Bentham’s Binary Form of Maximizing Utilitarianism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Jeremy Bentham is often interpreted as defending a satisficing, rather than maximizing, version of utilitarianism, where an act is right as long as it produces more pleasure than pain. This lack of maximization is surprising given Bentham’s maximizing slogan ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’. Against the satisficing interpretation, I argue that Bentham consistently defends a maximizing version of utilitarianism, where an act’s consequences are compared to those of not performing the act. I show that following this version of utilitarianism requires that one realizes the greatest happiness for all affected individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-109
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Journal for the History of Philosophy
Issue number1
Early online date18 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2017 BSHP. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • Jeremy Bentham
  • alternatives
  • maximization
  • satisficing
  • utilitarianism

Cite this