Lesson 3


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Lesson 3

  1. 1. › 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 utilitarianism. Bentham Mill
  2. 2. › 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.
  3. 3. › 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:  Intensity  Duration  Certainty  Remoteness  Fecundity  Purity  Extent (when considered for more than one person)  A “hedon” is a unit of pleasure.
  4. 4.   Pleasure 1Pleasure 2Pain 1 Pain 2 Intensity Duration Certainty Remoteness Fecundity Purity Extent TOTAL Total pleasure A Total pain B Difference A-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?
  5. 5. › 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’ pleasures.  “It’s better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.” What does this mean to you?
  6. 6.  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.
  7. 7.  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 sporting event? What do you think?