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date: 20 September 2018

Summary and Keywords

Utilitarianism is inextricably linked to international ethics. The roots of the principle of utility can be traced to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when it was first employed by thinkers such as David Hume. However, it was Jeremy Bentham who first formulated utilitarianism in detail and carefully studied its implications. According to Bentham, happiness is a condition in which an individual enjoys more pleasure than pain. There are different varieties of utilitarianism, and what sets them apart from other ethical theories is their stipulation that whatever is of value should be maximized for all and whatever of disvalue should be minimized for all. For Bentham, pleasure is the ultimate value. Later, John Stuart Mill distinguished between higher and lower pleasures and argued that higher pleasures should be given greater weight. In the twentieth century, authors such as R. M. Hare determined that maximal satisfaction of preferences is the value to be sought. The utilitarian emphasis on maximization and its choice of values have generated much criticism from those who espoused human rights theories, such as John Rawls and those influenced by his work. At present, the scholarly literature dealing with issues related to international ethics mostly comes from those who are committed to human rights theory or who are committed to equality of outcomes for human beings.

Keywords: utilitarianism, international ethics, Jeremy Bentham, happiness, pleasure, pain, John Stuart Mill, R. M. Hare, human rights, equality

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