Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pop Stars engaging in Philosophy and # 55 Utilitarianism

Popular figures engaging in Philosophy

Styles, Khan and de Botton 
I subscribe to a couple of electronic newsletters by two admirable thinking people, regular viewers of  my postings won't be surprised by one being  In Our Time  from Melvyn Bragg the other one is Jules Evans with his Politics of Wellbeing. In Jules summary this week I was intrigued and impressed by his reference to Alain de Botton's efforts to engage with the wider public on the subject of Philosophy, it seems that Alain met Harry Styles (a popular music performer your honour) and following a conversation Harry tweeted on Socrates.
What next Katie Price on Plato?

I have a slight feeling that Alain is almost a nemesis to Jules but they're ploughing adjacent furrows and I guess it's more of a healthy competition?

Big Idea Number 55 Utilitarianism

Unlike the 'isms' I've mentioned of late this is not an old Greek one, Utilitarianism  surfaced at around the end of the 18th Century.
In short it measures actions by evaluating the outcome of benefit/happiness against 'pain' and believes that benefit and happiness are what we (human race) should seek to maximize. if several people benefit then this is better than just one person so (in my view) government is in the benefit of using utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism is described as the doctrine that the morally correct course of action consists in the greatest good for the greatest number, that is, in maximizing the total benefit resulting, without regard to the distribution of benefits and burdens.

Utilitarianism springs from Brentham's desire to create a 'law' in parallel with  what Newton had done for Science/Gravity. Brentham can be considered to be well ahead of his time particularly with his liberal views on sex and animal welfare.

Although the concept is from  Jeremy Bentham it's more likely that you'll have heard of it in connection with John Stuart Mill.
Mill refined and  of course there's a great In Our Time on the subject (The Mills angle) but if you want to learn more about the fascinating figure of Brentham take a look at the Brentham Project here.
Here's a review/explanbation of Brentham's view