This is primarily an algorithm that was formulated by Bentham to measure the amount of good or pleasure that a particular thing or action can cause. According to Bentham, pain and pleasure are the natural sovereign masters that have been imposed to dictate humanity. As such, the moral aspect of any act is directly determined by the position it assumes on pleasure or pain. Benthams conceptualization indicates that morally upright things or acts are the ones that cause pleasure to man while human pain defines immoral acts. For human beings, experiencing pleasure shows that one is experiencing a good life. To Bentham, pleasure is good in itself as long as other relatable good things support pleasure and eliminate pain.
To determine which act to follow based on its ability to create a certain amount of pleasure, Bentham deduced seven parameters that people can use to rate that goodness of their acts. These include, first, duration, which is used to determine the length of pleasure. Second, remoteness determines how distant pleasure is. Third, purity examines the potentiality of an act to cause pain. Fourth, richness describes if other attached aspect will lead to great pleasure. Fifth, intensity examines the power of pleasure. Sixth, certainty covers the probability of experiencing pleasure. Finally, extent determines the total number of people who will experience pleasure. Using the parameter of extent, the principle of utility indicates that the right act is the one that generates much good to a great number of people. Combined with the principle, Bentham also indicates that people should be able to evaluate each action differently and choose the option that has maximum pleasure. By doing so, a person would be living a morally upright life so long as his/her pleasure does not cause pain to the other party.
Like a coin with two sides, it is hard to dispute the fact that any aspect that creates pleasure to one person causes pain to the other. A good example that can disapprove Benthams principle of utility is the marijuana case in the United States (U.S.). By taking into perspective that 70 percent of the population does not use marijuana, is it morally upright to deduce policies that favor them? 70 percent signifies the majority. Based on the utility principle, the government should enact a policy that eliminates the complete use of marijuana. The lingering question with this case scenario is the right to happiness of the remaining 30 percent. They too have a right to happiness, and it would be unfair to deprive them things that are pleasurable to them.
Based on the example of marijuana, hedonic calculus is not applicable in every situation, especially in matters that are affecting many people. Given the diverse nature of humanity, what determines pleasure for human beings is a personal ordeal. People use objects differently to achieve what they want, and this means that hedonic calculus cannot be collectively used to decide the fate of all. The seven parameters that Bentham postulates need to be used on personal level to minimize the harm done to others. From a collective perspective, the appropriate maneuver by the government is to facilitate general conditions that support pleasures of any one. Regardless of the fact that this is hard to accomplish, it should be slowly integrated through diversity. Due to practical discrepancies, Benthams statement cannot be used in every moral judgment.
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