How to get happiness? This is a question which, throughout history, has been addressed by many philosophers. However, few have made this question the central feature of their theories.
Jeremy Bentham, on the other hand, not only did he prioritize this topic when writing his works; in fact, he even tried to come up with a mathematical-like formula to try to predict what is and what is not something that will bring happiness.
Below, we’ll take a brief look at the utilitarian theory of Jeremy Bentham, one of the UK’s most influential thinkers and the father of a philosophical stream known as utilitarianism.
Who was Jeremy Bentham?
Jeremy Bentham was born in London in 1748 to a well-to-do class family. Like many who would become great thinkers, Bentham showed signs of possessing great intelligence from an early age, and at only three years old he began to study Latin. At the age of twelve, he entered college to study law, although he later disliked the field.
Throughout his life, Jeremy Bentham picked up many friendships and enmities, And came to position itself publicly in favor of the French Revolution. His works and reflections have inspired many other philosophers, including John Stuart Mill, who will adapt Bentham’s utilitarianism according to criteria generally based on pragmatics.
Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian theory: its foundations
Below is a brief version of Jeremy Bentham’s theory regarding his utilitarianism and concept of happiness.
1. The goal of ethics must be the common good
For Bentham, philosophy and humanity must focus on offer solutions to the question of how to achieve happinessSince everything in life can be reduced to this goal: neither reproduction, nor defense of religion, nor any other similar goal can come to the fore.
2. The maximum good for the maximum number of people
This is derived from the previous point. Since human beings live in society, the conquest of happiness must guide everything else. But this conquest cannot be one, but must be shared, just as we share with others everything that is not by default private property.
3. Pleasure and can measure
Jeremy Bentham wanted to develop a method of measuring pleasure, raw material of happiness. In this way, since happiness is a shared aspect and not a private one, society would benefit from sharing a formula for detecting where is what one needs and what needs to be done to achieve it in each case. The result is the so-called happy calculus, which, of course, is totally outdated, because to use it before we would have to use its categories to fit life experiences that are normally ambiguous.
4. The problem of taxes
It’s great to ask everyone to be happy, but in practice it is quite possible that there are clashes of interests. How to resolve these disputes? For Bentham, it was important to focus on whether what we are doing violates the freedom of others, and if so, to avoid falling into it.
It is a principle that cwhere time was adopted by John Stuart Mill, Heavily influenced by Bentham, and which sums up a liberal way of seeing things (and even an individualistic ideology.
So, in principle, almost anything is allowed, except the one who attacks the integrity of others. This is the central aspect of the ideas of this philosophical current, which is still very popular in recent times.
Critique of this philosophy
The utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and the authors who adopted this perspective after him, has been criticized for being a type of thought for thatIn other words, it starts from the conceptual categories that already exist and tries to justify some methods over others by assuming that the question they answer is appropriate and correct.
For example: is it appropriate to exploit your own image to earn money? While we have previously identified making money as one of the main sources of happiness, the answer to the above question depends on the effectiveness of this strategy in achieving it; utilitarianism does not make us question the starting point.