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Flashcards in Utilitarianism Deck (15)
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What is bentham's principle of utility?

The idea of 'the greatest good for the greatest number.'

Happiness is what we aim for - all other aims a means to happiness. Therefore goodness is defined as happiness.


Define hedonism

Hedonism recognises happiness as the ultimate aim. It recognise happiness as the absence of pain, and presence of pleasure.


What kind of hedonism does Bentham believe in?

Psychological - we are instinctually driven to attain pleasure and avoid pain.


What does Bentham use to calculate the utility of an action?

The hedonic calculus


What are the seven principles of the hedonic calculus?

Intensity, duration, certainty, remoteness, fecundity, purity, extent.


In what way is utilitarianism egalitarian?

Each person affected by an action counts for one person. Every sentient being's interests are taken into account.


Explain the concept of 'states of affairs'

Utilitarians are concerned with bringing about the best state of affairs.

So, if one person would derive greater happiness by being given a big present (state of affairs one) than six people receiving a present (state of affairs two), the we should pick state of affairs one.


Explain the concept of commensurability

Links to quantity over quality.

What all activities which humans enjoy have in common is that they bring about pleasure. They are therefore comparable, or commensurable, in terms of pleasure - one activity may bring about more pleasure than another.


What kind of utilitarianism does Bentham support?

Act utilitarianism - individual actions judged according to the principle of utility.


What is the basic claim of rule utilitarianism?

An action is right if it complies with those rules which if everybody followed them would bring about the greatest happiness compared to another set of rules.


Why did Mill develop Rule utilitarianism?

He considers the quality of pleasure - he claimed that noble pleasures and pleasures of the intellect were greater than the pleasure derived from sensual gratification.


What led Mill to claim that certain pleasures are superior?

When asked, people who have experienced a great many pleasures will generally favour the more refined pleasures.


Why did Mill believe we needed rules, and how are they created?

We need rules to avoid complicated calculations on the part of individuals who may not be experienced, and therefore need guidance on the quality of pleasure.

Inherited moral rules are the product of trial and error. Over time, we have learnt that in general, things like lying, stealing, and breaking promises bring about unhappiness.


What did Mill label utilitarian rules?

Secondary principles - can be broken only if two or more conflict, in which case the hedonistic principle must be used.


What kind of theory is utilitarianism?