Utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham (17481832) and John Stuart Mill (18061873)

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As Bentham wrote in Chapter 1 of ‘An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation,’ By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question: or, what is the same thing in other words, to promote or to oppose that happiness. (Bentham, 1823) Utilitarianism addresses the philosophical problem that occurs in the definition of the good in a pluralistic society where many people may differ on defining exactly what constitutes objective standards in moral reasoning. Utilitarianism is important in its relationship to the development of empirical standards in science to replace theological justifications of right and wrong in society, as well as in the growth of democracy, which required a solution to moral issues related to the disagreement among groups with different standards of belief. Utilitarianism is often summarized as the greatest good for the greatest number being used to calculate the moral correctness of an action, decision, or policy for both individuals and society on a common standard. According to Larsen (2011), utilitarianism is a normative ethical theory under ethical Naturalism and also a teleological – consequential (outcome based) – ethical theory…. ed upon their outcome in society in producing the greatest good for the greatest number of people, and that the ‘utility’ of an action can be calculated through its use in the production of this social good. Utilitarianism as a guide to personal behavior can relate to both personal experiences of happiness or pleasure as a guide to conduct and a recognition of the greater good of society as a higher motivation for service. Through this, the basis for moral action is established in Utilitarianism for both the individual and society. One of the major ways that Bentham and Mill differed in their theory of Utilitarianism is that Bentham based his definition of ‘the good’ in a limited formulation of pleasure and pain that defined happiness objectively through the individual, but tended to reduce Utilitarianism to the principles of hedonism, while Mill based his definition of Utilitarianism in a conceptually expanded view of happiness that included societal ideals, virtues, and altruistic beliefs of human activity in order to represent ‘the greater good’ in a wider manner. (Driver, 2009) Another difference is that Bentham is regarded retrospectively as proposing Act Utilitarianism whereas Mill was an advocate of Rule Utilitarianism. (Lotito, 2002) Act Utilitarianism applies logic and reasoning to each individual and collective activity in order to determine through direct cognition, moral reasoning, and reflection whether or not the activity serves the happiness of the greatest number of people. Rule Utilitarianism seeks to establish predetermined rules of order related to moral reasoning that can be applied by the individual or groups in making decisions that operate on their own fundamentals of interpretation according to utilitarian logic and can