Act Utilitarianism | AS/A Level RS Notes (For OCR)

So Mill rejects the substantive doctrines of psychological egoismand hedonism that Bentham and his father sometimes defended orsuggested. This is really part of a larger criticism of the conceptionof psychology and human nature underlying Benthamite utilitarianism,which Mill elaborates in his essays on Bentham. Mill's desire todistance himself from Benthamite assumptions about human nature andpsychology are also reflected in his conception of happiness and hisdoctrine of higher pleasures.

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Bentham is not unaware of this tension. He addresses part of theproblem in the political context in other writings, notably hisPlan for Parliamentary Reform (1817). In the politicalcontext, the problem is how we can get self-interested rulers to rulein the interest of the governed, as utilitarianism implies that theyshould. Bentham's answer invokes his commitment to representativedemocracy. We can reconcile self-interested motivation and promotion ofthe common good if we make rulers democratically accountable to (all)those whom they govern, for this tends to make the interest of thegoverned and the interest of the governors coincide. Bentham'sargument, elaborated by James Mill in his Essay on Government,is something like this.

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Sidgwick raised issues that run much deeper to our basicunderstanding of utilitarianism. For example, the way earlierutilitarians characterized the principle of utility left open seriousindeterminacies. The major one rests on the distinction betweentotal and average utility. He raised the issue in the context ofpopulation growth and increasing utility levels by increasing numbersof people (or sentient beings):

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This essay will firstly explore the views of Classical Theory, by looking at Cesane Beccaria, the father of Classical theory and Jeremy Bentham, the founder of Utilitarian and explore how there influences are incorporated into laws and regulations, around the world....

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