Making the most people happy.

Lesson Objectives

Appreciate why happiness became a central theme and goal of ethics

Understand why Jeremy Bentham focuses on Ethical Hedonism

Understand how Machiavelli's "the ends justify the means" changes politics

Understand how to use the Greatest Happiness Principle to make moral choices

Appreciate how Rule Utilitarianism serves as a compromise between Kant & Mill

Appreciate how Utilitarianism demands sacrifice from small groups

Key Terms





State Consequentialism

Positive Consequentialism

Negative Consequentialism


The Greatest Happiness Principle


Rule Utilitarianism

The Happy Society

The Modern Happiness Revolution

• "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." - U.S. Declaration of Independence

• Modern people revolt against their kings and masters in pursuit of happiness

• Political revolutions (eg. USA, France) bring changes to Moral Philosophy

Modernity: Why can we now aim for happiness?

• Our basic needs have been met by industry, technology, and the economy

• Modern democracy grants us the right to self-determination and autonomy

• Mindfulness, mental health, and well-being are now serious pursuits

The Advantages of a Morality based in Happiness

• Doesn't follow a particular religion (cf. DCT / Natural Law)

• Considers large vulnerable groups (cf. Social Contract)

• Works toward the result of happiness, rather than duty or character (cf. Kant)

• Happiness is an intrinsic good — everyone wants to be happy (cf. Aristotle)