The greatest happiness, the utilitarian principle by Bentham

A handful of Q&As with Jeremy Bentham, this 18th-century English philosopher known mostly for "Fragment on Government" (1776), "Defense of Usury" (1787), "Panopticon" (1787) and a few more | 1 | What is the definition of happiness that actually produces some utilitarian consequences?   The greatest happiness principle is rooted in our moral and emotional [...]

A handful of Q&As with Jeremy Bentham, this 18th-century English philosopher known mostly for “Fragment on Government” (1776), “Defense of Usury” (1787), “Panopticon” (1787) and a few more |

1 | What is the definition of happiness that actually produces some utilitarian consequences?

 

The greatest happiness principle is rooted in our moral and emotional spine; as human beings, we all seek happiness and we are wired for organizing our actions and planning what to do next, we are all self-centered as we tend to judge other people on the level they increase or decrease our own store of happiness and what we actually like and dislike. Oftentimes we tend to judge something to be “right or wrong” on the basis of our liking or disliking  – this is known as the principle of “sympathy and antipathy”. Happiness in its basic understanding is the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain.

 

2 | What is human motivation?

 

Nature 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. (Ch. 1)

 

 

3 | What are the moral principles according to Bentham?

(i) the greatest happiness principle

(ii) universal egoism

(iii) the artificial identification of one’s interests with those of others.

More can be found in Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.

By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which 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 | J.Bentham

Jeremy Bentham
51heASO-uGL._SX311_BO1204203200_-blackwhite

 

The consequences of our actions are important and we should weigh these up when we consider what we should do

X