Talk:Utilitarianism

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referencing Jeremy Bentham's INTRODUCTION TO THE PRINCIPLES OF MORALS AND LEGISLATIONEdit

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PRINCIPLES OF MORALS AND LEGISLATION, Jeremy Bentham, 1789.

from Preface:

"Note.—The First Edition of this work was printed in the year 1780; and first published in 1789. The present Edition is a careful reprint of 'A New Edition, corrected by the Author,' which was published in 1823."


also

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/An_Introduction_to_the_Principles_of_Morals_and_Legislation


Peter Singer on giving benefit of the doubt to shrimp and oysters.Edit

“ . . . and in the first edition of this book I suggested that somewhere between shrimp and an oyster seems as good a place to draw the line as any. Accordingly, I continued occasionally to eat oysters, scallops, and mussels for some time after I became in every other respect, a vegetarian. But while one cannot with any confidence say that these creatures do feel pain, so one can equally have little confidence in saying that they do not feel pain. Moreover, if they do feel pain, a meal of oysters or mussels would inflict pain on a considerable number of creatures. Since it is so easy to avoid eating them, I now think it better to do so.” -Peter Singer, Animal Liberation. 1990, (171-174) http://www.wesleyan.edu/wsa/warn/singer_fish.htm

History of utilitarianismEdit

As it stands, the developments are not given in chronological order. I suggest re-ordering the paragraphs so that they are in chronological order. This would be easier to follow. It would also mean that the person who first suggested it would appear first. DouglasBell (talk) 20:17, 16 May 2019 (UTC)

Average v. Total happinessEdit

In this section ""Is it total or average happiness that we seek to make a maximum?" He noted that aspects of the question had been overlooked and answered the question himself by saying that what had to be maximized was the average multiplied by the number of people living." He states we have to maximize the average multiplied by the number of people alive. That would just be equal to total happiness, as long as I haven't misunderstood something? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 129.242.46.68 (talk) 19:11, 27 October 2019 (UTC)

Must be right. The paraphrase was added seven years ago by Philosophyclass HSOG. Without the book, we can't conclude whether the writer was just not understanding the math. sirlanz 03:58, 28 October 2019 (UTC)


Hmm. This paraphrase may not capture what Sidgewick was saying although I am a little unclear as to what point he is trying to make. The quote occurs in the context of discussing whether there is an obligation to increase the population if that maximises happiness. According to the contents page the chapter is considering — The notion of ‘Greatest Happiness’ has been determined in Book ii. chap. i.: but the extent and manner of its application require to be further defined. Are we to include all Sentient Beings? and is it Total or Average Happiness that we seek to make a maximum?....
Sidgewick says (p415):

Assuming, then, that the average happiness of human beings is a positive quantity, it seems clear that, supposing the average happiness enjoyed remains undiminished, Utilitarianism directs us to make the number enjoying it as great as possible. But if we foresee as possible that an increase in numbers will be accompanied by a decrease in average happiness or vice versa, a point arises which has not only never been formally noticed, but which seems to have been substantially overlooked by many Utilitarians. For if we take Utilitarianism to prescribe, as the ultimate end of action, happiness on the whole, and not any individual’s happiness, unless considered as an element of the whole, it would follow that, if the additional population enjoy on the whole positive happiness, we ought to weigh the amount of happiness gained by the extra number against the amount lost by the remainder. So that, strictly conceived, the point up to which, on Utilitarian principles, population ought to be encouraged to increase, is not that at which average happiness is the greatest possible,— as appears to be often assumed by political economists of the school of Malthus — but that at which the product formed by multiplying the number of persons living into the amount of average happiness reaches its maximum. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 82.24.205.8 (talk) 19:53, 28 October 2019 (UTC)

Sidgewick has spouted a load of utter garbage. Either it was intended to confuse/convolute or Sidgewick himself was confused. The English is rubbish, for starters (e.g. you don't multiply anything "into" anything else). I haven't read the book but if this passage is anything to go by, he's a half-wit and turning page 1 would probably be a big mistake. I'm going to edit the offending area now to do justice to this. It's not WP's job to make sense out of nonsense. sirlanz 00:21, 29 October 2019 (UTC)

Well, as "one of the most influential ethical philosophers of the Victorian era, (whose) work continues to exert a powerful influence on Anglo-American ethical and political theory, with an increasing global impact as well" [SEP] he probably wasn't a half-wit. And writing in 1874 perhaps "multiplying into" was a perfectly acceptable way of describing multiplication. Language changes.
I do find the final sentence difficult to understand but I suspect that is me rather than Sidgewick. I think he is saying that a standard utilitarian argument of the time was that to maximise happiness you should increase population until you reach the highest possible average happiness. However, there is a problem for it is conceivable that you can increase total happiness whilst at the same time reducing average happiness if the happiness of those currently existing is reduced significantly by the presence of the newcomers. It is for this reason he proposes that "the product formed by multiplying the number of persons living into the amount of average happiness reaches its maximum" Perhaps what he is suggesting here is that the number of people currently existing need to be multiplied by the NEW average that would occur when you factor in the newcomers and it is this figure that has to be maximised. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 82.24.205.8 (talk) 22:04, 29 October 2019 (UTC)

"This figure" is simply the average. Our fellow editor has done a good job of repeating the convulted and meaningless confusion of Sidgwick. Sidgwick's passage started out with a (poorly expressed) but logical right foot: it's no good expanding the population if you bring down average happiness in the process. It looked rather like he was just making the average-must-trump-total argument. Then he wandered off into the bush, saying absolutely nothing of value. sirlanz 22:51, 29 October 2019 (UTC)

I'm still not sure my reading of the final sentence is correct and it may just be a roundabout way of saying total happiness. However, that roundabout way may make sense in the context of his rejection of the maximising the average view which is what he is discussing.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy quotes the same paragraph in their article on Sidgwick. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sidgwick/

It is also important enough to be referred to on their page on the history of utilitarianism https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/utilitarianism-history/ which interestingly after the multiply into quote says, "So it seems to be a hybrid, total-average view."

And you will find it in numerous other places such as http://utilitarianphilosophy.com/henrysidgwick.en.html where it is regarded as important enough to be included in the 'Abstracts of Sidgwick's Methods of Ethics' at the bottom of that page.

As for books it is discussed in Bart Schultz's intellectual biography of Sidgwick, 'Henry Sidgwick, Eye of the Universe' which references Marcus Singer's introduction to Sidgwick's 'Essays on Ethics and Method'.

Whether we happen to agree or disagree with Sidgwick's position it is clearly important enough to be included in a wikipedia article on utilitarianism. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 82.24.205.8 (talk) 22:08, 30 October 2019 (UTC)

It appears someone is just pulling a chain here. The passage does not appear in any of the links our IP editor has provided. sirlanz 00:01, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
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