Happiness Theory Essay

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Happiness Theory Essay

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This concept was adopted by Bentham and can be seen in his works. According to Mill, good actions result in pleasure, and that there is no higher end than pleasure. Mill says that good actions lead to pleasure and define good character. Better put, the justification of character, and whether an action is good or not, is based on how the person contributes to the concept of social utility.

In the long run the best proof of a good character is good actions; and resolutely refuse to consider any mental disposition as good, of which the predominant tendency is to produce bad conduct. In the last chapter of Utilitarianism, Mill concludes that justice, as a classifying factor of our actions being just or unjust is one of the certain moral requirements, and when the requirements are all regarded collectively, they are viewed as greater according to this scale of "social utility" as Mill puts it. He also notes that, contrary to what its critics might say, there is "no known Epicurean theory of life which does not assign to the pleasures of the intellect…a much higher value as pleasures than to those of mere sensation.

The accusation that hedonism is a "doctrine worthy only of swine" has a long history. In Nicomachean Ethics Book 1 Chapter 5 , Aristotle says that identifying the good with pleasure is to prefer a life suitable for beasts. The theological utilitarians had the option of grounding their pursuit of happiness in the will of God; the hedonistic utilitarians needed a different defence. Mill's approach is to argue that the pleasures of the intellect are intrinsically superior to physical pleasures. Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals, for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast's pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they are with theirs.

And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question… [32]. Mill argues that if people who are "competently acquainted" with two pleasures show a decided preference for one even if it be accompanied by more discontent and "would not resign it for any quantity of the other," then it is legitimate to regard that pleasure as being superior in quality. Mill recognizes that these "competent judges" will not always agree, and states that, in cases of disagreement, the judgment of the majority is to be accepted as final.

Mill also acknowledges that "many who are capable of the higher pleasures, occasionally, under the influence of temptation, postpone them to the lower. But this is quite compatible with a full appreciation of the intrinsic superiority of the higher. Mill also thinks that "intellectual pursuits have value out of proportion to the amount of contentment or pleasure the mental state that they produce. We will become bored and depressed. Whereas, intellectual pursuits give long-term happiness because they provide the individual with constant opportunities throughout the years to improve his life, by benefiting from accruing knowledge.

Mill views intellectual pursuits as "capable of incorporating the 'finer things' in life" while petty pursuits do not achieve this goal. Although debate persists about the nature of Mill's view of gratification, this suggests bifurcation in his position. In Chapter Four of Utilitarianism , Mill considers what proof can be given for the principle of utility: [37]. The only proof capable of being given that an object is visible, is that people actually see it. The only proof that a sound is audible, is that people hear it. It is usual to say that Mill is committing a number of fallacies : [38]. Such allegations began to emerge in Mill's lifetime, shortly after the publication of Utilitarianism , and persisted for well over a century, though the tide has been turning in recent discussions.

This is the first, and remains [ when? Yet the alleged fallacies in the proof continue to attract scholarly attention in journal articles and book chapters. Hall and Popkin defend Mill against this accusation pointing out that he begins Chapter Four by asserting that "questions of ultimate ends do not admit of proof, in the ordinary acceptation of the term" and that this is "common to all first principles. Having claimed that people do, in fact, desire happiness, Mill now has to show that it is the only thing they desire. Mill anticipates the objection that people desire other things such as virtue. He argues that whilst people might start desiring virtue as a means to happiness, eventually, it becomes part of someone's happiness and is then desired as an end in itself.

The principle of utility does not mean that any given pleasure, as music, for instance, or any given exemption from pain, as for example health, are to be looked upon as means to a collective something termed happiness, and to be desired on that account. They are desired and desirable in and for themselves; besides being means, they are a part of the end.

Virtue, according to the utilitarian doctrine, is not naturally and originally part of the end, but it is capable of becoming so; and in those who love it disinterestedly it has become so, and is desired and cherished, not as a means to happiness, but as a part of their happiness. We may give what explanation we please of this unwillingness; we may attribute it to pride, a name which is given indiscriminately to some of the most and to some of the least estimable feelings of which is mankind are capable; we may refer it to the love of liberty and personal independence, an appeal to which was with the Stoics one of the most effective means for the inculcation of it; to the love of power, or the love of excitement, both of which do really enter into and contribute to it: but its most appropriate appellation is a sense of dignity, which all humans beings possess in one form or other, and in some, though by no means in exact, proportion to their higher faculties, and which is so essential a part of the happiness of those in whom it is strong, that nothing which conflicts with it could be, otherwise than momentarily, an object of desire to them.

Sidgwick' s book The Methods of Ethics has been referred to as the peak or culmination of classical utilitarianism. Hedonism is subdivided into egoistic hedonism , which only takes the agent's own well-being into account, and universal hedonism or utilitarianism , which is concerned with everyone's well-being. Intuitionism holds that we have intuitive, i. Sidgwick suggests that we resolve such conflicts in a utilitarian fashion by considering the consequences of the conflicting actions. The harmony between intuitionism and utilitarianism is a partial success in Sidgwick's overall project, but he sees full success impossible since egoism, which he considers as equally rational, cannot be reconciled with utilitarianism unless religious assumptions are introduced.

The description of ideal utilitarianism was first used by Hastings Rashdall in The Theory of Good and Evil , but it is more often associated with G. In Ethics , Moore rejects a purely hedonistic utilitarianism and argues that there is a range of values that might be maximized. Moore's strategy was to show that it is intuitively implausible that pleasure is the sole measure of what is good. He says that such an assumption: [48]. It involves our saying that, even if the total quantity of pleasure in each was exactly equal, yet the fact that all the beings in the one possessed, in addition knowledge of many different kinds and a full appreciation of all that was beautiful or worthy of love in their world, whereas none of the beings in the other possessed any of these things, would give us no reason whatever for preferring the former to the latter.

Moore admits that it is impossible to prove the case either way, but he believed that it was intuitively obvious that even if the amount of pleasure stayed the same a world that contained such things as beauty and love would be a better world. He adds that, if a person was to take the contrary view, then "I think it is self-evident that he would be wrong. In the midth century, a number of philosophers focused on the place of rules in utilitarian thought. Paley had justified the use of rules and Mill says: [50]. It is truly a whimsical supposition that, if mankind were agreed in considering utility to be the test of morality, they would remain without any agreement as to what is useful, and would take no measures for having their notions on the subject taught to the young, and enforced by law and opinion Being rational creatures, they go to sea with it ready calculated; and all rational creatures go out upon the sea of life with their minds made up on the common questions of right and wrong.

However, rule utilitarianism proposes a more central role for rules that was thought to rescue the theory from some of its more devastating criticisms, particularly problems to do with justice and promise keeping. Smart and McCloskey initially use the terms extreme and restricted utilitarianism but eventually everyone settled on the prefixes act and rule instead. In an introduction to an anthology of these articles, the editor was able to say: "The development of this theory was a dialectical process of formulation, criticism, reply and reformulation; the record of this process well illustrates the co-operative development of a philosophical theory.

The essential difference is in what determines whether or not an action is the right action. Act utilitarianism maintains that an action is right if it maximizes utility; rule utilitarianism maintains that an action is right if it conforms to a rule that maximizes utility. In , Urmson published an influential article arguing that Mill justified rules on utilitarian principles. In all probability, it was not a distinction that Mill was particularly trying to make and so the evidence in his writing is inevitably mixed. A collection of Mill's writing published in includes a letter that seems to tip the balance in favour of the notion that Mill is best classified as an act utilitarian.

In the letter, Mill says: [54]. I agree with you that the right way of testing actions by their consequences, is to test them by the natural consequences of the particular action, and not by those which would follow if everyone did the same. But, for the most part, the consideration of what would happen if everyone did the same, is the only means we have of discovering the tendency of the act in the particular case. Some school level textbooks and at least one British examination board make a further distinction between strong and weak rule utilitarianism. It has been argued that rule utilitarianism collapses into act utilitarianism, because for any given rule, in the case where breaking the rule produces more utility, the rule can be refined by the addition of a sub-rule that handles cases like the exception.

In Principles , R. Hare accepts that rule utilitarianism collapses into act utilitarianism but claims that this is a result of allowing the rules to be "as specific and un-general as we please. When we are " playing God or the ideal observer ," we use the specific form, and we will need to do this when we are deciding what general principles to teach and follow. When we are " inculcating " or in situations where the biases of our human nature are likely to prevent us doing the calculations properly, then we should use the more general rule utilitarianism. One ought to abide by the general principles whose general inculcation is for the best; harm is more likely to come, in actual moral situations, from questioning these rules than from sticking to them, unless the situations are very extra-ordinary; the results of sophisticated felicific calculations are not likely, human nature and human ignorance being what they are, to lead to the greatest utility.

In Moral Thinking , Hare illustrated the two extremes. The " archangel " is the hypothetical person who has perfect knowledge of the situation and no personal biases or weaknesses and always uses critical moral thinking to decide the right thing to do. In contrast, the " prole " is the hypothetical person who is completely incapable of critical thinking and uses nothing but intuitive moral thinking and, of necessity, has to follow the general moral rules they have been taught or learned through imitation.

Hare does not specify when we should think more like an "archangel" and more like a "prole" as this will, in any case, vary from person to person. However, the critical moral thinking underpins and informs the more intuitive moral thinking. It is responsible for formulating and, if necessary, reformulating the general moral rules. We also switch to critical thinking when trying to deal with unusual situations or in cases where the intuitive moral rules give conflicting advice. Preference utilitarianism entails promoting actions that fulfil the preferences of those beings involved.

Hare , [59] Peter Singer , [63] and Richard Brandt. Harsanyi rejects hedonistic utilitarianism as being dependent on an outdated psychology saying that it is far from obvious that everything we do is motivated by a desire to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. He also rejects ideal utilitarianism because "it is certainly not true as an empirical observation that people's only purpose in life is to have 'mental states of intrinsic worth'. According to Harsanyi, "preference utilitarianism is the only form of utilitarianism consistent with the important philosophical principle of preference autonomy.

By this I mean the principle that, in deciding what is good and what is bad for a given individual, the ultimate criterion can only be his own wants and his own preferences. Harsanyi adds two caveats. Firstly, people sometimes have irrational preferences. To deal with this, Harsanyi distinguishes between " manifest " preferences and " true " preferences. The former are those "manifested by his observed behaviour, including preferences possibly based on erroneous factual beliefs, [ clarification needed ] or on careless logical analysis, or on strong emotions that at the moment greatly hinder rational choice ;" whereas the latter are "the preferences he would have if he had all the relevant factual information, always reasoned with the greatest possible care, and were in a state of mind most conducive to rational choice.

The second caveat is that antisocial preferences, such as sadism , envy , and resentment , have to be excluded. Harsanyi achieves this by claiming that such preferences partially exclude those people from the moral community:. Utilitarian ethics makes all of us members of the same moral community. A person displaying ill will toward others does remain a member of this community, but not with his whole personality. That part of his personality that harbours these hostile antisocial feelings must be excluded from membership, and has no claim for a hearing when it comes to defining our concept of social utility. In The Open Society and its Enemies , Karl Popper argues that the principle "maximize pleasure" should be replaced by "minimize pain.

In my opinion human suffering makes a direct moral appeal, namely, the appeal for help, while there is no similar call to increase the happiness of a man who is doing well anyway. A further criticism of the Utilitarian formula "Maximize pleasure" is that it assumes a continuous pleasure-pain scale that lets us treat degrees of pain as negative degrees of pleasure.

But, from the moral point of view, pain cannot be outweighed by pleasure, and especially not one man's pain by another man's pleasure. Instead of the greatest happiness for the greatest number, one should demand, more modestly, the least amount of avoidable suffering for all The actual term negative utilitarianism itself was introduced by R. Smart as the title to his reply to Popper in which he argues that the principle would entail seeking the quickest and least painful method of killing the entirety of humanity.

In response to Smart's argument, Simon Knutsson has argued that classical utilitarianism and similar consequentialist views are roughly equally likely to entail killing the entirety of humanity, as they would seem to imply that one should kill existing beings and replace them with happier beings if possible. Consequently, Knutsson argues:.

The world destruction argument is not a reason to reject negative utilitarianism in favour of these other forms of consequentialism, because there are similar arguments against such theories that are at least as persuasive as the world destruction argument is against negative utilitarianism. Furthermore, Knutsson notes that one could argue that other forms of consequentialism, such as classical utilitarianism, in some cases have less plausible implications than negative utilitarianism, such as in scenarios where classical utilitarianism implies it would be right to kill everyone and replace them in a manner that creates more suffering, but also more well-being such that the sum, on the classical utilitarian calculus , is net positive.

Negative utilitarianism, in contrast, would not allow such killing. Motive utilitarianism was first proposed by Robert Merrihew Adams in The arguments for moving to some form of motive utilitarianism at the personal level can be seen as mirroring the arguments for moving to some form of rule utilitarianism at the social level. Applying carefully selected rules at the social level and encouraging appropriate motives at the personal level is, so it is argued, likely to lead to a better overall outcome even if on some individual occasions it leads to the wrong action when assessed according to act utilitarian standards.

Adams concludes that "right action, by act-utilitarian standards, and right motivation, by motive-utilitarian standards, are incompatible in some cases. Because utilitarianism is not a single theory, but rather a cluster of related theories that have been developed over two hundred years, criticisms can be made for different reasons and have different targets. A common objection to utilitarianism is the inability to quantify, compare, or measure happiness or well-being. Ray Briggs writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy : [80].

One objection to this interpretation of utility is that there may not be a single good or indeed any good which rationality requires us to seek. But if we understand "utility" broadly enough to include all potentially desirable ends—pleasure, knowledge, friendship, health and so on—it's not clear that there is a unique correct way to make the tradeoffs between different goods so that each outcome receives a utility. There may be no good answer to the question of whether the life of an ascetic monk contains more or less good than the life of a happy libertine—but assigning utilities to these options forces us to compare them.

Utility understood this way is a personal preference , in the absence of any objective measurement. As Rosen has pointed out, claiming that act utilitarians are not concerned about having rules is to set up a " straw man. Hare refers to "the crude caricature of act utilitarianism which is the only version of it that many philosophers seem to be acquainted with. Nevertheless, whether they would agree or not, this is what critics of utilitarianism claim is entailed by the theory. A classic version of this criticism was given by H.

McCloskey in his "sheriff scenario:" [52]. Suppose that a sheriff were faced with the choice either of framing a Negro for a rape that had aroused hostility to the Negroes a particular Negro generally being believed to be guilty but whom the sheriff knows not to be guilty —and thus preventing serious anti-Negro riots which would probably lead to some loss of life and increased hatred of each other by whites and Negroes—or of hunting for the guilty person and thereby allowing the anti-Negro riots to occur, while doing the best he can to combat them.

In such a case the sheriff, if he were an extreme utilitarian, would appear to be committed to framing the Negro. By "extreme" utilitarian, McCloskey is referring to what later came to be called act utilitarianism. He suggests one response might be that the sheriff would not frame the innocent negro because of another rule: "do not punish an innocent person. In a later article, McCloskey says: [83]. Surely the utilitarian must admit that whatever the facts of the matter may be, it is logically possible that an 'unjust' system of punishment—e. An older form of this argument was presented by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his book The Brothers Karamazov , in which Ivan challenges his brother Alyosha to answer his question: [84].

Tell me straight out, I call on you—answer me: imagine that you yourself are building the edifice of human destiny with the object of making people happy in the finale, of giving them peace and rest at last, but for that you must inevitably and unavoidably torture just one tiny creature, [one child], and raise your edifice on the foundation of her unrequited tears—would you agree to be the architect on such conditions? And can you admit the idea that the people for whom you are building would agree to accept their happiness on the unjustified blood of a tortured child, and having accepted it, to remain forever happy?

Some argue that it is impossible to do the calculation that utilitarianism requires because consequences are inherently unknowable. Daniel Dennett describes this as the " Three Mile Island effect". He suggests that it would have been a good thing if plant operators learned lessons that prevented future serious incidents. Russell Hardin rejects such arguments. He argues that it is possible to distinguish the moral impulse of utilitarianism which is "to define the right as good consequences and to motivate people to achieve these" from our ability to correctly apply rational principles that, among other things, "depend on the perceived facts of the case and on the particular moral actor's mental equipment.

The moral impulse of utilitarianism is constant, but our decisions under it are contingent on our knowledge and scientific understanding. From the beginning, utilitarianism has recognized that certainty in such matters is unobtainable and both Bentham and Mill said that it was necessary to rely on the tendencies of actions to bring about consequences. Moore , writing in , said: [88]. We certainly cannot hope directly to compare their effects except within a limited future; and all the arguments, which have ever been used in Ethics, and upon which we commonly act in common life, directed to shewing that one course is superior to another, are apart from theological dogmas confined to pointing out such probable immediate advantages An ethical law has the nature not of a scientific law but of a scientific prediction : and the latter is always merely probable, although the probability may be very great.

Act utilitarianism not only requires everyone to do what they can to maximize utility, but to do so without any favouritism. Mill said, "As between his own happiness and that of others, utilitarianism requires him to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator. The well-being of strangers counts just as much as that of friends, family or self. Hooker describes two aspects to the problem: act utilitarianism requires huge sacrifices from those who are relatively better off and also requires sacrifice of your own good even when the aggregate good will be only slightly increased. One response to the problem is to accept its demands. This is the view taken by Peter Singer , who says: [93]. No doubt we do instinctively prefer to help those who are close to us.

Few could stand by and watch a child drown; many can ignore the avoidable deaths of children in Africa or India. The question, however, is not what we usually do, but what we ought to do, and it is difficult to see any sound moral justification for the view that distance, or community membership, makes a crucial difference to our obligations. Others argue that a moral theory that is so contrary to our deeply held moral convictions must either be rejected or modified. In Satisficing Consequentialism , Michael Slote argues for a form of utilitarianism where "an act might qualify as morally right through having good enough consequences, even though better consequences could have been produced.

Samuel Scheffler takes a different approach and amends the requirement that everyone be treated the same. Kagan suggests that such a procedure might be justified on the grounds that "a general requirement to promote the good would lack the motivational underpinning necessary for genuine moral requirements" and, secondly, that personal independence is necessary for the existence of commitments and close personal relations and that "the value of such commitments yields a positive reason for preserving within moral theory at least some moral independence for the personal point of view.

Robert Goodin takes yet another approach and argues that the demandingness objection can be "blunted" by treating utilitarianism as a guide to public policy rather than one of individual morality. He suggests that many of the problems arise under the traditional formulation because the conscientious utilitarian ends up having to make up for the failings of others and so contributing more than their fair share.

Gandjour specifically considers market situations and analyses whether individuals who act in markets may produce a utilitarian optimum. He lists several demanding conditions that need to be satisfied: individuals need to display instrumental rationality, markets need to be perfectly competitive, and income and goods need to be redistributed. Harsanyi argues that the objection overlooks the fact that "people attach considerable utility to freedom from unduly burdensome moral obligations This means that utilitarianism, if correctly interpreted, will yield a moral code with a standard of acceptable conduct very much below the level of highest moral perfection, leaving plenty of scope for supererogatory actions exceeding this minimum standard.

The objection that "utilitarianism does not take seriously the distinction between persons" came to prominence in with the publication of John Rawls ' A Theory of Justice. However, a similar objection was noted in by Thomas Nagel , who claimed that consequentialism "treats the desires, needs, satisfactions, and dissatisfactions of distinct persons as if they were the desires, etc. But this is absurd.

Individuals have wants, not mankind; individuals seek satisfaction, not mankind. A person's satisfaction is not part of any greater satisfaction. A response to this criticism is to point out that whilst seeming to resolve some problems it introduces others. Intuitively, there are many cases where people do want to take the numbers involved into account. As Alastair Norcross has said: []. Can anyone who really considers the matter seriously honestly claim to believe that it is worse that one person die than that the entire sentient population of the universe be severely mutilated?

Clearly not. It may be possible to uphold the distinction between persons whilst still aggregating utility, if it accepted that people can be influenced by empathy. Philosopher John Taurek also argued that the idea of adding happiness or pleasures across persons is quite unintelligible and that the numbers of persons involved in a situation are morally irrelevant. He argues that each person can only lose one person's happiness or pleasures.

There is not five times more loss of happiness or pleasure when five die: who would be feeling this happiness or pleasure? Derek Parfit and others have criticized Taurek's line, [] [] [] and it continues to be discussed. An early criticism, which was addressed by Mill, is that if time is taken to calculate the best course of action it is likely that the opportunity to take the best course of action will already have passed. Mill responded that there had been ample time to calculate the likely effects: [89]. During all that time, mankind have been learning by experience the tendencies of actions; on which experience all the prudence, as well as all the morality of life, are dependent It is a strange notion that the acknowledgment of a first principle is inconsistent with the admission of secondary ones.

To inform a traveller respecting the place of his ultimate destination, is not to forbid the use of landmarks and direction-posts on the way. The proposition that happiness is the end and aim of morality, does not mean that no road ought to be laid down to that goal, or that persons going thither should not be advised to take one direction rather than another. Men really ought to leave off talking a kind of nonsense on this subject, which they would neither talk nor listen to on other matters of practical concernment. More recently, Hardin has made the same point. Parallel considerations in other realms are dismissed with eminently good sense. Lord Devlin notes, 'if the reasonable man " worked to rule " by perusing to the point of comprehension every form he was handed, the commercial and administrative life of the country would creep to a standstill.

It is such considerations that lead even act utilitarians to rely on "rules of thumb", as Smart has called them. One of the oldest criticisms of utilitarianism is that it ignores our special obligations. For example, if we were given the choice between saving two random people or our mother, most would choose to save their mothers. According to utilitarianism, such a natural action is immoral. The first to respond to this was an early utilitarian and friend of Jeremy Bentham named William Godwin , who held in his work Enquiry Concerning Political Justice that such personal needs should be disregarded in favour of the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Applying the utilitarian principle "that life ought to be preferred which will be most conducive to the general good" to the choice of saving one of two people, either "the illustrious Archbishop of Cambray" or his chambermaid, he wrote: []. Supposing the chambermaid had been my wife, my mother or my benefactor. That would not alter the truth of the proposition. The life of [the Archbishop] would still be more valuable than that of the chambermaid; and justice, pure, unadulterated justice, would still have preferred that which was most valuable.

Utilitarianism's assertion that well-being is the only thing with intrinsic moral value has been attacked by various critics. Karl Marx , in Das Kapital , criticises Bentham's utilitarianism on the grounds that it does not appear to recognise that people have different joys in different socioeconomic contexts: []. With the driest naivete he takes the modern shopkeeper, especially the English shopkeeper, as the normal man. Whatever is useful to this queer normal man, and to his world, is absolutely useful. This yard-measure, then, he applies to past, present, and future. The Christian religion, e. With such rubbish has the brave fellow, with his motto, "nulla dies sine linea [no day without a line]", piled up mountains of books.

Pope John Paul II , following his personalist philosophy , argued that a danger of utilitarianism is that it tends to make persons, just as much as things, the object of use. Ross , speaking form the perspective of his deontological pluralism , acknowledges that there is a duty to promote the maximum of aggregate good, as utilitarianism demands. But, Ross contends, this is just one besides various other duties, like the duty to keep one's promises or to make amends for wrongful acts, which are ignored by the simplistic and reductive utilitarian outlook. Roger Scruton was a deontologist, and believed that utilitarianism did not give duty the place that it needed inside our ethical judgements.

He asked us to consider the dilemma of Anna Karenina , who had to choose between her love of Vronsky and her duty towards her husband and her son. Scruton wrote, "Suppose Anna were to reason that it is better to satisfy two healthy young people and frustrate one old one than to satisfy one old person and frustrate two young ones, by a factor of 2. What would we think, then, of her moral seriousness? In Innocence and Consequentialism , Jacqueline Laing , a critic of utilitarianism, argues that utilitarianism has insufficient conceptual apparatus to comprehend the very idea of innocence, a feature central to any comprehensive ethical theory.

His explanation that baby farming undermines attitudes of care and concern for the very young, can be applied to babies and the unborn both 'non-persons' who may be killed, on his view and contradicts positions that he adopts elsewhere in his work. Consequently, "the decay of population is the greatest evil that a state can suffer; and the improvement of it the object which ought, in all countries, to be aimed at in preference to every other political purpose whatsoever. Since Sidgwick raised the question it has been studied in detail and philosophers have argued that using either total or average happiness can lead to objectionable results. According to Derek Parfit , using total happiness falls victim to the repugnant conclusion , whereby large numbers of people with very low but non-negative utility values can be seen as a better goal than a population of a less extreme size living in comfort.

In other words, according to the theory, it is a moral good to breed more people on the world for as long as total happiness rises. On the other hand, measuring the utility of a population based on the average utility of that population avoids Parfit's repugnant conclusion but causes other problems. For example, bringing a moderately happy person into a very happy world would be seen as an immoral act; aside from this, the theory implies that it would be a moral good to eliminate all people whose happiness is below average, as this would raise the average happiness.

William Shaw suggests that the problem can be avoided if a distinction is made between potential people, who need not concern us, and actual future people, who should concern us. He says, "utilitarianism values the happiness of people, not the production of units of happiness. Accordingly, one has no positive obligation to have children. However, if you have decided to have a child, then you have an obligation to give birth to the happiest child you can. Utilitarianism is typically taken to assess the rightness or wrongness of an action by considering just the consequences of that action. Bentham very carefully distinguishes motive from intention and says that motives are not in themselves good or bad but can be referred to as such on account of their tendency to produce pleasure or pain.

He adds that, "from every kind of motive, may proceed actions that are good, others that are bad, and others that are indifferent. He who saves a fellow creature from drowning does what is morally right, whether his motive be duty, or the hope of being paid for his trouble. However, with intention the situation is more complex. In a footnote printed in the second edition of Utilitarianism , Mill says: "the morality of the action depends entirely upon the intention—that is, upon what the agent wills to do.

But it is the intention, that is, the foresight of consequences, which constitutes the moral rightness or wrongness of the act. The correct interpretation of Mill's footnote is a matter of some debate. The difficulty in interpretation centres around trying to explain why, since it is consequences that matter, intentions should play a role in the assessment of the morality of an action but motives should not. One possibility "involves supposing that the 'morality' of the act is one thing, probably to do with the praiseworthiness or blameworthiness of the agent, and its rightness or wrongness another.

An interpretation given by Roger Crisp draws on a definition given by Mill in A System of Logic , where he says that an "intention to produce the effect, is one thing; the effect produced in consequence of the intention, is another thing; the two together constitute the action. Dancy notes that this does not explain why intentions count but motives do not. A third interpretation is that an action might be considered a complex action consisting of several stages and it is the intention that determines which of these stages are to be considered part of the action.

He wrote in his System of Logic I iv. Finally, whilst motives may not play a role in determining the morality of an action, this does not preclude utilitarians from fostering particular motives if doing so will increase overall happiness. However, in his essay "Whewell on Moral Philosophy", Mill defends Bentham's position, calling it a 'noble anticipation', and writing: "Granted that any practice causes more pain to animals than it gives pleasure to man; is that practice moral or immoral?

And if, exactly in proportion as human beings raise their heads out of the slough of selfishness, they do not with one voice answer 'immoral', let the morality of the principle of utility be for ever condemned. Henry Sidgwick also considers the implications of utilitarianism for nonhuman animals. He writes: "We have next to consider who the 'all' are, whose happiness is to be taken into account. Are we to extend our concern to all the beings capable of pleasure and pain whose feelings are affected by our conduct?

The former view is the one adopted by Bentham and Mill, and I believe by the Utilitarian school generally: and is obviously most in accordance with the universality that is characteristic of their principle Among contemporary utilitarian philosophers, Peter Singer is especially known for arguing that the well-being of all sentient beings ought to be given equal consideration. Singer suggests that rights are conferred according to the level of a creature's self-awareness, regardless of their species. He adds that humans tend to be speciesist discriminatory against non-humans in ethical matters, and argues that, in utilitarianism, speciesism cannot be justified as there is no rational distinction that can be made between the suffering of humans and the suffering of nonhuman animals; all suffering ought to be reduced.

Singer writes: "The racist violates the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of his own race, when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. Similarly the speciesist allows the interests of his own species to override the greater interests of members of other species. The pattern is the same in each case Most human beings are speciesists.

In his edition of Animal Liberation , Peter Singer said that he no longer ate oysters and mussels, because although the creatures might not suffer, there was a possibility they may and it was easy to avoid eating them in any case. This view still might be contrasted with deep ecology , which holds that an intrinsic value is attached to all forms of life and nature, whether currently assumed to be sentient or not. According to utilitarianism, the forms of life that are unable to experience anything akin to either enjoyment or discomfort are denied moral status, because it is impossible to increase the happiness or reduce the suffering of something that cannot feel happiness or suffer.

Singer writes:. The capacity for suffering and enjoying things is a prerequisite for having interests at all, a condition that must be satisfied before we can speak of interests in any meaningful way. It would be nonsense to say that it was not in the interests of a stone to be kicked along the road by a schoolboy. A stone does not have interests because it cannot suffer. Nothing that we can do to it could possibly make any difference to its welfare. A mouse, on the other hand, does have an interest in not being tormented, because it will suffer if it is.

If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering—in so far as rough comparisons can be made—of any other being. If a being is not capable of suffering, or of experiencing enjoyment or happiness, there is nothing to be taken into account.

Thus, the moral value of one-celled organisms, as well as some multi-cellular organisms, and natural entities like a river, is only in the benefit they provide to sentient beings. Similarly, utilitarianism places no direct intrinsic value on biodiversity , although the benefits that biodiversity brings to sentient beings may mean that, in utilitarianism, biodiversity ought to be maintained in general. In John Stuart Mill's essay "On Nature" [] he argues that the welfare of wild animals is to be considered when making utilitarian judgments. Tyler Cowen argues that, if individual animals are carriers of utility, then we should consider limiting the predatory activity of carnivores relative to their victims: "At the very least, we should limit current subsidies to nature's carnivores.

The concept has been applied towards social welfare economics , the crisis of global poverty , the ethics of raising animals for food , and the importance of avoiding existential risks to humanity. An article in the American Economic Journal has addressed the issue of Utilitarian ethics within redistribution of wealth. The journal stated that taxation of the wealthy is the best way to make use of the disposable income they receive.

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