Utilitarianism: Can maximal happiness in society be the basis of ethics?

The Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum

time lapse style image of night sky with silhouette of figure and tress in the foreground
This event is sold out
Date and time
12 December 2022
7.00 pm
Location

Friends’ Meeting House
Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS
Get directions

Price
Free to members. Donations from non-members welcome at the event.
Accessibility

Wheelchair accessible

Share

Overview

Utilitarianism is the theory that morality need only be understood in terms of its utility to society. So, what is morality? Is it, as Utilitarianism implies, adaptable to the moods of time? Or is there an impersonal ethical anchor governing us all?

In this friendly and inclusive forum, we will examine Utilitarianism through a short introduction by Pierre Waugh, followed by discussions in small groups.

Utilitarianism seems intuitive in explaining why morality should exist in the first place: bringing about the happiness and fulfilment of the greatest number of people in a world that requires coexistence with others. If we call happiness good and unhappiness bad, then our very social language ascribes the same qualities to morality as it does to feeling. So why not maximise the good?

But can the aggregation of people’s personal happiness be a sufficient reason to govern all our decisions? Or is it more complex than that when different people’s interests conflict with one another? As with any theory, the nature of what it represents must be questioned.

Good to know: All you need to attend this relaxed discussion group is an enquiring mind.  We accommodate different levels of philosophical experience. You may find it useful to watch this 15 minute video published on the Royal Institute of Philosophy’s website beforehand.