouldwould be wrong and not killing a person who prefers to die would
also be wrong.also be wrong.
Singer’s approach to Utilitarianism is to minimise suffering ratherSinger’s approach to Utilitarianism is to minimise suffering rather
than maximise pleasure.than maximise pleasure.
Far greater agreement about what causes pain that what givesFar greater agreement about what causes pain that what gives
Pleasure is more subjective to individuals than pain.Pleasure is more subjective to individuals than pain.
Strengths and WeaknessesStrengths and Weaknesses
Helps address issue ofHelps address issue of
majority justifying any actionmajority justifying any action
e.g. sweat shops as it takese.g. sweat shops as it takes
individual preferences intoindividual preferences into
Focuses on preferences ofFocuses on preferences of
others – Golden ruleothers – Golden rule
Pain is more universally knownPain is more universally known
rather than pleasure – lessrather than pleasure – less
XX Not absolute so can beNot absolute so can be
misused and adapted formisused and adapted for
wrong ethical actswrong ethical acts
XX Might not be able toMight not be able to
please everyone – thereplease everyone – there
will always be anwill always be an
unhappy minorityunhappy minority
XX How do we know whatHow do we know what
other people’sother people’s
preferences arepreferences are
XX Whose preferences areWhose preferences are
more important?more important?
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