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Utility is the object of value to utilitarians. Utility is intrinsically valuable, whereas all else is either instrumentally valuable, or not valuable at all.

Terms for UtilityEdit

Utility is variously understood as:

Even within the school of classical utilitarianism, the object of value is described variously: . Take the following alternative classical descriptors for utility:

  • Wellbeing
  • Pleasure and the absence of pain
  • Positive conscious experience

More terms yet are neutral between competing conceptions of utility:

  • The height on a moral landscape [1]
  • Benefit or Burden
  • Help or Harm
  • Flourishing
  • Eudaimonia

After publishing his Principles of Morals and Legislation, Bentham continued to explore his theories in a book called: Deontology: or Morality made easy: Shewing how Throughout the whole course of every person's life Duty coincides with interest rightly understood, Felicity with Virtue, Prudence extra-regarding as well as self-regarding with Effective benevolence (Note that Bentham's use of the word deontology in that book does not conform to current use). In that work he equated happiness (as used in his previous work) with well-being:

Deontology, or Ethics (taken in the largest sense of the word), is that branch of art and science which has for its object the learning and shewing for the information of each individual, by what means the net amount of his happiness may be made as large as possible; of each in so far as it is dependent on his own conduct: the happiness of each individual separately being considered, and thereby that of every individual among those whose happiness is on this occasion an object of regard.

As to the end or object of it, if by this be meant the most general end, for this most general end or object it has or ought to have the same end or object which not only every branch of art or science has, but every human thought as well as every human action has--and not only has but ought to have: [namely,][2] the giving encrease in some shape or other to man's well-being--say in one word the sum of human happiness. (p. 125)[3]

Intrinsic and Instrumental ValueEdit

When it is said that something is intrinsically valuable, this means it is valuable in and of itself. In utilitarianism, only one thing, denoted utility, has intrinsic value. Other things being equal, it ought to be produced or prevented. When it is said that something is instrumentally valuable, that means it is useful because it will create utility. For instance, charitable donation is instrumentally valuable, all other things being equal because it prevents hunger and suffering.

Measures of UtilityEdit

For humansEdit

  • DALY [4]
  • QALY [5]
  • Life Satisfaction [6]
  • Affect Balance [7] [8]
  • U-index [9]
  • Saving Lives: a life saved is equivalent to roughly 30 DALYs [10]
  • Gross National Happiness [11]

For animals:Edit

  • Painful deaths
  • Factory farmed animal life years

Using these measures, it can be determined where money should be given to produce the most good. Just as lives are seen as equivalent to roughly 30 DALYs, all of these measures must be somehow interchangeable. It would be extremely useful to the utilitarian if the rates of conversion between these forms of value were all publicly known.

References Edit

  1. the subject of Sam Harris The Moral Landscape Sam Harris
  2. The "[namely,]" text is entered here as it appeared in the book. The text was presumably added by the editor, Amnon Goldworth, who, in 1983, transcribed the text using the original manuscripts. Also note that Bentham regularly wrote "encrease" as opposed to "increase."
  3. Bentham, J. (1983). Deontology. In A. Goldworth (Ed.), The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham (pp. 119-281). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press (Original manuscript dated 1829 with additions made until 1831, see p. xxii) [1]
  4. Wikipedia entry for Disability-Adjusted Life-Year [2]
  5. Wikipedia entry for Quality-Adjusted Life-Year [3]
  6. Wikipedia entry for Subjective Life Satisfaction [4]
  7. Wikipedia entry for Negative Affectivity[5]
  8. Wikipedia entry for Positive Affect, Negative Affect Schedule [6][7]
  9. Krueger, A. B., Kahneman, D., Schkade, D. Schwarz, N. Stone, A. A. (2008) National Time Accounting: The Currency of Life. Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section. Working paper # 1061.[8] and [9]
  10. This is a health gain that is roughly on a par with saving a life Toby Ord's Giving What We Can
  11. Center for Bhutan Studies [Gross National Happiness.org]

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