Philosophy Class

"The Truth will make you odd."

Jeremy Bentham's Utilitarianism


Jeremy Bentham Englishman 1748 to 1832.

1. Mankind is governed by pleasure and pain. (We are not talking about justice and injustice here, as did Aristotle)

2. No matter what you say they dominate all we do.

3. Must assume this for foundation of ANY ethical system.

4. Approve or not of any ACTION measured by how an act augments or diminishes happiness of one whose interest is in question. p. 28

5. Likewise for government action. Whether it augments or diminishes interest of a community.

(produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, happiness.)

6. Interest of a community is the sum of interests of several members who compose it.

7. For an individual, it promotes interest for HIM. The action adds to sum total of his pleasures, or diminishes sum total of his pain.

8. He says it is unnecessary to prove this theory, for no one has ever disproved it . We assume it.

9.Bentham says all of us use these principles in action.

10. Total sum of pleasure and pain in a community would judge if some act is good. (Aristotle - justice. Bentham - utility)

If there is more pain than pleasure, not good. "Hedonic calculus".

11. Read the section and you will get more details.

12. If you go to "University college" in London, you can see Bentham's embalmed body dressed in his customary clothes.

13. Read p. 281 encyc. of philos. under Bentham

14. Others forms of this right is judged if the action causes more pleasure to the sum total of life forms.

wrong is that the action causes more pain than pleasure to the sum total of life forms.

15. Read to the students p. 281. under Bentham, encyclopedia of Philosophy. (taking nephew to circus).




1. How do we of all the pleasure and pain measure how much there is? Ask this of a Benthamite...

2. When asked by someone what would prevent a majority of Englishmen from killing a minority, if it were deemed useful, Bentham stated, "Englishmen wouldn't behave like that."

3. Word pleasure is ambiguous. (equivocal)

4. One may take happiness from pleasure of others, and then one may not . What about the one who revels in the pain of others?

5. Dr. Cohen said he tried Bentham's ideas at home for a week; he concluded they did not work..

6. Mr. Bentham lives in a Christian English society. He is a product of western civilization. He and others are living by custom and training these principles.

7. If his ideas are tried in another society, say the critics, they would be disastrous.

8. Who knows how future Englishmen will behave in future under different moral system and training and desires.

9. Remember, Communists adopted this ethic, "Whatever advances the Revolution is moral." Revolution and bloodshed of anyone necessary is compensated by future advantages. Lenin said  "You have to break a few eggs to get an omlette.

Remember: accept an action if it augments pleasure diminishes pain.    

Deny an action if it augments pain and diminishes pleasure (for those involved).


Thomas Aquinas, Natural Law

1. Remember the end justifies the means?


3. How Thomas Aquinas figured out moral law. 

He does not believe that the end justifies the



4. There is an eternal law which applies to all

men, just because they are men,


5. Aristotle said the moral law was the same for

all of the same nature.

Example: What law does a dog follow to be a

good properly functioning law.


6. Because a human being is a rational animal,

he MUST act rationally.


8. The eternal law is in the mind of God along w/

man's nature.


9. How does one follow the eternal law.


10. The natural law: it may be figured out by



11. However, people make mistakes in their

reasoning. Hence the 10 Commandments.


12. The basic principles of the natural law:


13. First principle:

No one is ignorant of this: Do good. Avoid evil.


14. Second principle

General principles of the moral law.. As in the 10


example: Thou shalt not steal.


Mistakes may be made by application in

particular situations because of the fact that

humans make mistakes in their reasoning. This

is because the passions effect us too much.


15. Tertiary principles

They take a lot of long reasoning to arrive at

these. Hence mistakes are multitudinous in

history. Example: polygamy is wrong.


16. Now, how, as Jeremy Bentham tried to figure

out by calculus, how are we to figure what to



17 Aquinas says this:


18. We are only talking about Human Acts.


19. What are Human Acts? They are acts freely



20. Human acts can be good, evil, or neutral.

(whistling going down the street is neutral.)


21. How do we find out if acts are evil or good?


22. Each human act has

     1. an object  

     2. a Motive

     3. Surrounding circumstances (can make

         the act


worse Example: Murder of a man vs. murder of

your father. The fact that he is your father

makes it worse. Patricide. You are not only

violating the right to life, you are violating your

duty in justice to your parents.)


23. Object is the thing done. Example: A man

steals from another. The stealing is the object.


24. He has a motive for stealing. He wants to

buy a Corvette. Or he wants to give money to

the poor.


25. Aquinas said that both motive and object

be good or act is bad. Also circumstances effect.


26. Example:

Murder a rich Uncle in order to get his money for

your sick child.


1. motive: get money for a sick child. GOOD

   object: murder uncle BAD conclusion: whole

   thing is bad.


2. motive : to make others think you are good

when your are secretly evil BAD.

Object: giving alms to the poor. Good

conclusion: whole thing is bad


3. Motive: to get money for your sick child

Act: ask you rich uncle conclusion : good thing

all around.



Thomas Aquinas: Medieval