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Happiness and Pleasure in European Thought

Act Utilitarianism

In some ways, then, Kant's deontological system opens the door for defenses of happiness, and consequentialism emerged in this role. Of course, happiness in the consequentialist accounts is treated much more vaguely than it was in the virtue ethics accounts. Utilitarianism, especially as promoted by Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), provides a counterview to both the virtue ethicists and the deontologists. Bentham's version of utilitarianism establishes it as a hedonistic view in which the maximization of pleasure and the minimization of pain are classified as good. On the face of it, Bentham appears to be reviving the ancient Epicurean view, especially since, like the Epicureans, Bentham contends that humans naturally seek pleasure and avoid pain. But Epicurean hedonism differs from Benthamite hedonism insofar as the Epicureans grounded their view in ataraxia, which corresponds quite well with the ancient view of happiness or eudaimonia. Bentham's hedonism contains no such ground. Instead, what makes an action good is not its effect on the psychological state of the actor but rather the consequences of the action for the (narrow) happiness of the actor. An action is good if its consequences are good (i.e., if the action maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain).

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Habit memory: to HeterodontHappiness and Pleasure in European Thought - The Hellenistic Era, The Medieval View, Modern Views On Happiness, Act Utilitarianism, Rule Utilitarianism