greatest happiness principle

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Francis Hutcheson (1694—1746) moral philosopher

Jeremy Bentham (1748—1832) philosopher, jurist, and reformer



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The view that the morally correct action ‘procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers’ is first formulated by Hutcheson (1725, second treatise of An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, iii. 8). But it is especially associated with Bentham, and is central to classical utilitarianism. The principle needs a great deal of interpretation, since as it stands it does not speak of issues of distribution, nor of conflicting claims, nor of course of the ways of locating and comparing happinesses.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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