Pain and Pleasure, Essay Example

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Jeremy Bentham’s philosophical view on pain and pleasure is known as a utilitarian theory, which, basically, believes that what is pleasurable is good.  He and James Mill are considered to be two of the greatest utilitarians. They developed their theory during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and are usually associated with act-utilitarianism.  The utilitarian principle is “Always act to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people” (Act Utilitarianism). Because the production of happiness, which is considered as pleasure, is not just for oneself, but for the greatest number of people, it escapes the label of “egotism.”  Bentham writes about several kinds of pleasure; namely, its intensity, fruitfulness, duration, certainty, purity, and propinquity. All must be considered when deciding whether or not to carry out a certain action, referred to as the calculus of utility.  For example, a pleasure that we experience soon is better than the one we experience later (propinquity); and, as a result, it may rank lower in “points” than a certain pleasure that can definitely be expected upon completion of a certain deed.  The pain involved in such an action must, however, be subtracted from the pleasure in order to arrive at the net pleasure obtained from such an act.  Naturally, a pleasure that contains no pain, that is a pure pleasure would be highly desired, but not easily obtainable.  Furthermore, if one if one adheres to this philosophy, one is obligated to choose the action that produces the most happiness and is unable to choose extraordinary moral actions.

Works Cited

Act-Utilitarianism.  The basic view:  Utilitarianism in a consequentialist theory. Retrieved on August 24, 2012, from http://www.lawandbioethics.com/demo/Main/EthicsResources/act_utilit.

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