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The utilitarian theory of Jeremy Bentham

The utilitarian theory of Jeremy Bentham

April 6, 2024

How to get to obtain happiness? This is a question that throughout history has been addressed by many philosophers. However, few have made this question the central aspect of their theories.

Jeremy Bentham, on the other hand, not only prioritized this topic when writing his works; In fact, he even tried to create a formula close to mathematics to try to predict what is and what is not something that will bring happiness.

Next we will give a brief review of the utilitarian theory of Jeremy Bentham, one of the most influential thinkers in the United Kingdom and the father of a philosophical current known as utilitarianism.

  • Related article: "Utilitarianism: a philosophy centered on happiness"

Who was Jeremy Bentham?

Jeremy Bentham was born in London in 1748, in the bosom of a well-to-do family. Like many of those who would become great thinkers, Bentham showed signs of having great intelligence from a young age, and with only three years he began to study Latin. With twelve years, he entered the university to study Law, although later he would abhor this field.

Throughout his life, Jeremy Bentham reaped many friendships and enmities , and came to be publicly in favor of the French Revolution. His works and thoughts served to inspire many other philosophers, including John Stuart Mill, who would adapt Bentham's utilitarianism following criteria based on general should concentrate on the pragmatic.

  • Maybe it interests you; "The utilitarian theory of John Stuart Mill"

The utilitarian theory of Jeremy Bentham: its foundations

Below you can find a summarized version of Jeremy Bentham's theory with regard to its utilitarianism and happiness concept.

1. The goal of ethics must be the common good

For Bentham, philosophy and humanity must concentrate on offer solutions to the question of how to obtain happiness , since everything in life can be reduced to that goal: neither reproduction, nor the defense of religion nor any other similar objective can come to the fore.

2. The maximum good for the maximum number of people

From the previous point this is derived. Since the human being lives in society, the conquest of happiness should guide everything else . But this conquest can not be one, but must be shared, just as we share with others everything that by default is not private property.

3. Pleasure can measure

Jeremy Bentham wanted to develop a method to measure pleasure, raw material of happiness. In this way, as happiness is a shared aspect, and not private, society would benefit from sharing a formula to detect where is what one needs and what to do to achieve it in each case. The result is the call happy calculation, which, of course, is totally out of date, since to use it before we would have to use its categories to fit in life experiences that are normally ambiguous.

4. The problem of impositions

It is very good to ask that everyone be happy, but in practice it is very possible that there are clashes of interests. How to resolve these disputes? For Bentham, it was important to see if what we do goes against the freedom of others and, if so, avoid falling into it.

This is a principle that cOn time it was adopted by John Stuart Mill , very influenced by Bentham, and that summarizes a liberal way of seeing things (and even an individualistic ideology.

So, in principle almost everything is allowed, less anything that threatens the integrity of others. This is the central aspect of the ideas of this philosophical current, very fashionable even lately.

Criticism of this philosophy

The utilitarianism of both Jeremy Bentham and the authors who adopted this perspective after him, has been criticized for being a kind of thinking ad hoc , that is, part of the conceptual categories that already exist and try to justify certain methods over others, assuming that the question to which they respond is adequate and good.

For example: Is it appropriate to exploit one's image to get money? If we have previously identified the fact of making money as one of the main sources of happiness, the answer to the previous question depends on whether that strategy is effective in achieving that; utilitarianism does not make us question the point of departure.

Utilitarianism: Crash Course Philosophy #36 (April 2024).

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