BA LLB first year question first semester sample question answer Unit-II

UTILITARIANISM

Q.1Write a critical note on the basic principles of utilitarianism.

Ans. Utilitarianism is an ethical and political theory, essentially English in character, which dominated the political thought in the early 19th century in England. It is not a rigid dogmatic thought presented by one philosopher but a movement which had to adapt itself to the changing times. At the same time, a common spirit pervaded in all its writers and advocates.

Utilitarianism represented a reaction of practical mind against abstract reasoning. Previously the philosopher’s a lived-in world of abstract speculation and contemplation and made themselves ridiculous when they were compelled to come into contact with the practical affairs of life. Utilitarianism stands in contrast to such a philosopher. He regards ‘needs and interests of life as first and supreme. His theme is the happiness of men and how it may be respected. His foremost concern is human life and human well-being. He is a champion of individual liberty and enemy of tyranny, oppression, and injustice. Hence utilitarianism is practical and concrete and is opposed to abstract themes or speculation. It deals with living human beings and not with mere abstraction. It stands for struggle in life and not escapism, It judges, everything from the physical viewpoint of utility.

To utilitarians ‘utility has a different meaning. To them, it means “happiness’ -greatest happiness of greatest number’. ‘It will not be misleading if it is supplanted by the term ‘welfare’ and ‘well-being. Thus ‘utility is the welfare and ‘welfare covers all the elements which go to determine man’s happiness.

Utilitarianism is based upon Hedonistic principles according to 10 which every man seeks his own pleasure and wants to avoid pain.”

is guided by the main motive of ‘pleasure versus pain’. Pleasure’ is the ultimate end of the individual an

ultimate end of the individual and it is universally desired.

sm is inductive, experimental and practical. Man is e having diverse interests. He is individualistic 100. social by birth. He seeks to attain maximum pleasure

he cannot do it by pursuing to a lonely path cut

own welfare is realized in conjunction with that connected CSS is universally desired, its attainment depends on rates

Utilitarianism is inductive, experimental a complex by nature having diverse intere But he is also social by birth. He seeks and happiness but he cannot do it from others. His own welfare is rea others. As happiness is Universalis

the existence and organization of state and is conditioned by the encouragement from the state and the limitations imposed by custom,

w and legislation. Thus, the ultimate end to achieve pleasure cannot be dissociated from political and state actions. There are, with a utilitarian, ethics and politics go together. A political sanction has a value if it wins in view the welfares of those for whom the legislation exists. Hence, general happiness is the main consideration of a utilitarian. This implies that hindrance in the way of improvement by removed and the conditions best suited for the betterment of society be provided. But for the accomplishment of this end what is needed are (i) adequate knowledge of human nature, (ii) motions by which human beings are moved, and (iii) ideals that they tend to realize.

The ethics of utilitarianism is analytical, and inductive, resting on ascertained facts. It aims at the right use of facts so as to advance the progress of society and improve the existing conditions of life. The aim serves as a motive to the utilitarian’s efforts to bring about a social order in which both the individual and society shall find their highest happiness and good. As a matter of fact, Bentham, the father of utilitarian school of thought wanted utilitarianism to be a working creed which strived to create conditions to enable man to derive maximum pleasure out of material placed in his hands by the society.

. . Utilitarianism is experimental. It appeals to experience as the source of knowledge and the ultimate criterion of truth. Being practical it judges everything from its practical utility. The utility is the touchstone for all the institutions and actions. Right or wrong are not based on some abstract conception of morality but are associated with our feeling of pleasure or pain. The institutions or the moral principle which does not add to the general happiness has little value.

The utilitarian is a reformer and rather a revolutionary. Being a champion of individual freedom and sworn enemy of oppression and injustice, he does not hold much respect for the old traditions and allies little sanctity to age-old institutions if they do not add to the happiness of the people. He would strive to change them in such a way that they would serve the needs of the people and help them to achieve happiness.

Utilitarianism is, intimately linked with Associationism. Associationism means the attempt to explain, philosophically the nature and formation of knowledge and exposition of principles according to which this formation is effected. While the association is dissected. While associationism, necessarily deals

With experience , utilitarianism is supremely experimental. Happiness can only be conceived in terms of human wants and aspirations has to look out for the things which bring it about and the mean which it can be furthered. This needs a study of how men actually pleasure and promote their interests ; in what ways pleasures are combined and transformed and how association works in deer men’s experience. Association is necessary for the formation of habits and reformation of the transgressor. Thus association is of paramo importance if utility is to serve as the guide of life. Associationism helps the utilitarian ethics to be scientific.

The philosopher of utilitarianism is open to criticism. It has failed to understand the psychology of the individual which forms its foundation. Moreover, it does not take into account the group psychology. Utilitarians have not done justice to man and have painted a very poor picture of human nature. It is not correct to say that man is wholly selfish and the grinding motive of all of his activities is merely seeking of pleasure and avoidance of pain. He is moved by higher motives of ethical and moral values. Individuals have sacrificed their own happiness for the advancement of society.

Utilitarianism oversimplifies the things and does not go deep into them. It is not possible to calculate the happiness of the people. Pleasure depends upon the mental make up of an individual. It is something subjective and not objective. It does not always depend upon the activities of the state. ‘Greatest good of the greatest number’ is a highly vague and ambiguous term.

Utilitarianism is based on the conception that the society is merely a collection of individuals. On the contrary, society is organic. Thus the fundamental basis of the Utilitarianism is wrong.

It is contended that utilitarianism has no ideal. It deals with the actual needs of man and does not place before him an ideal which should inspire him. But there is not much truth in this contention. It aspires to improve the society and its institutions in such a way asto achieve the greatest happiness of greatest number. It is concrete and practical and not vague and abstract. Il aims at an ideal which may within the reach of human-beings.

Ulilitarianism has been dubbed as materialistic. It is said that socks happiness in the material things and aims at irrational pursuit wealth. Moreover, it is contradictory in its conception. It aims individual as well as general happiness. It ignores the fact that pleasures

are individualistic in nature. A thing might give pleasure to one man and pain to another. We cannot share the pleasure or pain of others. Thus there is little connection between individual’s pleasures and general happiness. Sometimes, an individual seeks his own pleasures at the cost of 

general happiness. But according to J.S. Mill the pleasures of individuals are not contradictory but are linked with those of others.

Inspite of its shortcomings, utilitarianism has done a lot of good. I pulled out the people from the world of abstract theories and made them think objectively. In the words of Brinton. “It provided a measuring rod for existing institutions.” Greed says, “Whatever the errors arising from its Hedonistic psychology, no other theory has been available for the social and political reforms containining so much truth with such ready applicability.”’

The utilitarianism philosopher deeply influenced the British mind in the 19th century. Most of the important reforms – agrarian, labour or legal can be attributed to its influence. It awakened the people against tyranny, slavery and injustice. It placed before the people that the ideal in legislation was the well-being of the society. The ulilitarians were sympathetic towards the poor and the oppressed. They devoted themselves to analyse the political, social, economic and legal system prevalent in the country and compaigned for reforms. They, mercilessly criticized the old traditions, customs and institutions which failed to add to the well-being of the society. They, always looked to the future and inspired the British people to action to safeguard their liberty and . freedom. In the words of Davidson, “To the utilitarian radicals, thus passed in review Britain owes an immense debt. Their views held sway for the greater part of nineteenth century, and the result was awakened interest in psychological investigation and ethical discussion in schools, and, in active politics, social reforms and beneficient legislation to an extent that has, previously been unthought of.”

Q. 2. Estimate the contribution of utilitarian theory to social reforms.

Ans. Utilitarianism is based on the Hedonistic principle according to which every man seeks pleasure and avoids pain. The human activity is guided by the main motive of ‘pleasure versus pain’ and ‘pleasure’ is the ultimate end of the individual. But man, being social by birth cannot attain his maximum pleasure and happiness by living in seclusion. is own welfare can only be realised in conjunction with that of others. asm aims at the greatest good of the greatest number.

It is the duty of the politicians and legislators to remove the hindrances which stand in the way of the progress of the society and create the conditions which help to increase the general happiness and pleasure of the people. But general happiness depends upon the organisation of the state and its various institutions. Being champions of individual freedom and sworn enemies of oppression and injustice,they do not hold much respect for the traditions and attach little sanctity to age old institutions if they fail to add to the general welfare of the people. In pursuit of their goal, the utilitarians analysed and investigated the evils and defects rampant in various institutions of the state.They suggested reforms and campaigned for them. Thus, the important reforms in the 19th century, in England, can be attributed to the utilitarian political thought.

It is the duty of the politicians and legislators to remove the hindrances which stand in the way of the progress of the society and create the conditions which help to increase the general happiness and pleasure of the people. But general happiness depends upon the organisation of the state and its various institutions. Being champions of individual freedom and sworn enemies of oppression and injustice,they do not hold much respect for the traditions and attach little sanctity to age old institutions if they fail to add to the general welfare of the people. In pursuit of their goal, the utilitarians analysed and investigated the evils and defects rampant in various institutions of the state.They suggested reforms and campaigned for them. Thus, the important reforms in the 19th century, in England, can be attributed to the utilitarian political thought.

Almost all the utilitarian philosophers were staunch advocates liberal and progressive measures. Jeremy Bentham, the father utilitarian school of thought, devoted himself to the study of legislation and took upon himself the self-imposed task of suggesting reforms to the various aspects of social, political, economical and mostly legal institutions. He was dissatisfied with the existing political institutions of Great Britain and attacked them ruthlessly. He was a firm believer in the republican form of government. He held that it was only in democracy that the interest of the governor and governed coincide, for the greatest happiness of the greatest number is then the supreme end in view. He wanted the abolition of monarchy, whether absolute or limited, as the interest of the monarch were never identical with the interests of his subjects. He also advocated the abolition of House of Lords which was hereditary and had no utility. As a matter of fact he was oppossed to second chamber. He advocated that the Parliament be elected every year through secret ballot on the basis of adult franchise. The annual election would keep the legislators in touch with the electors and would provide security against self-seekers. The views of Bentham have gone a long way in curtailing the powers of House of Lords and reducing the monarch to meerely a figure head in England.

Being a great reformer, Bentham advocated various reforms :

(a) He suggested the institution of ‘frugality banks’ which has developed into the “Saving Bank’ system of today.(b) Reform of poor law. He was the first to sketch a system the utilization of the able bodied paupers and the training of pauper children.

(c)He suggested measures for the health and scheme for national education.

Among the other reforms he advocated, were reform of municipal system ;

abolition of imprisonment for debt, recall of public officials; repeal of religious tests ; reform of the corrupt parliamentary system, etc. Bentham was severe critic of the system of administration of justice and the chaotic conditions of law prevalent in England. He

critically analysed all forms of laws, common law, statute law etc, and

suggested various reforms. He was of the opinion that justice was sold and dearly sold in his country and thus it was denied to the poor who could not pay the price to purchase it. Practically all the legal reforms advocated by Bentham were adopted later on. Sir Henry Maine wirtes: “I do not  know a single law reform effected since Bentham’s day which cannot be traced to his influence.”

Bentham also suggested reforms in the mode of punishment of criminals. The purpose of punishment should not be revenge but the prevention of crime in society. Though he emphasised the deterrent aspect of punishment, he did not ignore the fact that lot of the criminal should be improved so as to turn him into useful and self-respecting member of the society. All the punishments, capital or otherwise should depend on the ultimate motive of the good of the society. The teachings of Benthanı had necessary effect in bringing about the reforms in the mode of punishment and led to the abolition of death-penalty for petty offences.

In the time of Bentham brutal and in human treatment was accorded to the criminals. The prisons were dreary dungeons and had become the breeding ground of vice and crime. He put sorth his own scheme which is known as “Panopticon”. In his own words it was ‘a mill grinding rogues honest and idle man industrious. It was a type of building for housing the criminals. Here the criminals were to be treated kindly, given education and induced to do useful work to make them usefull members of the society. Vast reforms in prisons, institutions of reformatories that have taken place since his day lave derived impulse m him and have proceeded on the principle that he laid down.

In the field of education Bentham did not lag behind. He held that it was the duty of the state to look after the education of the poor children. He had unswerving confidence in the favour of education to procure happiness of the individual and the society.Thus he advocated a system of ‘National Eucation’. Davidson opines that Bentham was far ahead of his time. Though the rulers of his day viewed his ideas to be dangerous and  did not welcome them yet it cannot be denied that his views have been accepted in all the progressive countries of theworld. Bentham was critical of the Church of England and its wealthy and corrupt Bishops. He regarded them as anti-Christ and enemies of progress. Thus he advocated to reform the church.  Besides Bentham, other advocates of the utilitarian school of thought e.g., James Mill and John Stuart Mill were responsible for various reforms which were later on carried out in England and other countries. James Mill had a great love for law and law reforms He was in favour of representative government and wanted to have frequent elections to Parliament. Though he did not advocate the abolition House of Lords, he wanted to curtail its powers. Thus he anticipated Parliament Act of 1911
John Stuart Mill, the last of the utilitarians advocated various reforms in disserent fields. Like lis father, James Mill, he was also in favour of representative government. But he wanted equal representation of the whole people and not the rule of the mere majority of the people over whole people. In order to give proper representation to the minorities he suggested the system of proportional representation. He also advocated plurality of votes to the highly educated citizens.

J.S. Mill was a staunch supporter of the cause of women. He campaigned for the equal status of women in the society. He condemned the treatment which was being accored to women in his time and resented their exclusion from high offices of the state. He rendered a yeoman’s service for the emancipation of women and advocated for their enfranchisement. Now, the women, in almost all over the world, have a right of vote and for this, they are to thank J.S. Mill. J.S. Mill stood for widening the sphere of the activities of the state in the interests of social welfare. He was in favour of compulsory education to be provided by the state. Thus, we find that the utilitarian school wielded a great influence in the practical life of England and was a most potent force in Engine reform. The utilitarians offered practical proposals for reform prepare in detail which could be immediately applied. A number of legislative legal and social humanitarian reforms in England bear the imprint of the utilitarian thought.

Q. 3. Explain and criticise basic principle of Bentham’s utilitarianism and estimate the importance of Bentham in the history of political thought.

Ans. Bentham is regarded as the father of the utilitarian school of though which has made the largest contribution to the moral and political theory of England. Bentham’s main mode of treating all problems and theories was to them on the touchstone of utility. Whatever came true on it was acceptable to him and rejected those which did not stand the test of utility. The utilitarian philosophy did not find its origin in Bentham. This can be traced in the writing of epicureans. Hobbes had used it in building the political edifice of his ‘Absolute Government.. Hume, Butler, Paley, Hutcheson presented it in one form or another. Bentham himself found his formula in a pamphlet written by Priestley. But the merit of Bentham lies in working out the utilitarian philosophy to great lengths and making a practical application of it. Bentham advocated his utilitarian creed in ‘Fragment on Government and based his theory of government on theory of utility. The underlying principle of his creed in the ‘greatest happiness of greatest number’. the most important statement of ‘principle of utility’ is found in his ‘Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation’ According to Bentham the motive force to the activities of man is supplied by pleasure and pain. He writes: Men are subject to two sovereign masters – Pleasure and Pain. they govern us in all we do and in all we think. There are four sources of pleasure and pain, –

(i) Physical (ii) Political (iii) Moral, and (iv) Religious. According to Bentham, it is the task and duty of every state of every state to  act in such a way that people have more of pleasure and less of pain. But this could be achieved only if the ‘pleasure and pains’ could be calculated for the guidance of the legislators. He made an attempt to devise a philosophical calculus to evaluate the pleasures and pains. According to him pleasures and pains could be calculated by taking into consideration the following seven factors viz., intensity duration, certainly, propinquity, fecundity, purity and extensiveness. The value of a pleasure could be worked out either by multiplying or adding the Various factors. To classify pleasures and pains, Bentham has given a list of 14 simple pleasures and 12 simple pains. Other are simply a compound of these pains and pleasures.  Bentham assumes that (a) All pleasures are similar and they differ only in quantity and not in quality. Pushpin and poetry are capable of giving equal pleasures to a man. (b) The pleasures of one man are as important as of another. This requires the acceptance of principle of equality.

(c) There is no conflict between the interests of the individual and of the community as a whole as the interest of the community is nothing more or less than the sum total of interests of the members who compose it.

Bentham’s ethical philosophy based on the principles of utility has been severely criticized by the critics. He claims to have discovered a scale to weigh ‘pleasures and pains’ but Palamanalz has rightly said “Even an omnipotent God could not make such calculus for the very notion of the same is impossible”. Prof. Lindsey has remarked that Benthan’s ethical philosophy was Lindsey has remarked that Benthamis ethical philosophy was ‘thorough-going’ simple and absurd. It is justified to say that man in wholly selfish and is moved to action by his desires to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Moreover. Bentham has ignored that there could be conflict between the self-interest of an individual and good of the community. His ethical is so false that even his followers could not accept it without modification. J. S. Mill refused to admit that men were moved be self-interest alone or maximum pleasure could satisfy them. He remarked that ‘It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied’.

According to Bentham’state is legal community of men who are in the habit of habitual obedience to a ruler or a body of rulers.’ He believed that ‘laws’ are the command of the supreme governor whose governing authority is unlimited and indefinite. There are no curbs. moral religious or customary which can restrict the legislative activity of the state. In spite of his apparent absolute theory of the state, Bentham cannot called as Hobbesean. Hobbes would not entertain a view that a ruler could ever be disobeyed or overthrown, but Bentham believed that resistance to a ruler, at times might become a necessity and could he justified when he tends to promote his self-interest against the interest of the community as a whole. Of course the legislator is competent to legislate in all spheres of human activity without any restriction but he ought to legislate to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number. It was immaterial whether the legislator was democratically or autocratically constituted. In the words of Frederic Pallock. “The utilitarian constituted. In the words of Frederic Pallock. “The utilitarian principle was made a book to put in the nostrils of Leviathan that he may be tamed and harnessed to the chariot of utility.”

The principle of ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number implies the idea of equality. Bentham applied this principle to the question of property. He contended that property was an institution which brought happiness to its owner. To achieve the end of ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’ required that the property be evenly distributed among the people. But he did not want to take away the property from its original owners. He wanted to remove the disparity by imposing limitations on inheritance.

Bentham applied his utilitarian principles to various social political legal and educational problem and offered practical suggestions to reform the English society. He campaigned for the education and training of pauper children the lot of criminals and reforms of the corrupt parliamentary system.Bentham is a controversial figure. Both praise and rebukes have been showered on him by different political thinkers. In the words of Murrey. “What Davidson affected in psychological science. Bentham affected in political ethics.” On the other hand Prof. Allen remarks,
“Bentham is no political philosopher or a thinker at all he is at best a theoretical reformer” and his contribution lies in political philosophy and jurisprudence in more exact terms and accurately than was done in his age. One may not agree with both the extreme views but it may be  admitted that Bentham was an unsystematic political thinker and his contribution to the political thought is not much. He was in no , sense a profound ethical philosopher, His principle of utility was uninspiring and mechanical. His view of human nature and rights was one sided and therefore false. His principle of to be based upon many un-explained self contradictory and untenable assumptions.
Let admitting all this, to accept the view that Bentham has. place in political thought or that he had little influence on his succeeding generations is nothing short of injustice to him. Dr. Allen perhaps overtakes the case against him when he under-estimates Bentham ac reformer. According to Iver Brown Benthamism shorn of its crudity, is simply humanism. His strength lay not so much in profoundity of his political theory or his ethical dogmatism but rather in his commonsense and wide human sympathy of all those persons and causes which need advocacy. There was hardly a sphere of social activity which remained uninfluenced by Benthamism, The various progressive reforms in England can be attributed to his influence. He advocated for adult franchise secret ballot abolition of monarchy and House of Lords in England. He wanted colonies to be released of political bondage. His humanism was willing enough to work for betterment of every nation which cared to get its co-operation. Dr. Jasiz has remarked that not even Marx and any socialist or communist unveiled and presented in such a conscious and passionate way the abuses of class rule and political exploitation as Bentham did.The influence of Bentham on his generation and on his successors in political progressive thought was a very deep and universal one. It has been rightly said that Benthamism did for the 19th century what fabianism did for the 20th century. Benthamism introduced a new tendency in political thought to which, in its ultimate conclusions, linked liberalism with the notion of welfare in spite of crudities in his ethical philosophy and superficiality of his political thought and of many contradictions which disfigure the symmetry of him thought Bentham
is certainly an outstanding figure in the history of liberalism and therefore of political thought.Doyle remarks: “Bentham stood out as the dominating philosopher of the radical group. He did not seek like Rousseau to escape from grim actualities into mysticism. He approached his problem in the spirit of a scientist convinced with he wrongs of the people where commensurable that their happiness could be assured when once its measurements were ascertained. Again, he differed from the French theorists in his application to actual conditions in politics and did not wander into the labyrinths of tract speculation. His theories of the state and of law were essentially comments on a given situation. He was an inductive scientist drawing conclusion from his labouriously collecteddata.”Bentham’s-influence and position in political thought has been most beautifully summed up by Talleyer when he said, “Plundered by everyone still he remains a richman.”







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