11 Jun, 2015 100 Philosophy

A moral theory that emphasises ends over means, Utilitarianism holds that a good act is one that increases pleasure in the world and decreases pain. The tradition flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, and has antecedents in ancient philosophy. According to Bentham, happiness is the means for assessing the utility of an act, declaring “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” Mill and others went on to refine and challenge Bentham’s views and to defend them from critics such as Thomas Carlyle, who termed Utilitarianism a “doctrine worthy only of swine.”

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Reading list

  • Three Methods of Ethics: A Debate
    Marcia Baron, Philip Pettit, and Michael Slote (Blackwell, 2001) Google Books →
  • An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation
    Jeremy Bentham (Dover Publications, 2007) Google Books →
  • Mill on Utilitarianism
    Roger Crisp (Routledge, 1997) Google Books →
  • Consequentialism
    Julia Driver (Routledge, 2011) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to Utilitarianism
    Ben Eggleston and Dale E. Miller (eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 2014) Google Books →
  • Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy
    Robert E. Goodin (Cambridge University Press, 1995) Google Books →
  • The Point of View of the Universe: Sidgwick and Contemporary Ethics
    Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer (Oxford University Press, 2014) Google Books →
  • Utilitarianism
    John Stuart Mill (ed. George Sher) (Hackett Publishing Co, 2002) Google Books →
  • Consequentialism and Its Critics
    Samuel Scheffler (ed.) (Oxford University Press, 1988) Google Books →
  • The Methods of Ethics
    Henry Sidgwick (TheClassics.us, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress
    Peter Singer (Princeton University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • Utilitarianism: For and Against
    J. J. C. Smart and Bernard Williams (Cambridge University Press, 1973) Google Books →

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Programme ID: b05xhwqf

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Auto-category: 100 (Philosophy)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1789, the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham published one of his most important works in which he developed his theory of utility, titled An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.