Bentham, Jeremy | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Jeremy Bentham was an English philosopher and political radical
Photo provided by Flickr

Philosophical Dictionary: Relativism-Ryle

This move to using consequentialism to assess decision making procedures in terms of their outcomes is very promising, for not only does it resolve this theoretical complaint, but it also shows how consequentialism can be more in tune with our moral intuitions.

Shaw Utilitarianism and the Ethics of War Published: August 04, 2016
Photo provided by Flickr

Utilitarianism in Hollywood | Bear Market

Bentham also benefited from Hume's work, though in many waystheir approaches to moral philosophy were completely different. Humerejected the egoistic view of human nature. Hume also focused oncharacter evaluation in his system. Actions are significant asevidence of character, but only have this derivative significance. Inmoral evaluation the main concern is that of character. Yet Benthamfocused on act-evaluation. There was a tendency — remarked on byJ. B. Schneewind (1990), for example — to move away from focus oncharacter evaluation after Hume and towards act-evaluation. Recallthat Bentham was enormously interested in social reform. Indeed,reflection on what was morally problematic about laws and policiesinfluenced his thinking on utility as a standard. When one legislates,however, one is legislating in support of, or against, certainactions. Character — that is, a person's truecharacter — is known, if known at all, only by that person. If onefinds the opacity of the will thesis plausible then character, whiletheoretically very interesting, isn't a practical focus forlegislation. Further, as Schneewind notes, there was an increasingsense that focus on character would actually be disruptive, socially,particularly if one's view was that a person who didn'tagree with one on a moral issues was defective in terms of his or hercharacter, as opposed to simply making a mistake reflected inaction.

May 03, 2015 · Alex B
Photo provided by Flickr

This paper will attempt to explain how and why Kantian moral theory and Utilitarianism differ as well as discuss why I believe Kant's theory provides a more plausible account of ethics....

I had no idea that utilitarianism was so prevalent in today’s society
Photo provided by Flickr

The International Relations Theory Web Site ..

But Bentham does take from Hume the view that utility is the measureof virtue — that is, utility more broadly construed thanHume's actual usage of the term. This is because Hume madea distinction between pleasure that the perception of virtue generatesin the observer, and social utility, which consisted in a trait'shaving tangible benefits for society, any instance of which may or maynot generate pleasure in the observer. But Bentham is not simplyreformulating a Humean position — he's merely beeninfluenced by Hume's arguments to see pleasure as a measure orstandard of moral value. So, why not move from pleasurableresponses to traits to pleasure as a kind ofconsequence which is good, and in relation to which, actionsare morally right or wrong? Bentham, in making this move, avoids aproblem for Hume. On Hume's view it seems that theresponse — corrected, to be sure — determines the trait'squality as a virtue or vice. But on Bentham's view the action(or trait) is morally good, right, virtuous in view of theconsequences it generates, the pleasure or utility it produces, whichcould be completely independent of what our responses are to thetrait. So, unless Hume endorses a kind of ideal observer test forvirtue, it will be harder for him to account for how it is people makemistakes in evaluations of virtue and vice. Bentham, on the otherhand, can say that people may not respond to the actions goodqualities — perhaps they don't perceive the goodeffects. But as long as there are these good effects which are, onbalance, better than the effects of any alternative course of action,then the action is the right one. Rhetorically, anyway, one can seewhy this is an important move for Bentham to be able to make. He was asocial reformer. He felt that people often had responses to certainactions — of pleasure or disgust — that did not reflect anythingmorally significant at all. Indeed, in his discussions ofhomosexuality, for example, he explicitly notes that‘antipathy’ is not sufficient reason to legislate againsta practice:

Please contribute to our project

One issue raised in the above remarks is relevant to practicaldeliberation in general. To what extent should proponents of agiven theory, or a given rule, or a given policy — or evenproponents of a given one-off action — consider what they thinkpeople will actually do, as opposed to what they think thosesame people ought to do (under full and reasonable reflection,for example)? This is an example of something that comes up inthe Actualism/possibilism debate in accounts of practicaldeliberation. Extrapolating from the example used above, we havepeople who advocate telling the truth, or what they believe to be thetruth, even if the effects are bad because the truth is somehow misusedby others. On the other hand are those who recommend not tellingthe truth when it is predicted that the truth will be misused by othersto achieve bad results. Of course it is the case that the truthought not be misused, that its misuse can be avoided and is notinevitable, but the misuse is entirely predictable. Sidgwickseems to recommending that we follow the course that we predict willhave the best outcome, given as part of our calculations the data thatothers may fail in some way — either due to having bad desires,or simply not being able to reason effectively. The worryWilliams points to really isn't a worry specifically withutilitarianism (Driver 2011). Sidgwick would point outthat if it is bad to hide the truth, because ‘GovernmentHouse’ types, for example, typically engage in self-deceptiverationalizations of their policies (which seems entirely plausible),then one shouldn't do it. And of course, that heavilyinfluences our intuitions.