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Utilitarianism
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{{Hatnote|This article discusses utilitarian ethical theory. For a discussion of John Stuart Mill's book Utilitarianism, see Utilitarianism (book). For the architectural theory, see Utilitarianism (architecture).}}{{Use British (Oxford) English|date=August 2016}}{{Utilitarianism|expanded=all}}Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that states that the best action is the one that maximizes utility. "Utility" is defined in various ways, usually in terms of the well-being of sentient entities. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, described utility as the sum of all pleasure that results from an action, minus the suffering of anyone involved in the action. Utilitarianism is a version of consequentialism, which states that the consequences of any action are the only standard of right and wrong. Unlike other forms of consequentialism, such as egoism, utilitarianism considers the interests of all beings equally.Proponents of utilitarianism have disagreed on a number of points, such as whether actions should be chosen based on their likely results (act utilitarianism) or whether agents should conform to rules that maximize utility (rule utilitarianism). There is also disagreement as to whether total (total utilitarianism) or average (average utilitarianism) utility should be maximized.Though the seeds of the theory can be found in the hedonists Aristippus and Epicurus, who viewed happiness as the only good, the tradition of utilitarianism properly began with Bentham, and has included John Stuart Mill, Henry Sidgwick, R. M. Hare, David Braybrooke, and Peter Singer. It has been applied to social welfare economics, the crisis of global poverty, the ethics of raising animals for food and the importance of avoiding existential risks to humanity.

Etymology

Benthamism, the utilitarian philosophy founded by Jeremy Bentham, was substantially modified by his successor John Stuart Mill, who popularized the word 'Utilitarianism'.BOOK, Habibi, Don, John Stuart Mill and the Ethic of Human Growth, Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, 2001, 978-90-481-5668-9,weblink Chapter 3, Mill's Moral Philosophy, 89–90, 112, In 1861, Mill acknowledged in a footnote that, though "believing himself to be the first person who brought the word 'utilitarian' into use, he did not invent it. Rather, he adopted it from a passing expression in" John Galt's 1821 novel Annals of the Parish.John Stuart Mill (1861) s:Utilitarianism|Utilitarianism]], footnote 1. Mill seems to have been unaware that Bentham had used the term 'utilitarian' in his 1781 letter to George Wilson and his 1802 letter to Étienne Dumont.

Historical background

Chinese philosophy

In Chinese philosophy, the Mohists and their successors the "Chinese Legalists"{{cn|date=July 2017}} might be considered utilitarians, or at least the "earliest form of consequentialism". The fourth century witnessed the emergence of particular concerns for them, including discussions polarizing the concepts of self and private, commonly used in conjunction with profit and associated with fragmentation, division, partiality, and one-sidelines, with that of the state and "public", represented by the duke and referring to what is official or royal, that is, the ruler himself, associated with unity, wholeness, objectivity, and universality. The later denotes the "universal Way".Erica Brindley, The Polarization of the Concepts Si (Private Interest) and Gong (Public Interest) in Early Chinese Thought. p.6, 8, 12-13, 16, 19, 21-22, 24, 27However, the Mohists did not focus on emotional happiness, but promoted objective public goods: material wealth, a large population or family, and social order.Fraser, Chris, "Mohism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =weblink On the other hand, the "Legalist" Han Fei "is motivated almost totally from the ruler's point of view."Hansen, Chad. Philosophy East & West. Jul94, Vol. 44 Issue 3, p435. 54p. Fa (standards: laws) and meaning changes in Chinese philosophy.

Western philosophy

{{see also|Hedonism}}The importance of happiness as an end for humans has long been recognized. Forms of hedonism were put forward by Aristippus and Epicurus; Aristotle argued that eudaimonia is the highest human good and Augustine wrote that "all men agree in desiring the last end, which is happiness." Happiness was also explored in depth by Aquinas.WEB,weblink SUMMA THEOLOGICA: Man's last end (Prima Secundae Partis, Q. 1), newadvent.org, WEB,weblink SUMMA THEOLOGICA: Things in which man's happiness consists (Prima Secundae Partis, Q. 2), newadvent.org, WEB,weblink SUMMA THEOLOGICA: What is happiness (Prima Secundae Partis, Q. 3), newadvent.org, WEB,weblink SUMMA THEOLOGICA: Things that are required for happiness (Prima Secundae Partis, Q. 4), newadvent.org, WEB,weblink SUMMA THEOLOGICA: The attainment of happiness (Prima Secundae Partis, Q. 5), newadvent.org, Different varieties of consequentialism also existed in the ancient and medieval world, like the state consequentialism of Mohism or the political philosophy of Niccolò Machiavelli. Mohist consequentialism advocated communitarian moral goods including political stability, population growth, and wealth, but did not support the utilitarian notion of maximizing individual happiness.BOOK, Fraser, Chris, The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy,weblink 2011, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-532899-8, 62, Machiavelli was also an exponent of consequentialism. He believed that the actions of a state, however cruel or ruthless they may be, must contribute towards the common good of a society.BOOK, Warburton, Nigel, Reading Political Philosophy: Machiavelli to Mill,weblink 2000, Psychology Press, 978-0-415-21197-0, 10, Utilitarianism as a distinct ethical position only emerged in the eighteenth century.Although utilitarianism is usually thought to start with Jeremy Bentham, there were earlier writers who presented theories that were strikingly similar. In An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, David Hume writes:BOOK, Hume, David, J. B., Schneewind, Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 552, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, 978-0521003049, Hume studied the works of, and corresponded with, Francis Hutcheson, and it was he who first introduced a key utilitarian phrase. In An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725), Hutcheson saysBOOK, Hutcheson, Francis, J. B., Schneewind, Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 515, The Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, 978-0521003049, when choosing the most moral action, virtue is in proportion to the number of people a particular action brings happiness to. In the same way, moral evil, or vice, is proportionate to the number of people made to suffer. The best action is the one that procures the greatest happiness of the greatest numbers—and the worst is the one that causes the most misery.In the first three editions of the book, Hutcheson included various mathematical algorithms "...to compute the Morality of any Actions." In this, he pre-figured the hedonic calculus of Bentham.Some claim that John Gay developed the first systematic theory of utilitarian ethics.Ashcraft, Richard (1991) John Locke: Critical Assessments (Critical assessments of leading political philosophers), Routledge, p. 691 In Concerning the Fundamental Principle of Virtue or Morality (1731), Gay argues that:BOOK, Gay, John, J. B., Schneewind, Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 408, Concerning the Fundamental Principle of Virtue or Morality, 978-0521003049, This pursuit of happiness is given a theological basis:BOOK, Gay, John, J. B., Schneewind, Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 404–05, Concerning the Fundamental Principle of Virtue or Morality, 978-0521003049, File:Modern Utiitarianism by Birks.png|thumb|Modern Utilitarianism by Thomas Rawson BirksThomas Rawson BirksGay's theological utilitarianism was developed and popularized by William Paley. It has been claimed that Paley was not a very original thinker and that the philosophical part of his treatise on ethics is "an assemblage of ideas developed by others and is presented to be learned by students rather than debated by colleagues."BOOK, Schneewind, J. B., Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 446, 978-0521003049, Nevertheless, his book The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy (1785) was a required text at Cambridge and Smith says that Paley's writings were "once as well known in American colleges as were the readers and spellers of William McGuffey and Noah Webster in the elementary schools."JOURNAL, Smith, Wilson, July 1954, William Paley's Theological Utilitarianism in America, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Series, 11, 3, 402–24, 10.2307/1943313, Although now largely missing from the philosophical canon, Schneewind writes that "utilitarianism first became widely known in England through the work of William Paley."BOOK, Schneewind, J. B., Sidgwick's Ethics and Victorian Moral Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 1977, 122, 978-0198245520, The now forgotten significance of Paley can be judged from the title of Thomas Rawson Birks's 1874 work Modern Utilitarianism or the Systems of Paley, Bentham and Mill Examined and Compared.Apart from restating that happiness as an end is grounded in the nature of God, Paley also discusses the place of rules. He writes:BOOK, Paley, William, J. B., Schneewind, Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 455–56, The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, 978-0521003049,

Classical utilitarianism

Jeremy Bentham

File:Jeremy Bentham by Henry William Pickersgill detail.jpg|thumb|right|Jeremy BenthamJeremy BenthamBentham's book An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation was printed in 1780 but not published until 1789. It is possible that Bentham was spurred on to publish after he saw the success of Paley's The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy.Rosen, Frederick (2003) Classical Utilitarianism from Hume to Mill. Routledge, p. 132 Bentham's book was not an immediate successSchneewind, J.B. (1977) Sidgwick's Ethics and Victorian Moral Philosophy, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 122 but his ideas were spread further when Pierre Étienne Louis Dumont translated edited selections from a variety of Bentham's manuscripts into French. Traité de legislation civile et pénale was published in 1802 and then later retranslated back into English by Hildreth as The Theory of Legislation, although by this time significant portions of Dumont's work had already been retranslated and incorporated into Sir John Bowring's edition of Bentham's works, which was issued in parts between 1838 and 1843.Bentham's work opens with a statement of the principle of utility:BOOK, Bentham, Jeremy, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Dover Philosophical Classics, Dover Publications, 2009, 1, 978-0486454528, In Chapter IV, Bentham introduces a method of calculating the value of pleasures and pains, which has come to be known as the hedonic calculus. Bentham says that the value of a pleasure or pain, considered by itself, can be measured according to its intensity, duration, certainty/uncertainty and propinquity/remoteness. In addition, it is necessary to consider "the tendency of any act by which it is produced" and, therefore, to take account of the act's fecundity, or the chance it has of being followed by sensations of the same kind and its purity, or the chance it has of not being followed by sensations of the opposite kind. Finally, it is necessary to consider the extent, or the number of people affected by the action.Perhaps aware that Hutcheson eventually removed his algorithms for calculating the greatest happiness because they "appear'd useless, and were disagreeable to some readers",An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue – Francis Hutcheson {{Webarchive|url=https://web.archive.org/web/20130517215211weblink |date=17 May 2013 }}, Introduction, 1726 Bentham contends that there is nothing novel or unwarranted about his method, for "in all this there is nothing but what the practice of mankind, wheresoever they have a clear view of their own interest, is perfectly conformable to."Rosen warns that descriptions of utilitarianism can bear "little resemblance historically to utilitarians like Bentham and J. S. Mill" and can be more "a crude version of act utilitarianism conceived in the twentieth century as a straw man to be attacked and rejected."Rosen, Frederick (2003) Classical Utilitarianism from Hume to Mill. Routledge, p. 32 It is a mistake to think that Bentham is not concerned with rules. His seminal work is concerned with the principles of legislation and the hedonic calculus is introduced with the words "Pleasures then, and the avoidance of pains, are the ends that the legislator has in view." In Chapter VII, Bentham says: "The business of government is to promote the happiness of the society, by punishing and rewarding… In proportion as an act tends to disturb that happiness, in proportion as the tendency of it is pernicious, will be the demand it creates for punishment."The question then arises as to when, if at all, it might be legitimate to break the law. This is considered in The Theory of Legislation, where Bentham distinguishes between evils of the first and second orders. Those of the first order are the more immediate consequences; those of the second are when the consequences spread through the community causing "alarm" and "danger".It is true there are cases in which, if we confine ourselves to the effects of the first order, the good will have an incontestable preponderance over the evil. Were the offence considered only under this point of view, it would not be easy to assign any good reasons to justify the rigour of the laws. Every thing depends upon the evil of the second order; it is this which gives to such actions the character of crime, and which makes punishment necessary. Let us take, for example, the physical desire of satisfying hunger. Let a beggar, pressed by hunger, steal from a rich man's house a loaf, which perhaps saves him from starving, can it be possible to compare the good which the thief acquires for himself, with the evil which the rich man suffers? … It is not on account of the evil of the first order that it is necessary to erect these actions into offences, but on account of the evil of the second order.BOOK, Bentham, Jeremy, Dumont, Etienne, Hildreth, R, Theory of Legislation: Translated from the French of Etienne Dumont, Adamant Media Corporation, November 2005, 58, 978-1402170348,

John Stuart Mill

Mill was brought up as a Benthamite with the explicit intention that he would carry on the cause of utilitarianism.BOOK, Halevy, Elie, The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism, 1966, Beacon Press, 0-19-101020-0, 282–84, Mill's book Utilitarianism first appeared as a series of three articles published in Fraser's Magazine in 1861 and was reprinted as a single book in 1863.BOOK, Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory, Hinman, Lawrence, Wadsworth, 2012, 1133050018, {{citation needed|date=June 2014}}

Higher and lower pleasures

Mill rejects a purely quantitative measurement of utility and says:BOOK, Mill, John Stuart, Roger, Crisp, Utilitarianism, Oxford University Press, 1998, 56, 0-19-875163-X, The word utility is used to mean general well-being or happiness, and Mill's view is that utility is the consequence of a good action. Utility, within the context of utilitarianism, refers to people performing actions for social utility. With social utility, he means the well-being of many people. Mill's explanation of the concept of utility in his work, Utilitarianism, is that people really do desire happiness, and since each individual desires their own happiness, it must follow that all of us desire the happiness of everyone, contributing to a larger social utility. Thus, an action that results in the greatest pleasure for the utility of society is the best action, or as Jeremy Bentham, the founder of early Utilitarianism put it, as the greatest happiness of the greatest number.Mill not only viewed actions as a core part of utility, but as the directive rule of moral human conduct. The rule being that we should only be committing actions that provide pleasure to society. This view of pleasure was hedonistic, as it pursued the thought that pleasure is the highest good in life. This concept was adopted by Jeremy Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism, 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." However, he accepts that this is usually because the intellectual pleasures are thought to have circumstantial advantages, i.e. "greater permanency, safety, uncostliness, &c." Instead, Mill will argue that some pleasures are intrinsically better than others.The accusation that hedonism is "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… A being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy, is capable probably of more acute suffering, and certainly accessible to it at more points, than one of an inferior type; but in spite of these liabilities, he can never really wish to sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence… It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question…BOOK, Mill, John Stuart, Roger, Crisp, Utilitarianism, Oxford University Press, 1998, 56–57, 0-19-875163-X, 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 says that this appeal to those who have experienced the relevant pleasures is no different from what must happen when assessing the quantity of pleasure, for there is no other way of measuring "the acutest of two pains, or the intensest of two pleasurable sensations." "It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low, has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly-endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constitute, is imperfect."John Stuart Mill,Utilitarianism,Chapter 2Mill also thinks that “intellectual pursuits have value out of proportion to the amount of contentment or pleasure (the mental state) that they produce”. Brink, David. “Mill Moral and Political Philosophy.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.weblink [accessed April 27, 2018]. Mill also says that people should pursue these grand ideals, because if they choose to have gratification from petty pleasures, “some displeasure will eventually creep in. We will become bored and depressed.”Hauskeller, Michael. "No Philosophy for Swine: John Stuart Mill on the Quality of Pleasures." Research Library.weblink doiweblink [accessed April 27, 2018]. Mill claims that gratification from petty pleasures only gives short- term happiness and, subsequently, worsens the individual who may feel that his life lacks happiness, since the happiness is transient. Whereas, intellectual pursuits give long term happiness because provide the individual with constant opportunities throughout the years to improve his life, by benefiting from accruing knowledge. It should be noted that Mill’s views intellectual pursuits as “capable of incorporating the 'finer things' in life” while petty pursuits do not achieve this goal.Saunders, Ben. "J. S. Mill's Conception of Utility." Utilitas 22, no. 1 (March 2010): 52-69.weblink [accessed April 27, 2018] Mill is saying that intellectual pursuits gives the individual the opportunity to escape the constant depression cycle since these pursuits allow them to achieve their ideals, while petty pleasures do not offer this. Although debate persists about the nature of Mill's view of gratification, this suggests that his was a bifurcated position.

Mill's 'proof' of the principle of utility

In Chapter Four of Utilitarianism, Mill considers what proof can be given for the principle of utility. He says:BOOK, Mill, John Stuart, Roger, Crisp, Utilitarianism, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998, 81, 0-19-875163-X, It is usualJOURNAL, Popkin, Richard H., 1950, A Note on the 'Proof' of Utility in J. S. Mill, Ethics, 61, 66, 10.1086/290751, to say that Mill is committing a number of fallacies. He is accused of committing the naturalistic fallacy, because he is trying to deduce what people ought to do from what they in fact do; the fallacy of equivocation, because he moves from the fact that (1) something is desirable, i.e. is capable of being desired, to the claim that (2) it is desirable, i.e. that it ought to be desired; and the fallacy of composition, because the fact that people desire their own happiness does not imply that the aggregate of all persons will desire the general happiness.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.A defence of Mill against all three charges, with a chapter devoted to each, can be found in Necip Fikri Alican's Mill's Principle of Utility: A Defense of John Stuart Mill's Notorious Proof (1994). This is the first, and remains the only, book-length treatment of the subject matter. Yet the alleged fallacies in the proof continue to attract scholarly attention in journal articles and book chapters.HallJOURNAL, Hall, Everett W., 1949, The 'Proof' of Utility in Bentham and Mill, Ethics, 60, 1–18, 10.1086/290691, and PopkinJOURNAL, Popkin, Richard H., 1950, A Note on the 'Proof' of Utility in J. S. Mill, Ethics, 61, 66–68, 10.1086/290751, 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." According to Hall and Popkin, therefore, Mill does not attempt to "establish that what people do desire is desirable but merely attempts to make the principles acceptable." The type of "proof" Mill is offering "consists only of some considerations which, Mill thought, might induce an honest and reasonable man to accept utilitarianism."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.}}

Twentieth-century developments

Ideal utilitarianism

The description of ideal utilitarianism was first used by Hastings Rashdall in The Theory of Good and Evil (1907), but it is more often associated with G. E. Moore. In Ethics (1912), Moore rejected a purely hedonistic utilitarianism and argued 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:Moore, G. E. (1912). Ethics, London: Williams and Norgate, Ch. 7Moore 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."

Act and rule utilitarianism

In the mid-twentieth century a number of philosophers focused on the place of rules in utilitarian thinking.Bayles, M. D., ed. (1968) Contemporary Utilitarianism, Anchor Books, Doubleday It was already accepted that it is necessary to use rules to help you choose the right action because the problems of calculating the consequences on each and every occasion would almost certainly result in you frequently choosing something less than the best course of action. Paley had justified the use of rules and Mill says:BOOK, Mill, John Stuart, Roger, Crisp, Utilitarianism, Oxford University Press, 1998, 70, 0-19-875163-X, 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. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, articles were published both for and against the new form of utilitarianism, and through this debate the theory we now call rule utilitarianism was created. 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."Bayles, M. D., ed. (1968) Contemporary Utilitarianism, Anchor Books, Doubleday, p. 1SmartJOURNAL, Smart, J. J. C., Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism, Philosophical Quarterly, 6, 25, 1956, 344–54, 2216786, 10.2307/2216786, and McCloskeyJOURNAL, McCloskey, H. J., An Examination of Restricted Utilitarianism, Philosophical Review, 66, 4, October 1957, 466–85, 2182745, 10.2307/2182745, initially used the terms 'extreme' and 'restricted' utilitarianism but eventually everyone settled on the terms 'act' and 'rule' utilitarianism.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 1956, Urmson published an influential articleJOURNAL, Urmson, J. O., The Interpretation of the Moral Philosophy of J. S. Mill, Philosophical Quarterly, 3, 10, 1953, 33–39, 2216697, 10.2307/2216697, arguing that Mill justified rules on utilitarian principles. From then on, articles have debated this interpretation of Mill. 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 1977 includes a letter in which he says:Mill, John Stuart, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. Gen. Ed. John M. Robson. 33 vols. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963–91. Vol. 17, p. 1881This seems to tip the balance in favour of saying that Mill is best classified as an act utilitarian.Some school level textbooks and at least one UK examination boardOliphant, Jill, OCR Religious Ethics for AS and A2, Routledge, (2007) make a further distinction between strong and weak rule utilitarianism. However, it is not clear that this distinction is made in the academic literature.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.David Lyons, Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism, 1965 This process holds for all cases of exceptions, and so the "rules" have as many "sub-rules" as there are exceptional cases, which, in the end, makes an agent seek out whatever outcome produces the maximum utility.Allen Habib (2008), Promises, in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Two-level utilitarianism

In Principles (1973),JOURNAL, Hare, R. M., R. M. Hare, The Presidential Address: Principles, Aristotelian Society, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, 73, 1–18, 4544830, 10.1093/aristotelian/73.1.1, 1972–1973,weblink harv, ., R. M. 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." He argues that one of the main reasons for introducing rule utilitarianism was to do justice to the general rules that people need for moral education and character development and he proposes that "a difference between act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism can be introduced by limiting the specificity of the rules, i.e., by increasing their generality."{{rp|14}} This distinction between a "specific rule utilitarianism" (which collapses into act utilitarianism) and "general rule utilitarianism" forms the basis of Hare's two-level utilitarianism.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.Hare argues that in practice, most of the time, we should be following the general principles:{{rp|17}}In Moral Thinking (1981), 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; 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.BOOK, Hare, R.M., R. M. Hare, Moral thinking: its levels, method, and point, Clarendon Press Oxford University Press, Oxford New York, 1981, 9780198246602, It is not that some people are archangels and others proles, but rather that "we all share the characteristics of both to limited and varying degrees and at different times."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

The concept of preference utilitarianism was first proposed in 1977 by John Harsanyi in Morality and the theory of rational behaviour,{{citation |last=Harsanyi |first=John C. |author-link=John Harsanyi |contribution=Morality and the theory of rational behaviour |editor-last1=Sen |editor-first1 = Amartya |editor-last2=Williams |editor-first2=Bernard |editor-link1=Amartya Sen |editor-link2=Bernard Williams |title=Utilitarianism and beyond |pages=39–62 |publisher=Cambridge University Press |location=Cambridge |year=1982 |isbn=9780511611964 |ref=harv |postscript=.}}:Originally printed as: JOURNAL, Harsanyi, John C., John Harsanyi, Morality and the theory of rational behavior, Social Research (journal), Social Research, special issue: Rationality, Choice, and Morality, 44, 4, 623–56, The New School, Winter 1977, 40971169, harv, ., but preference utilitarianism is more commonly associated with R. M. Hare, Peter SingerBOOK, Singer, Peter, Peter Singer, Practical ethics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge New York, 1979, 1st, 9780521297202, :BOOK, Singer, Peter, Peter Singer, Practical ethics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge/New York, 1993, 2nd, 9780521439718, and Richard Brandt.BOOK, Brandt, Richard B., Richard Brandt, A Theory of the Good and the Right, Clarendon Press, Oxford/New York, 1979, 9780198245506, Harsanyi claimed that his theory is indebted to Adam Smith, who equated the moral point of view with that of an impartial but sympathetic observer; to Kant, who insisted on the criterion of universality, which may also be described as a criterion of reciprocity; to the classical utilitarians who made maximizing social utility the basic criterion of morality; and to "the modern theory of rational behaviour under risk and uncertainty, usually described as Bayesian decision theory".{{rp|42}}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'."{{rp|54}}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."{{rp|55}}Harsanyi adds two caveats. 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{{clarify|date=September 2016}}, 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."{{rp|55}} It is the latter that preference utilitarianism tries to satisfy.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:}}

More varieties of utilitarianism

Negative utilitarianism

In The Open Society and its Enemies (1945), Karl Popper argued that the principle "maximize pleasure" should be replaced by "minimize pain". He thought "it is not only impossible but very dangerous to attempt to maximize the pleasure or the happiness of the people, since such an attempt must lead to totalitarianism."BOOK, Popper, Karl, The Open Society and Its Enemies: Volume 2, 2002, Routledge, 978-0415278423, 339, He claimed that:BOOK, Popper, Karl, The Open Society and Its Enemies: Volume 1: The Spell of Plato, 2002, Routledge, 978-0415237314, 284–85, The actual term negative utilitarianism was introduced by R.N.Smart as the title to his 1958 reply to PopperJOURNAL, Smart, R.N., Negative Utilitarianism, Mind, 67, 268, October 1958, 542–43, 2251207, 10.1093/mind/lxvii.268.542, in which he argued that the principle would entail seeking the quickest and least painful method of killing the entirety of humanity.Negative total utilitarianism, in contrast, tolerates suffering that can be compensated within the same person.Fricke Fabian (2002), Verschiedene Versionen des negativen Utilitarismus, Kriterion, vol.15, no.1, p. 14Arrhenius Gustav (2000), Future Generations, A Challenge for Moral Theory, FD-Diss., Uppsala University, Dept. of Philosophy, Uppsala: University Printers, p. 100Negative preference utilitarianism avoids the problem of moral killing with reference to existing preferences that such killing would violate, while it still demands a justification for the creation of new lives.Fricke Fabian (2002), Verschiedene Versionen des negativen Utilitarismus, Kriterion, vol.15, no.1, pp. 20–22 A possible justification is the reduction of the average level of preference-frustration.{Chao, "Negative Average Preference Utilitarianism", Journal of Philosophy of Life, 2012; 2(1): 55–66Others see negative utilitarianism as a branch within modern hedonistic utilitarianism, which assigns a higher weight to the avoidance of suffering than to the promotion of happiness.Fricke Fabian(2002), Verschiedene Versionen des negativen Utilitarismus, Kriterion, vol.15, no.1, p. 14 The moral weight of suffering can be increased by using a "compassionate" utilitarian metric, so that the result is the same as in prioritarianism.Broome John (1991), Weighing Goods, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, p. 222Pessimistic representatives of negative utilitarianism can be found in the environment of Buddhism.Bruno Contestabile: Negative Utilitarianism and Buddhist Intuition. In: Contemporary Buddhism Vol.15, Issue 2, S. 298–311, London 2014.

Motive utilitarianism

Motive utilitarianism was first proposed by Robert Merrihew Adams in 1976.Robert Merrihew Adams, Motive Utilitarianism, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 73, No. 14, On Motives and Morals (12 August 1976), pp. 467–81 Whereas act utilitarianism requires us to choose our actions by calculating which action will maximize utility and rule utilitarianism requires us to implement rules that will, on the whole, maximize utility, motive utilitarianism "has the utility calculus being used to select motives and dispositions according to their general felicific effects, and those motives and dispositions then dictate our choices of actions."Goodin, Robert E. "Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy" (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Public Policy), Cambridge University Press, p. 60The 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.Goodin, Robert E. "Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy" (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Public Policy), Cambridge University Press, p. 17 Adams refers to Sidgwick's observation that "Happiness (general as well as individual) is likely to be better attained if the extent to which we set ourselves consciously to aim at it be carefully restricted."Robert Merrihew Adams, Motive Utilitarianism, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 73, No. 14, On Motives and Morals (12 August 1976), p. 467 Trying to apply the utility calculation on each and every occasion is likely to lead to a sub-optimal outcome. 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.JOURNAL, Robert, Merrihew Adams, Motive Utilitarianism, Journal of Philosophy, 73, 14, On Motives and Morals, 1976, 471, Adams concludes that "right action, by act-utilitarian standards, and right motivation, by motive-utilitarian standards, are incompatible in some cases."Robert Merrihew Adams, Motive Utilitarianism, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 73, No. 14, On Motives and Morals (12 August 1976), p. 475 The necessity of this conclusion is rejected by Fred Feldman who argues that "the conflict in question results from an inadequate formulation of the utilitarian doctrines; motives play no essential role in it…(and that)… Precisely the same sort of conflict arises even when MU is left out of consideration and AU is applied by itself."JOURNAL, Feldman, Fred, On the Consistency of Act- and Motive-Utilitarianism: A Reply to Robert Adams, Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, 70, 2, May 1993, 211–12, Instead, Feldman proposes a variant of act utilitarianism that results in there being no conflict between it and motive utilitarianism.

Criticisms

Because utilitarianism is not a single theory but a cluster of related theories that have been developed over two hundred years, criticisms can be made for different reasons and have different targets.

Quantifying utility

The main objection to utilitarianism is the inability to quantify, compare, or measure happiness or well-being. Ray Briggs writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:BRIGGS, Rachael, Normative Theories of Rational Choice: Expected Utility, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta,weblink 2017, Spring 2017, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, November 15, 2017, Utility understood this way is a personal preference, in the absence of any objective measurement.

Utility ignores justice

As Rosen has pointed out, claiming that act utilitarians are not concerned about having rules is to set up a "straw man". Similarly, Hare refers to "the crude caricature of act utilitarianism which is the only version of it that many philosophers seem to be acquainted with."Hare, R. M. (1981) Moral Thinking. Oxford Univ. Press, p. 36 Given what Bentham says about second order evilsBentham, Jeremy (2009) Theory of Legislation. General Books LLC, p. 58 it would be a serious misrepresentation to say that he and similar act utilitarians would be prepared to punish an innocent person for the greater good. 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. J. McCloskey: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". Another response might be that the riots the sheriff is trying to avoid might have positive utility in the long run by drawing attention to questions of race and resources to help address tensions between the communities.In a later article, McCloskey says:McCloskey, H.J. (1963) A Note on Utilitarian Punishment, in Mind, 72, 1963, p. 599

Predicting consequences

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.Dennett, Daniel (1995), Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Simon & Schuster, p. 498 {{ISBN|0-684-82471-X}}. Dennett points out that not only is it impossible to assign a precise utility value to the incident, it is impossible to know whether, ultimately, the near-meltdown that occurred was a good or bad thing. 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."BOOK, Hardin, Russell, Morality within the Limits of Reason, University Of Chicago Press, May 1990, 3, 978-0226316208, The fact that the latter is limited and can change doesn't mean that the former has to be rejected. "If we develop a better system for determining relevant causal relations so that we are able to choose actions that better produce our intended ends, it does not follow that we then must change our ethics. 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. G. E. Moore, writing in 1903, said:BOOK, Moore, G. E., Principia Ethica, Prometheus Books UK, 1903, 203–4, 0879754982,

Demandingness objection

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." Critics say that this combination of requirements leads to utilitarianism making unreasonable demands. The well-being of strangers counts just as much as that of friends, family or self. "What makes this requirement so demanding is the gargantuan number of strangers in great need of help and the indefinitely many opportunities to make sacrifices to help them."BOOK, Hooker, Brad, Timothy, Chappell, The Problem of Moral Demandingness: new philosophical essays, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 151, Chapter 8: The Demandingness Objection, 9780230219403, As Shelly Kagan says, "Given the parameters of the actual world, there is no question that …(maximally)… promoting the good would require a life of hardship, self-denial, and austerity…a life spent promoting the good would be a severe one indeed."BOOK, Kagan, Shelly, The Limits of Morality, Oxford Ethics Series, Clarendon Press, 1991, 360, 978-0198239161, 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.BOOK, Hooker, Brad, Ideal Code, Real World: A Rule-Consequentialist Theory of Morality, Clarendon Press, 2002, 152, 978-0199256570, Another way of highlighting the complaint is to say that in utilitarianism, "there is no such thing as morally permissible self-sacrifice that goes above and beyond the call of duty." Mill was quite clear about this, "A sacrifice which does not increase, or tend to increase, the sum total of happiness, it considers as wasted."One response to the problem is to accept its demands. This is the view taken by Peter Singer, who says: "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."BOOK, Singer, Peter, Practical Ethics, 3rd, Cambridge University Press, 2011, 202–3, 978-0521707688, Others argue that a moral theory that is so contrary to our deeply held moral convictions must either be rejected or modified.BOOK, Hooker, Brad, Timothy, Chappell, The problem of moral demandingness: new philosophical essays, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 148, Chapter 8: The Demandingness Objection, 9780230219403, There have been various attempts to modify utilitarianism to escape its seemingly over-demanding requirements.JOURNAL, Kagan, Shelly, Does Consequentialism Demand too Much? Recent Work on the Limits of Obligation, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 13, 3, 1984, 239–54, 2265413, One approach is to drop the demand that utility be maximized. 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."JOURNAL, Slote, Michael, Satisficing Consequentialism, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 58, 1984, 140, 4106846, One advantage of such a system is that it would be able to accommodate the notion of supererogatory actions.Samuel Scheffler takes a different approach and amends the requirement that everyone be treated the same.BOOK, Scheffler, Samuel, The Rejection of Consequentialism: A Philosophical Investigation of the Considerations Underlying Rival Moral Conceptions, 2nd, Clarendon Press, August 1994, 978-0198235118, In particular, Scheffler suggests that there is an "agent-centered prerogative" such that when the overall utility is being calculated it is permitted to count our own interests more heavily than the interests of others. 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."JOURNAL, Kagan, Shelly, Does Consequentialism Demand too Much? Recent Work on the Limits of Obligation, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 13, 3, Summer 1984, 254, 2265413, 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.BOOK, Goodin, Robert E., Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 1995, 66, 978-0521468060, Harsanyi argues that the objection overlooks the fact that "people attach considerable utility to freedom from unduly burdensome moral obligations… most people will prefer a society with a more relaxed moral code, and will feel that such a society will achieve a higher level of average utility—even if adoption of such a moral code should lead to some losses in economic and cultural accomplishments (so long as these losses remain within tolerable limits). 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."JOURNAL, Harsanyi, John C., Can the Maximin Principle Serve as a Basis for Morality? A Critique of John Rawls's Theory A Theory of Justice by John Rawls, American Political Science Review, 69, 2, June 1975, 601, 1959090, 10.2307/1959090,

Aggregating utility

The objection that "utilitarianism does not take seriously the distinction between persons"BOOK, Rawls, John, A Theory of Justice, Harvard University Press, 2005, 27, 978-0674017726, came to prominence in 1971 with the publication of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice. The concept is also important in animal rights advocate Richard Ryder's rejection of utilitarianism, in which he talks of the "boundary of the individual", through which neither pain nor pleasure may pass.Ryder, Richard D. Painism: A Modern Morality. Centaur Press, 2001. pp. 27–29 However, a similar objection was noted in 1970 by Thomas Nagel (who claimed that consequentialism "treats the desires, needs, satisfactions, and dissatisfactions of distinct persons as if they were the desires, etc., of a mass person"BOOK, Nagel, Thomas, The Possibility of Altruism, Princeton University Press, New, 2012, 134, 978-0691020020, ), and even earlier by David Gauthier, who wrote that utilitarianism supposes "that mankind is a super-person, whose greatest satisfaction is the objective of moral action. . . . 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."BOOK, Gauthier, David, Practical Reasoning: The Structure and Foundations of Prudential and Moral Arguments and Their Exemplification in Discourse, Oxford University Press, 1963, 126, 978-0198241904, Thus, the aggregation of utility becomes futile as both pain and happiness are intrinsic to and inseparable from the consciousness in which they are felt, rendering impossible the task of adding up the various pleasures of multiple individuals.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, "suppose that Homer is faced with the painful choice between saving Barney from a burning building or saving both Moe and Apu from the building…it is clearly better for Homer to save the larger number, precisely because it is a larger number… 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."JOURNAL, Norcross, Alastair, 2009, Two Dogmas of Deontology: Aggregation, Rights and the Separateness of Persons, Social Philosophy and Policy, 26, 81–82, 10.1017/S0265052509090049,weblink 2012-06-29,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20091127084839weblink">weblink 27 November 2009, yes, dmy-all, It may be possible to uphold the distinction between persons whilst still aggregating utility, if it accepted that people can be influenced by empathy.In Moral Laws of the Jungle (link to Philosophy Now magazine), Iain King argues: "The way I reconcile my interests with those of other people is not for all of us to pour everything we care about into a pot then see which of the combination of satisfied wants would generate the most happiness (benefit). If we did that, I could be completely outnumbered…. No, the way we reconcile interests is through empathy. Empathy is one-to-one, since we only imagine ourselves in the mind of one other person at a time. Even when I empathise with 'the people' here… I am really imagining what it is like to be just one woman. I cannot imagine myself to be more than one person at a time, and neither can you." Link accessed 2014-01-29. This position is advocated by Iain King,BOOK, King, Iain, How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time, Continuum, 2008, 225, 978-1847063472, who has suggested the evolutionary basis of empathy means humans can take into account the interests of other individuals, but only on a one-to-one basis, "since we can only imagine ourselves in the mind of one other person at a time."This quote is from Iain King's article in issue 100 of Philosophy Now magazine, Moral Laws of the Jungle (link), accessed 29 January 2014. King uses this insight to adapt utilitarianism, and it may help reconcile Bentham's philosophy with deontology and virtue ethics.Chapter Eight of the book Ethics Matters by Charlotte Vardy, {{ISBN|978-0-334-04391-1}} (published by SCM Press, April 2012), entitled "Developments in Utilitarianism", describes Iain King's philosophy as "quasi-utilitarian", and suggests it is an original "development" on the utilitarian theme. Vardy argues King's system is "compatible with consequence-, virtue- and act based ethics." A Google Books link to the reference can be accessed here (link confirmed 2014-01-29.)The 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.John M. Taurek, "Should the Numbers Count?", Philosophy and Public Affairs, 6:4 (Summer 1977), pp. 293–316. Taurek's basic concern comes down to this: we cannot explain what it means to say that things would be five times worse if five people die than if one person dies. "I cannot give a satisfactory account of the meaning of judgments of this kind," he wrote (p. 304). He argues that each person can only lose one person's happiness or pleasures. There isn't five times more loss of happiness or pleasure when five die: who would be feeling this happiness or pleasure? "Each person's potential loss has the same significance to me, only as a loss to that person alone. because, by hypothesis, I have an equal concern for each person involved, I am moved to give each of them an equal chance to be spared his loss" (p. 307). ParfitDerek Parfit, "Innumerate Ethics", Philosophy and Public Affairs, 7:4 (Summer 1978), pp. 285–301. and othersSee for example: (1) Frances Myrna Kamm, "Equal Treatment and Equal Chances", Philosophy and Public Affairs, 14:2 (Spring 1985), pp. 177–94; (2) Gregory S. Kavka, "The Numbers Should Count", Philosophical Studies, 36:3 (October 1979), pp. 285–94. have criticized Taurek's line, and it continues to be discussed.See for example: (1) Michael Otsuka, "Skepticism about Saving the Greater Number", Philosophy and Public Affairs, 32:4 (Autumn 2004), pp. 413–26; (2) Rob Lawlor, "Taurek, Numbers and Probabilities", Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 9:2 (April 2006), pp. 149–66.

Calculating utility is self-defeating

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:WEB,weblink Utilitarianism, Chapter 2, Mill, John Stuart, 24 June 2012, More recently, Hardin has made the same point. "It should embarrass philosophers that they have ever taken this objection seriously. 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.{{'"}}BOOK, Hardin, Russell, Morality within the Limits of Reason, University Of Chicago Press, May 1990, 4, 978-0226316208, It is such considerations that lead even act utilitarians to rely on "rules of thumb", as SmartBOOK, Smart, J. J. C., Williams, Bernard, Utilitarianism: For and Against, Cambridge University Press, January 1973, 42, 978-0521098229, has called them.

Karl Marx's criticism

Karl Marx, in Das Kapital, criticises Bentham's utilitarianism on the grounds that it does not appear to recognise that different people have different joys:s:Das Kapital/Chapter 24#endnote 50|Das Kapital Volume 1, Chapter 24, endnote 50]]Not even excepting our philosopher, Christian Wolff, in no time and in no country has the most homespun commonplace ever strutted about in so self-satisfied a way. The principle of utility was no discovery of Bentham. He simply reproduced in his dull way what Helvétius and other Frenchmen had said with esprit in the 18th century. To know what is useful for a dog, one must study dog-nature. This nature itself is not to be deduced from the principle of utility. Applying this to man, he who would criticize all human acts, movements, relations, etc., by the principle of utility, must first deal with human nature in general, and then with human nature as modified in each historical epoch. Bentham makes short work of it. 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.g., is "useful," "because it forbids in the name of religion the same faults that the penal code condemns in the name of the law." Artistic criticism is "harmful," because it disturbs worthy people in their enjoyment of Martin Tupper, etc. With such rubbish has the brave fellow, with his motto, "nulla dies sine linea [no day without a line]", piled up mountains of books.

John Paul II's personalist criticism

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. "Utilitarianism," he wrote, "is a civilization of production and of use, a civilization of things and not of persons, a civilization in which persons are used in the same way as things are used."WEB,weblink Archived copy, 1 April 2011, yes,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110405033300weblink">weblink 5 April 2011,

Additional considerations

Average v. total happiness

In The Methods of Ethics, Henry Sidgwick asked, "Is it total or average happiness that we seek to make a maximum?"BOOK, Sidgwick, Henry, Methods of Ethics, Hackett Publishing Co, 7th, 1981, xxxvi, 978-0915145287, He noted that aspects of the question had been overlooked and answered the question himself by saying that what had to be maximized was the average multiplied by the number of people living.BOOK, Sidgwick, Henry, Methods of Ethics, Hackett Publishing Co, 7th, 1981, 415, 978-0915145287, He also argued that, if the "average happiness enjoyed remains undiminished, Utilitarianism directs us to make the number enjoying it as great as possible." This was also the view taken earlier by Paley. He notes that, although he speaks of the happiness of communities, "the happiness of a people is made up of the happiness of single persons; and the quantity of happiness can only be augmented by increasing the number of the percipients, or the pleasure of their perceptions" and that if extreme cases, such as people held as slaves, are excluded the amount of happiness will usually be in proportion to the number of people. 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."WEB,weblink The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, Paley, William, 1785, 1 July 2012, A similar view was expressed by Smart, who argued that all other things being equal a universe with two million happy people is better than a universe with only one million happy people.BOOK, Smart, J. J. C., Williams, Bernard, Utilitarianism: For and Against, Cambridge University Press, January 1973, 27–28, 978-0521098229, 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.BOOK, Parfit, Derek, Reasons and Persons, Oxford Paperbacks, January 1986, 388, 978-0198249085, 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.BOOK, Shaw, William, Contemporary Ethics: Taking Account of Utilitarianism, Wiley-Blackwell, November 1998, 31–35, 978-0631202943, 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."BOOK, Shaw, William, Contemporary Ethics: Taking Account of Utilitarianism, Wiley-Blackwell, November 1998, 34, 978-0631202943,

Motives, intentions, and actions

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."BOOK, Bentham, Jeremy, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Dover Philosophical Classics, Dover Publications, January 2009, 102, 978-0486454528, Mill makes a similar pointBOOK, Mill, John Stuart, John, Robson, Collected Works, volume 31, University of Toronto Press, 1981, 51, Autobiography, 0-7100-0718-3, and explicitly says that "motive has nothing to do with the morality of the action, though much with the worth of the agent. 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."BOOK, Mill, John Stuart, Roger, Crisp, Utilitarianism, Oxford University Press, 1998, 65, 0-19-875163-X, 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." Elsewhere, he says, "Intention, and motive, are two very different things. But it is the intention, that is, the foresight of consequences, which constitutes the moral rightness or wrongness of the act."BOOK, Mill, John Stuart, John, Robson, Collected Works, volume 31, University of Toronto Press, 1981, 252–53, Comments upon James Mill's Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind, 0-7100-0718-3, and as quoted by JOURNAL, Ridge, Michael, 2002, Mill's Intentions and Motives, Utilitas, 14, 54–70, 10.1017/S0953820800003393, 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."JOURNAL, Dancy, Jonathan, 2000, Mill's Puzzling Footnote, Utilitas, 12, 2, 219–22, 10.1017/S095382080000279X, Jonathan Dancy rejects this interpretation on the grounds that Mill is explicitly making intention relevant to an assessment of the act not to an assessment of the agent.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."BOOK, Mill, John Stuart, A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive, Classic Reprint, Forgotten Books, February 2011, 51, 978-1440090820, Accordingly, whilst two actions may outwardly appear to be the same they will be different actions if there is a different intention. 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. Although this is the interpretation favoured by Dancy, he recognizes that this might not have been Mill's own view, for Mill "would not even allow that 'p & q' expresses a complex proposition. He wrote in his System of Logic I iv. 3, of 'Caesar is dead and Brutus is alive', that 'we might as well call a street a complex house, as these two propositions a complex proposition'."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.

Humans alone, or other sentient beings?

Nonhuman animals

{{further information|Speciesism|Animal welfare}}File:Peter Singer MIT Veritas.jpg|thumb|right|Peter SingerPeter SingerIn An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation Bentham wrote "the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?"An Introduction to the Principals of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham, 1789 ("printed" in 1780, "first published" in 1789, "corrected by the Author" in 1823.) See Chapter I: Of the Principle of Utility. For Bentham on animals, see Ch. XVII Note 122. Mill's distinction between higher and lower pleasures might suggest that he gave more status to humans but in The Methods of Ethics, philosopher Henry Sidgwick says "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? or are we to confine our view to human happiness? 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 ... it seems arbitrary and unreasonable to exclude from the end, as so conceived, any pleasure of any sentient being."BOOK, Sidgwick, Henry, Methods of Ethics, Hackett Publishing Co, 7th, 1981, 414, 978-0915145287, Moreover, John Stuart Mill himself, in Whewell on Moral Philosophy, defends Bentham's advocacy for animal rights, 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."JOURNAL, Mill, J. S., Whewell on Moral Philosophy,weblink PDF, Collected Works, 10, 185–87, The utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer and many other animal rights activists have continued to argue that the well-being of all sentient beings ought to be seriously considered. 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, on 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."Peter Singer, Animal Liberation, Chapter I, pp. 7–8, 2nd edition, 1990.In his 1990 edition of Animal Liberation, Peter Singer said that he no longer ate oysters and mussels, because although the creatures might not suffer, they might, it's not really known, and it's easy enough to avoid eating them in any caseAnimal Liberation, Second Edition {{Webarchive|url=https://web.archive.org/web/20101205080909weblink |date=5 December 2010 }}, Singer, Peter, 1975, 1990, excerpt, pp. 171–74, main passage on oysters, mussels, etc. p. 174 (last paragraph of this excerpt). And in a footnote in the actual book, Singer writes "My change of mind about mollusks stems from conversations with R.I. Sikora." (and this aspect of seeking better alternatives is a prominent part of utilitarianism).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 bring to sentient beings may mean that, on utilitarianism, biodiversity ought to be maintained in general.In John Stuart Mill's essay "On Nature"WEB, Mill's "On Nature",weblink www.lancaster.ac.uk, 2015-08-09, 1904, 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."JOURNAL, Cowen, T., Policing Nature, c. Hargrove, Eugene, Environmental Ethics, 25, 2, 169–, 10.5840/enviroethics200325231, 2003,

Application to specific issues

World poverty

An article in the American journal for Economics 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. This says that the money creates utility for the most people by funding government services.JOURNAL, The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution, N. Gregory Mankiw, Matthew Weinzierl, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2, 2010, 155–176, American Economic Association, 25760055, 10.1257/pol.2.1.155, 10.1.1.208.8375, Many utilitarian philosophers, including Peter Singer and Toby Ord, argue that inhabitants of developed countries in particular have an obligation to help to end extreme poverty across the world, for example by regularly donating some of their income to charity. Peter Singer, for example, argues that donating some of one's income to charity could help to save a life or cure somebody from a poverty-related illness, which is a much better use of the money as it brings someone in extreme poverty far more happiness than it would bring to oneself if one lived in relative comfort. However, Singer not only argues that one ought to donate a significant proportion of one's income to charity, but also that this money should be directed to the most cost-effective charities, in order to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number, consistent with utilitarian thinking.Peter Singer: The why and how of effective altruism | Talk Video. TED.com. Singer's ideas have formed the basis of the modern effective altruist movement.

See also

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Notes

{{reflist|30em}}

References

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  • JOURNAL, Harsanyi, John C., John Harsanyi, American Political Science Review, Can the Maximin Principle Serve as a Basis for Morality? A Critique of John Rawls's Theory of Justice, 69, 2, June 1975, 1959090, 10.2307/1959090,weblink 594,
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  • BOOK, Hooker, Brad, Timothy, Chappell, The problem of moral demandingness: new philosophical essays, Palgrave Macmillan, 9 September 2011, Chapter 8: The Demandingness Objection, 9780230219403,
  • BOOK, Hume, David, J. B., Schneewind, Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, Cambridge University Press, 2002, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, 978-0521003049,
  • BOOK, Hutcheson, Francis, J. B., Schneewind, Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, Cambridge University Press, 2002, The Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, 978-0521003049,
  • BOOK, Kagan, Shelly, The Limits of Morality (Oxford Ethics Series), Clarendon Press, April 1991, 978-0198239161,
  • JOURNAL, Kagan, Shelly, Does Consequentialism Demand too Much? Recent Work on the Limits of Obligation, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 13, 3, Summer 1984, 2265413,
  • BOOK, Lyons, David, Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism, November 1965, Oxford University Press(UK), 978-0198241973,
  • JOURNAL, McCloskey, H. J., A Note on Utilitarian Punishment, Mind, 72, 288, 1963, 10.1093/mind/LXXII.288.599, 2251880, 599,
  • JOURNAL, McCloskey, H. J., An Examination of Restricted Utilitarianism, Philosophical Review, 66, 4, October 1957, 466–85, 2182745, 10.2307/2182745,
  • BOOK, Mill, John Stuart, Roger, Crisp, Utilitarianism, Oxford University Press, 1998, 0-19-875163-X,
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  • BOOK, Nagel, Thomas, The Possibility of Altruism, Princeton University Press, New Ed edition, 2012, 978-0691020020,
  • JOURNAL, Norcross, Alastair, 2009, Two Dogmas of Deontology: Aggregation, Rights and the Separateness of Persons, Social Philosophy and Policy, 26, 10.1017/S0265052509090049,weblink 2012-06-29, 76,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20091127084839weblink">weblink 27 November 2009, yes, dmy-all,
  • BOOK, Oliphant, Jill, OCR Religious Ethics for AS and A2, Routledge, 2007,
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  • BOOK, Shaw, William, Contemporary Ethics: Taking Account of Utilitarianism, Wiley-Blackwell, November 1998, 978-0631202943,
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  • BOOK, Singer, Peter, Animal Liberation, 2001, Ecco Press, 978-0060011574,
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Further reading

  • Cornman, James, et al. (1992). Philosophical Problems and Arguments – An Introduction, 4th edition Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co.
  • Glover, Jonathan (1977). Causing Death and Saving Lives, Penguin Books. {{ISBN|9780140220032}}. {{oclc|4468071}}
  • ENCYCLOPEDIA, Hansas, John, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, Ronald, Hamowy, Ronald Hamowy, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism,weblink 2008, SAGE Publications, SAGE; Cato Institute, Thousand Oaks, CA, 10.4135/9781412965811.n317, 978-1-4129-6580-4, 750831024, 2008009151, 518–19, harv, Utilitarianism,
  • BOOK, Harwood, Sterling, Pojman, Louis P., Louis Pojman, Tramel, Peter, Moral Philosophy: a reader, 2009, Hackett, Indianapolis, IN, 978-0872209626, 488531841, 4th, Ch. 11. Eleven Objections to Utilitarianism,
  • BOOK, Mackie, J. L., Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, 1991, Penguin Books, 978-0140135589, esp. Chapter 6, Utilitarianism,
  • Martin, Michael (1970). "A Utilitarian Kantian Principle," Philosophical Studies, (with H. Ruf), 21. pp. 90–91.
  • BOOK, Rachels, James, Rachels, Stuart, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 2012, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 978-0078038242, esp. Chapters 7&8, The Utilitarian Approach & The Debate of Utilitarianism,
  • BOOK, Scheffler, Samuel, Consequentialism and its Critics, 1988, Oxford University Press, 978-0198750734,
  • Silverstein, Harry S. (1972). A Defence of Cornman's Utilitarian Kantian Principle, Philosophical Studies (Dordrecht u.a.) 23, pp. 212–15.
  • BOOK, Singer, Peter, A Companion to Ethics, Blackwell Companions to Philosophy, 1993, Wiley-Blackwell, 978-0631187851, esp. Chapter 19 & 20, Consequentialism & The Utility and the Good,
  • Singer, Peter (1981). The Expanding Circle: Ethics and Sociobiology, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. {{ISBN|0-374-15112-1}}
  • Stokes, Eric (1959, plus reprints). The English Utilitarians and India, Clarendon Press. {{oclc|930495493}}
  • Sumner, L. Wayne. Abortion: A Third Way, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • JOURNAL, Vergara, Francisco,weblink Bentham and Mill on the 'Quality' of Pleasures, Revue d'études benthamiennes, 2011,
  • JOURNAL, Vergara, Francisco,weblink A Critique of Elie Halévy: refutation of an important distortion of British moral philosophy, Philosophy, 73, 1998, 10.1017/s0031819197000144,
  • BOOK, Williams, Bernard, Morality: An Introduction to Ethics, 1993, Cambridge University Press, 978-0521457293, esp. Chapter 10, Utilitarianism,

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