Utilitarianism

Bentham's ambition in life was to create a "Pannomion", a complete utilitarian code of law. He not only proposed many legal and social reforms, but also expounded an underlying moral principle on which they should be based. This philosophy of utilitarianism took for its "fundamental axiom, it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong". !"# Bentham claimed to ha$e borrowed this concept from the writings of %oseph Priestley, !&# although the closest that Priestley in fact came to expressing it was in the form "the good and happiness of the members, that is the ma'ority of the members of any state, is the great standard by which e$ery thing relating to that state must finally be determined". ! The "greatest happiness principle", or the principle of utility, forms the cornerstone of all Bentham's thought. By "happiness", he understood a predominance of "pleasure" o$er "pain". He wrote in The Principles of Morals and Legislation( )ature has placed mankind under the go$ernance of two so$ereign masters, pain and pleasure. *t is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. +n the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They go$ern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think ... !,# He also suggested a procedure for estimating the moral status of any action, which he called the Hedonistic or felicific calculus. -tilitarianism was re$ised and expanded by Bentham's student %ohn .tuart /ill. *n /ill's hands, "Benthamism" became a ma'or element in the liberal conception of state policy ob'ecti$es. *n his exposition of the felicific calculus, Bentham proposed a classification of 0! pains and 0& pleasures, by which we might test the "happiness factor" of any action. !1# )onetheless, it should not be o$erlooked that Bentham's "hedonistic" theory 2a term from %.%.3. .mart4, unlike /ill's, is often critici5ed for lacking a principle of fairness embodied in a conception of 'ustice. *n Bentham and the Common Law Tradition, 6erald %. Postema states( ")o moral concept suffers more at Bentham's hand than the concept of 'ustice. There is no sustained, mature analysis of the notion..." !7# Thus, some critics who?# ob'ect, it would be acceptable to torture one person if this would produce an amount of happiness in other people outweighing the unhappiness of the tortured indi$idual. Howe$er, as P.%. 8elly argued in Utilitarianism and Distributive Justice Jerem! Bentham and the Civil Law, Bentham had a theory of 'ustice that pre$ented such conse9uences. :ccording to 8elly, for Bentham the law "pro$ides the basic framework of social interaction by delimiting spheres of personal in$iolability within which indi$iduals can form and pursue their own conceptions of well;being". !<# *t pro$ides security, a precondition for the formation of expectations. :s the hedonic calculus shows "expectation utilities" to be much higher than natural ones, it follows that Bentham does not fa$our the sacrifice of a few to the benefit of the many. Bentham's "n #ntroduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation focuses on the principle of utility and how this $iew of morality ties into legislati$e practices. His principle of utility regards "good" as that which produces the greatest amount of pleasure and the minimum amount of pain and "e$il" as that which produces the most pain without the pleasure. This concept of pleasure and pain is defined by Bentham as physical as well as spiritual. Bentham writes about this principle as it manifests itself within the legislation of a society. He lays down a set of criteria for measuring the extent of pain or pleasure that a certain decision will create. The criteria are di$ided into the categories of intensity, duration, certainty, proximity, producti$eness, purity, and extent. -sing these measurements, he re$iews the concept of

because often these indi$idual pursuits can lead to greater pain and less pleasure for a society as a whole. *nstead of suppressing the e$il acts.punishment and when it should be used as far as whether a punishment will create more pleasure or more pain for a society. Therefore. He calls for legislators to determine whether punishment creates an e$en more e$il offence. Bentham argues that certain unnecessary laws and punishments could ultimately lead to new and more dangerous $ices than those being punished to begin with. He argues that the concept of the indi$idual pursuing his or her own happiness cannot be necessarily declared "right". . and calls upon legislators to measure the pleasures and pains associated with any legislation and to form laws in order to create the greatest good for the greatest number. the legislation of a society is $ital to maintain the maximum pleasure and the minimum degree of pain for the greatest amount of people.

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