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Justice - Lecture 2

Lecture 2 - Hedonistic Utilitarianism

- What is Bentham's "principle of utility" or "greatest happiness principle"?
- Bentham says that pleasure is the only thing that is good in itself. Is he right? What about knowledge? Or beauty? Or achieving the aims you set for yourself?
- Can you make a utilitarian case against slavery? Consider three cases, and work out the argument for each: (i) slaves are only 10% of the population; (ii) slaves are a quarter of the population, but are members of a socially outcast group; (iii) the slaves are a majority of the population, and do backbreaking work in mines, but are very productive.
- Is the legal enforcement of a community's moral code such a bad thing? Does Bentham make a persuasive case against it? (What does he mean when he says it is unprofitable?) Can you think of laws that regulate conduct because the conduct is immoral? What do you think of those laws?

Prof. Joshua Cohen
17.01J / 24.04J Justice
(Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare)
Date accessed: 2008-12-28
License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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