Making the most people happy.

Lesson Objectives

Appreciate how and why happiness became a central theme of modern life

Understand why Bentham starts with Hedonism to discuss Utilitarianism

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

Appreciate how Mill shaped Utilitarianism and what questions it raises

Understand how Kant and Mill approach Moral Philosophy differently

Appreciate the famous Trolley Problem in a 21st century context

Key Terms


Hedonistic Calculus


Act Utilitarianism

Rule Utilitarianism

The Happy Society

The Greater Good in History

• Greater Good in the Classical World

     • Plato’s Republic promotes the idea of the "greater good"

     • Aristotle teaches the good of the community over the individual

     • The Bible promotes the development of moral character for society

     • St. Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham:

          • The moral law is for the common good

• Greater Good in the Modern World

     • Hobbes argues individuals constrain themselves for social contract

     • Kant sees moral law as universal and necessary principle of reason

     • Bentham and Mill establish ethical framework for the greater good

Modernity: the Happiness Revolution

• Historical Origins

     • American founding documents emphasized the "pursuit of happiness"

     • The 18th century marked the beginning of public focus on happiness

     • New democracies in the West contributed to the revolution in thought

• Happiness now a Political Goal

     • The pursuit of happiness became a unifying point in Western politics

     • It challenged traditional hierarchies and power structures (ie. aristocracy)

     • Happiness was seen as a political goal — not merely a personal one

          • Moral philosophy as bringing happiness (now valid goal) to people

Happiness & Politics

• Modernity: Happiness-Based Morality

     • Modern industry, technology, and a globalized economy enabled the           sustained, shared pursuit of social happiness by meeting basic needs

     • Ethics and Politics began seeking ways to maximize happiness for all           autonomous beings (ie. self-determination)

     • The pursuit of happiness aligned with principles of modern democracy

• Social Responsibility in the 19th Century

     • Moral philosophy offered socially responsible personal fulfillment

     • Plight of vulnerable groups brought into focus (eg. abolition of slavery)

     • Self-determination and autonomy become key values in Modern West

          • Today: focus on mindfulness, mental health, and well-being