Bentham is in fact interested not merely in showing that human action derives from a desire for pleasure and a fear of pain. He is also interested in developing a set of objective criteria of morality and for making moral decisions regarding human actions. Pain and pleasure are the determinants of right and wrong as well as being in a chain of cause and effects. This is the principle of utility, as Bentham states it:
By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question; or, what is the same thing in other words, to promote or to oppose that happiness (Bentham 107).
Of course, it is necessary to examine more closely what is meant by Bentham when he refers to happiness. For Bentham, when he says that the individual seeks his or her happiness, he means that they seek the greatest pleasure possible. However, the individual does not necessarily choose those actions that will automatically lead to this greatest pleasure, but it is possible to categorize actions so that right actions are those that tend to increase the total of pleasure for the individual while wrong actions are those that tend to reduce this total. The ethical principle and the principle of utility become the same--we ought to do what is right and we ought not to do what is wrong.
The individual seeks to express him or herself to the fullest degree possible but is subject to the same laws discovered by reason and explained by liberal theorists. Bentham talks of individual happiness but also see s the role of government as assuring happiness for the greatest number and so for the collective rather than the individual. The emphasis on individualism is related to a perception of human freedom. Bentham implies that human beings are free to choose either pleasure or pain, though...
Adam Smith's Ideas of Liberalism. (1969, December 31). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 02:00, September 01, 2015, from https://www.collegetermpapers.com/viewpaper/1304001775.html