Utilitarianism and Self-Respect

Utilitas 4 (1):27 (1992)
Modern utilitarianism has largely abandoned the view that human well-being consists solely in pleasurable sensations. Too much was wanting in that view for it to withstand the critique of a more refined philosophical psychology than was available to Bentham and Mill. The objections are by now familiar and need no detailed rehearsal. The older view failed to characterize adequately the structure of human satisfactions, forgetting that we can care about things that will happen after we are dead, that we generally prefer to be told a distasteful truth to a comforting lie, and that we wish to be actors in our own lives and not merely passive recipients of pleasures from external sources. The extent to which a life is a flourishing one cannot be determined by summing the pleasures and pains, and calculating the balance. Nor, indeed, can it be determined by summing anything else. A life that is happy or eudaimon in the Aristotelian sense is an organic unity in which the significance of its parts rests on their contribution to the meaning of the whole. Nur im Zusammenhange eines Lebens hat ein Erlebnis Bedeutung. Utilitarianism needs to find a way of incorporating an organic view of human satisfaction
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DOI 10.1017/S0953820800004209
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