Utilitarianism Quotes

Quotes tagged as "utilitarianism" (showing 1-30 of 52)
Leon Trotsky
“The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.”
Leon Trotsky, Their Morals and Ours

Charles Dickens
“In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected."

(Frauds on the Fairies, 1853)”
Charles Dickens, Works of Charles Dickens

Jeremy Bentham
“...the rarest of all human qualities is consistency.”
Jeremy Bentham

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“In my opinion, if, as the result of certain combinations, Kepler's or Newton's discoveries could become known to people in no other way than by sacrificing the lives of one, or ten, or a hundred or more people who were hindering the discovery, or standing as an obstacle in its path, then Newton would have the right, and it would even be his duty... to remove those ten or a hundred people, in order to make his discoveries known to mankind. It by no means follows from this, incidentally, that Newton should have the right to kill anyone he pleases, whomever happens along, or to steal from the market every day. Further, I recall developing in my article the idea that all... well, let's say, the lawgivers and founders of mankind, starting from the most ancient and going on to the Lycurguses, the Solons, the Muhammads, the Napoleons, and so forth, that all of them to a man were criminals, from the fact alone that in giving a new law, they thereby violated the old one, held sacred by society and passed down from their fathers, and they certainly did not stop at shedding blood either, if it happened that blood (sometimes quite innocent and shed valiantly for the ancient law) could help them.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

John Stuart Mill
“The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest-Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.”
John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism

Jeremy Bentham
“Happiness is a very pretty thing to feel, but very dry to talk about.”
Jeremy Bentham, The Panopticon Writings

John Stuart Mill
“In a world in which there is so much to interest, so much to enjoy, and so much also to correct and improve, everyone who has this moderate amount of moral and intellectual requisites is capable of an existence which may be called enviable; and unless such a person, through bad laws, or subjection to the will of others, is denied the liberty to use the sources of happiness within his reach, he will not fail to find the enviable existence”
John Stuart Mill

Allan Bloom
“The utilitarian behaves sensibly in all that is required for preservation but never takes account of the fact that he must die...His whole life is absorbed in avoiding death, which is inevitable, and therefore he might be thought to be the most irrational of men, if rationality has anything to do with understanding ends or comprehending the human situation as such. He gives way without reserve to his most powerful passion and the wishes it engenders.”
Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

Immanuel Kant
“Settle, for sure and universally, what conduct will promote the happiness of a rational being.”
Immanuel Kant

Wilhelm von Humboldt
“If we reason that we want happiness for others, not for ourselves, then we ought justly to be suspected of failing to recognize human nature for what it is and of wishing to turn men into machines.”
Wilhelm Von Humboldt, The Limits of State Action

Jeremy Bentham
“Is it possible for a man to move the earth? Yes; but he must first find out another earth to stand upon.”
Jeremy Bentham

James Alan Gardner
“I do not care about the greatest good for the greatest number . . . Most people are poop-heads I do not care about them at all.”
James Alan Gardner, Ascending

Gary L. Francione
“One of the main arguments that I make is that although almost everyone accepts that it is morally wrong to inflict “unnecessary” suffering and death on animals, 99% of the suffering and death that we inflict on animals can be justified only by our pleasure, amusement, or convenience. For example, the best justification that we have for killing the billions of nonhumans that we eat every year is that we enjoy the taste of animal flesh and animal products. This is not an acceptable justification if we take seriously, as we purport to, that it is wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering or death on animals, and it illustrates the confused thinking that I characterize as our “moral schizophrenia” when it comes to nonhumans.

A follow-up question that I often get is: “What about vivisection? Surely that use of animals is not merely for our pleasure, is it?”

Vivisection, Part One: The “Necessity” of Vivisection | Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach”
GaryLFrancione

W. Somerset Maugham
Jeremy Bentham startled the world many years ago by stating in effect that if the amount of pleasure obtained from each be equal there is nothing to choose between poetry and push-pin. Since few people now know what push-pin is, I may explain that it is a child's game in which one player tries to push his pin across that of another player, and if he succeeds and then is able by pressing down on the two pins with the ball of his thumb to lift them off the table he wins possession of his opponent's pin. [...] The indignant retort to Bentham's statement was that spiritual pleasures are obviously higher than physical pleasures. But who say so? Those who prefer spiritual pleasures. They are in a miserable minority, as they acknowledge when they declare that the gift of aesthetic appreciation is a very rare one. The vast majority of men are, as we know, both by necessity and choice preoccupied with material considerations. Their pleasures are material. They look askance at those who spent their lives in the pursuit of art. That is why they have attached a depreciatory sense to the word aesthete, which means merely one who has a special appreciation of beauty. How are we going to show that they are wrong? How are we going to show that there is something to choose between poetry and push-pin? I surmise that Bentham chose push-pin for its pleasant alliteration with poetry. Let us speak of lawn tennis. It is a popular game which many of us can play with pleasure. It needs skill and judgement, a good eye and a cool head. If I get the same amount of pleasure out of playing it as you get by looking at Titian's 'Entombment of Christ' in the Louvre, by listening to Beethoven's 'Eroica' or by reading Eliot's 'Ash Wednesday', how are you going to prove that your pleasure is better and more refined than mine? Only, I should say, by manifesting that this gift you have of aesthetic appreciation has a moral effect on your character.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Vagrant Mood: Six Essays

Gary L. Francione
“When we say that humans have a “right” not to be used for these purposes, this means simply that the interest of humans in not being used as non-consenting subjects in experiments will be protected even if the consequences of using them would be very beneficial for the rest of us. The question, then, is why do we think that it is morally acceptable to use nonhumans in experiments but not to use humans?

Vivisection, Part Two: The Moral Justification of Vivisection | Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach”
GaryLFrancione

Peter Singer
“Voluntary euthanasia occurs only when, to the best of medical knowledge, a person is suffering from an incurable and painful or extremely distressing condition. In these circumstances one cannot say that to choose to die quickly is obviously irrational.”
Peter Singer, Practical Ethics

John Stuart Mill
“It is a strange notion that the acknowledgment of a first principle is inconsistent with the admission of secondary ones. To inform a traveler respecting the place of his ultimate destination, is not to forbid the use of land-marks and direction-posts on the way. The proposition that happiness is the end and aim of morality, does not mean that no road ought to be laid down to that goal, or that persons going thither should not be advised to take one direction rather than another. Men really ought to leave off talking a kind of nonsense on this subject, which they would neither talk nor listen to on other matters of practical concernment. Nobody argues that the art of navigation is not founded on astronomy, because sailors cannot wait to calculate the Nautical Almanack. Being rational creatures, they go to sea with it ready calculated; and all rational creatures go out upon the sea of life with their minds made up on the common questions of right and wrong, as well as on many of the far more difficult questions of wise and foolish. And this, as long as foresight is a human quality, it is to be presumed they will continue to do. Whatever we adopt as the fundamental principle of morality, we require subordinate principles to apply it by: the impossibility of doing without them, being common to all systems, can afford no argument against any one in particular: but gravely to argue as if no such secondary principles could be had, and as if mankind had remained till now, and always must remain, without drawing any general conclusions from the experience of human life, is as high a pitch, I think, as absurdity has ever reached in philosophical controversy.”
John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism

John Stuart Mill
“That a feeling is bestowed on us by Nature, does not necessarily legitimate all its promptings. The feeling of justice might be a peculiar instinct, and might yet require, like our other instincts, to be controlled and enlightened by a higher reason. If we have intellectual instincts, leading us to judge in a particular way, as well as animal instincts that prompt us to act in a particular way, there is no necessity that the former should be more infallible in their sphere than the latter in theirs: it may as well happen that wrong judgments are occasionally suggested by those, as wrong actions by these. But though it is one thing to believe that we have natural feelings of justice, and another to acknowledge them as an ultimate criterion of conduct, these two opinions are very closely connected in point of fact. Mankind are always predisposed to believe that any subjective feeling, not otherwise accounted for, is a revelation of some objective reality.”
John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism

Confucius
“Tsze-kung asked, "What do you think of me?" The Master said, "You are a pot." "What sort of pot?" "A precious ritual vase.”
Confucius, The Analects

Greg Egan
“We have a special name, here, for a certain kind of failure to defer to the greater good—for putting a personal sense of doing right above any objective measure of the outcome. It’s called ‘moral vanity’.”
Greg Egan, The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred

“What is the difference between Utilitarianism and Communitarianism? Let me explain to you based on my modest and humblest understanding by using an analogy of Ham Sandwich and Egg Sandwich. To prepare and serve a Ham Sandwich, a poor pig’s life must be sacrificed to serve the majority of the consumers—that is Utilitarianism. To serve an Egg Sandwich, on the other hand, a cheerful hen must dutifully lay an egg every day to serve the majority of the consumers—that is Communitarianism. In utilitarianism, the means is not important, as long as it produces the beneficial result (consequentialism) for the majority, then it is ethically and morally justifiable. It does not matter if you bomb the enemy’s innocent women and children, so long as it maims the enemy’s capability to retaliate, then your act is defensible for the greater good of your country. In communitarianism, however, individual life and individual contribution to the community are both important. As long as you continue laying eggs willingly and happily, you contribute to the common good of the community as a dependable and responsible hen, I mean, individual. (Danny Castillones Sillada, Inusara Journal, October 8, 2016).”
Danny Castillones Sillada

Peter Singer
“In the absence of any general inference from ‘A is a potential X’ to ‘A has the rights of an X’, we should not accept that a potential person should have the rights of a person, unless we can be given some specific reason why this should hold in this particular case.”
Peter Singer, Practical Ethics

Peter Singer
“No doubt we instinctively prefer to help those who are close to us. Few could stand by and watch a child drown; many can ignore the avoidable deaths of children in Africa or India. The question, however, is not what we usually do, but what we ought to do, and it is difficult to see any sound moral justification for the view that distance, or community membership, makes a crucial difference to our obligations.”
Peter Singer, Practical Ethics

Peter Singer
“First premise: If we can prevent something bad without sacrificing anything of comparable significance, we ought to do it. Second premise: Extreme poverty is bad. Third premise: There is some extreme poverty we can prevent without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance. Conclusion: We ought to prevent some extreme poverty.”
Peter Singer, Practical Ethics

Confucius
“A gentleman is not a pot.”
Confucius, The Analects

Peter Singer
“It is interesting, in this context, to think again of our earlier argument that membership of the species Homo sapiens does not entitle a being to better treatment than a being at a similar mental level who is a member of a different species. We could also have said – except that it seemed too obvious to need saying – that membership of the species Homo sapiens is not a reason for giving a being worse treatment than a member of a different species. Yet in respect of euthanasia, this needs to be said. If your dog is ill and in pain with no chance of recovery, the humane thing to do is take her to the vet, who will end her suffering swiftly with a lethal injection. To ‘allow nature to take its course’, withholding treatment while your dog dies slowly and in distress over days, weeks or months, would obviously be wrong. It is only our misplaced respect for the doctrine of the sanctity of human life that prevents us from seeing that what it is obviously wrong to do to a dog, it is equally wrong to do to a human being who has never been able to express a view about such matters.”
Peter Singer, Practical Ethics

“Described in this way, utilitarianism has little in common with the prosaic, visionless notion of the 'merely utilitarian,' in the sense of a narrowly or mundanely functional or efficient option. No such limited horizon confined the thought and character of the great English-language utilitarian philosophers, whose influence ran its course from the period just before the French Revolution through the Victorian era. Happiness, for them, was more of a cosmic calling, the path to world progress, and whatever was deemed 'utilitarian' had to be useful for that larger and inspiring end, the global minimization of pointless suffering and the global maximization of positive well-being or happiness. It invokes, ultimately, the point of view of universal benevolence. And it is more accurately charged with being too demanding ethically than with being too accommodating of narrow practicality, material interests, self-interestedness, and the like.”
Bart Schultz, The Happiness Philosophers: The Lives and Works of the Great Utilitarians

Peter Singer
“A week-old baby is not a rational and self-aware being, and there are many nonhuman animals whose rationality, self-awareness, capacity to feel and so on, exceed that of a human baby a week or a month old. If, for the reasons I have given, the fetus does not have the same claim to life as a person, it appears that the newborn baby does not either.”
Peter Singer, Practical Ethics

Peter Singer
“We have examined a number of ethical issues. We have seen that many accepted practices are open to serious objections. What ought we to do about it? This, too, is an ethical issue.”
Peter Singer, Practical Ethics

Karl Popper
“Instead of the greatest happiness for the greatest number, one should demand, more modestly, the least amount of avoidable suffering for all; and further, that unavoidable suffering—such as hunger in times of an unavoidable shortage of food—should be distributed as equally as possible.”
Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies

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