› Utilitarianism is the view that we should act
to promote the greatest happiness and least
suffering for the greatest number of people.
› Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) and John
Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) created and refined
› Hedonism is the view that pleasure is the
only thing of true value.
Aristippus (430 – 350 B.C.E.) believed the
meaning of life is simply pleasure.
Epicurus (341 – 270 B.C.E.) believed
intellectual pleasures had a much greater
value than physical gratification.
Psychological hedonism is the view that
humans are naturally directed to pleasure.
Ethical hedonism is the view that humans
ought to seek pleasure.
› Jeremy Bentham claimed that we should evaluate
our actions by what produced the most pleasure
and least suffering.
Pleasure/pain should be calculated according to a
hedonistic calculus that includes consideration of:
Extent (when considered for more than one
A “hedon” is a unit of pleasure.
Pleasure 1Pleasure 2Pain 1 Pain 2
Total pleasure A
Total pain B
Take any situation. Write down how much pleasure or pain it causes
for how many people. Then you should be able to fill out this, or
similar chart, add the numbers you assigned to pain and pleasure
and if pleasure wins, you can do the action, if pain wins, you
shouldn’t do the action.
Does it really work?
› J.S. Mill (critiquing Bentham’s notion of the
Hedonistic Calculus) emphasized that
certain pleasures (higher, intellectual
pleasure) have a greater value than others.
‘Higher’ pleasures: intellectual, literary,
aesthetic, philosophical should be
greatly preferred over the ‘Lower’
“It’s better to be a human being
dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.”
What does this mean to
So, you can’t really compare the
pleasures of beasts to human pleasures.
Humans have faculties that are more
‘elevated’ than animals. Once we are
conscious of those, we must work so that
those will give us gratification, not the
lower kind, the animalistic pleasures.
Some kind of pleasures are more
desirable and more valuable than others.
Does listening to Mozart provide higher
pleasure than watching TV?
Is reading a good novel preferable to
hanging out with friends?
Thinking about philosophy is higher than a
What do you think?