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Bentham’s Binary Form of Maximizing Utilitarianism

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JournalBritish Journal for the History of Philosophy
DateAccepted/In press - 23 Jun 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 18 Sep 2017
DatePublished (current) - 2018
Issue number1
Number of pages23
Pages (from-to)87-109
Early online date18/09/17
Original languageEnglish


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.

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© 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

    Research areas

  • Jeremy Bentham, alternatives, maximization, satisficing, utilitarianism

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