Utilitarianism Quotes

Quotes tagged as "utilitarianism" Showing 1-30 of 66
Leon Trotsky
“The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.”
Leon Trotsky, Their Morals and Ours: The Class Foundations of Moral Practice

John Stuart Mill
“Since every country stands in numerous and various relations with the other countries of the world, and many, our own among the number, exercise actual authority over some of these, a knowledge of the established rules of international morality is essential to the duty of every nation, and therefore of every person in it who helps to make up the nation, and whose voice and feeling form a part of what is called public opinion. Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject. It depends on the habit of attending to and looking into public transactions, and on the degree of information and solid judgment respecting them that exists in the community, whether the conduct of the nation as a nation, both within itself and towards others, shall be selfish, corrupt, and tyrannical, or rational and enlightened, just and noble.”
John Stewart Mill, Inaugural Address Delivered to the University of St Andrews, 2/1/1867

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 Dostoevsky
“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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnus Vinding
“Being forced to endure torture rather than dreamless sleep, or an otherwise neutral state, would be a tragedy of a fundamentally different kind than being forced to “endure” a neutral state instead of a state of maximal bliss.”
Magnus Vinding, Suffering-Focused Ethics: Defense and Implications

“In contemporary culture, we are concerned that everything we do be useful for something. [...] we find ourselves in the land of half-baked pseudoscience like the “Mozart makes you smart” fad. The fact that Mozart’s fantastic play has value in itself is not sufficient because in order to justify financial and other kinds of support for the arts, we have to demonstrate that Mozart will raise a fetus’s IQ, which will make the fetus grow into a productive unit in the economy.”
Stephen Nachmanovitch

“It is a refinement of Jeremy Bentham’s formulation of utilitarianism, the idea that all humans tend to gravitate toward what make them happy, and to stay away from what hurts them. On that account, trekonomics could be seen as the highest form of utilitarianism. The Federation is organized in such a way that every one of its citizens gets a chance to maximize his or her own utility. Since almost nothing is scarce, the necessity to make choices on budgeting and spending is removed from everyday life. The only thing that one really needs to decide upon is how to balance the goal of bettering oneself vis-à-vis the injunction to better humanity. In other words, the biggest challenge for every Federation citizen resides in how to allocate his or her talents, time, and capacity for empathy, and how to best contribute to the common wealth.”
Manu Saadia, Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek

Arnold Hauser
“The reaction against utilitarianism was a second romanticism, in which the fight against social injustice and the opposition to the actual theories of the "dismal science" played a much smaller part than the urge to escape from the present, whose problems the anti-utilitarians had no ability and no desire to solve, into the irrarionalism of Burke, Coleridge, and German romanticism.”
Arnold Hauser, The Social History of Art: Volume 4: Naturalism, Impressionism, The Film Age

John Stuart Mill
“There is not the same willingness to admit that our desires and should be our own likewise, or that to possess impulses of our own, and of any strength, is anything but a peril and a snare. Yet desires and impulses are as much a part of a perfect human being as beliefs and restraints; and strong impulses are only perilous when not properly balanced.”
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Marshall Sahlins
“Apes do evidently understand what others are doing, and they can prudently do the same, in which sense they "cooperate"—for their own reasons. But they lack the ability to symbolically par­ticipate in others' existence and thus communalize their own. [...]

"Traditional models of economic decision-making assume that peo­ple are self-interested rational maximizers. Empirical research has demonstrated, however, that people will take into account the inter­est of others and are sensitive to norms of cooperation and fairness. [...] Here we show that in an ultimatum game, humans' closest living relatives, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), are rational maximizers and are not sensitive to fairness. These results support the hypothesis that other-regarding preferences and aversion to inequitable outcomes, which play key roles in human social organization, distinguish us from our clos­est living relatives." {Jensen, Call, and To masello 2007, 107; see also Jensen et al. 2006)

So much, then, for the dismal economic science—whose future is not bright either, inasmuch as chimpanzees are disappearing.”
Marshall Sahlins, What Kinship Is-And Is Not

John Henry Newman
“People say to me, that it is but a dream to suppose that Christianity should regain the organic power in human society which it once possessed. I cannot help that; I never said it could. I am not a politician; I am proposing no measures, but exposing a fallacy, and resisting a pretence. Let Benthamism reign, if men have no aspirations; but do not tell them to be romantic, and then solace them with glory; do not attempt by philosophy what once was done by religion. The ascendancy of Faith may be impracticable, but the reign of Knowledge is incomprehensible. The problem for statesmen of this age is how to educate the masses, and literature and science cannot give the solution.”
John Henry Newman, The Tamworth Reading Room. Letters on an Address Delivered by Sir Robert Peel, Bart., M.P. on the Establishment of a Reading Room at Tamworth. by Catholicus [i.E. J. H. Newman], Etc.

Magnus Vinding
“… a problematic feeling is indeed the exact opposite of an unproblematic feeling. Yet the fact that two states are each others’ opposites in this sense does not imply they are symmetric in the sense of being able to morally outweigh each other or meaningfully cancel each other out. Consider, by analogy, the states of being below and above water respectively. ... one can say that, in one sense, being 50 meters below water is the opposite of being 50 meters above water. But this does not mean, quite obviously, that a symmetry exists between these respective states in terms of their value and moral significance. Indeed, there is a sense in which it matters much more to have one’s head just above the water surface than it does to get it higher up still.”
Magnus Vinding, Suffering-Focused Ethics: Defense and Implications

Magnus Vinding
“... when we take into account what we know about happiness and suffering in psychological and neuroscientific terms, we find reasons to doubt that (to use Popper’s phrase) we can treat degrees of pain as “negative degrees of pleasure”, and to doubt that pleasure can ethically “cancel out” pain — any more than putting people far above a water surface can cancel out or outweigh the bad of putting people far below it.”
Magnus Vinding, Suffering-Focused Ethics: Defense and Implications

John Stuart Mill
“When people who are tolerably fortunate in their outward lot
do not find in life sufficient enjoyment to make it valuable to them, the
cause generally is, caring for nobody but themselves”
John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism

Magnus Vinding
“... the notion that happiness and suffering are morally symmetric deserves our most meticulous scrutiny. It may, of course, seem intuitive to assume that some kind of symmetry must obtain, and to superimpose a certain interval of the real numbers onto the range of happiness and suffering we can experience — from minus ten to plus ten, say. Yet we have to be extremely cautious about such naively intuitive moves of conceptualization. … [I]t is especially true when our ethical priorities hinge on these conceptual models; when they can determine, for instance, whether we find it acceptable to allow astronomical amounts of suffering to occur in order to create “even greater” amounts of happiness.”
Magnus Vinding, Suffering-Focused Ethics: Defense and Implications

“They will tell you you're useless, if they can't use you.”
Marty Rubin

“There are some things so useless it is impossible to live without them.”
Marty Rubin

John Stuart Mill
“Our moral faculty, according to all those of its interpreters who are entitled to the name of thinkers, supplies us only with the general principles of moral judgements; it is a branch of our reason, not of our sensitive faculty; and must be looked to for the abstract doctrines of morality, not for perception of it in the concrete.”
John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism

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