What is Happiness Calculus (Happiness Calculus) and How Is It Done?June 27, 2021
For utilitarians, an action is only right if and only if there is no higher utility action that the subject can take for it.
But how is this higher benefit calculated? Bentham did indeed devise a method for calculating pleasures and pains. He even suggested that there are seven factors that will help you measure gratification and enable you to calculate it.
Being essentially a social reformer, Bentham believed that legislators should improve society by increasing the general pleasure of citizens and reducing their suffering. “Avoiding pain and pleasures are things the legislator will consider,” Bentham wrote in his Principles. The seven “pleasure” factors are intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, proximity or distance, efficiency (in terms of further possibilities of pleasure in the future), purity, and scope or quantity. Intense/clicky is related to how strong the pleasure is. Duration indicates how long it persists. Certainty or uncertainty is about whether or not pleasure will occur. Proximity or distance means that pleasure is at hand and accessible or far away. It depends on whether similar feelings will follow the pleasure or pain. Purity (the opposite of efficiency) is the chance that the opposite kind of feeling will not follow. Finally, the amount or scope is the number of people affected by the action.
These are the components that make up the “pleasure account”. So how can these be applied to real life? Bentham has an answer to that too. Suppose you are trying to decide what action to take—studying for the final exam two days later, or attending a campus party on one of the nights before the exam? How do you analyze what to do? “On the one hand you add up all the values of pleasures, on the other hand the values of all the pains,” says Bentham. Whoever examines these options will find the intensity of the pleasures the party promises enticing. On the other hand, studying for the final exam promises an extremely low-intensity pleasure. Then the person decides to take into account the time factor and sees that the pleasure of eating, drinking and socializing at the party is relatively short. However, studying can produce results that offer longer-term pleasures; especially if the student is successful in the exam, it raises the GPA and thus increases the chances of getting the job or graduate program of his choice. At the same time, the purity of the party’s pleasure is also low, because if one drinks too much at the party, one will suffer from a hangover the next day. So pleasure will be followed by pain, whereas after studying there is no such pain—except perhaps a slight burning in one’s eyes or back pain from sitting upright.
Jeremy Bentham was a bit of a weirdo. Bentham’s mummified body is present at every Board of Trustees meeting of the University of London Academy. Bentham bequeathed his wealth to the school on the condition that he be present at these meetings indefinitely.
On the other hand, one can also include calculations of certainty-uncertainty, proximity-distance, efficiency and scope. But the outcome of Bentham’s “pleasure calculation” is clear, in this and other cases. The lasting pleasures are all on the side of the mental pleasure of study; going to a party, on the contrary, involves only short-term gratification. However, someone might also respond by saying that by attending that party one can meet the love of one’s life so that the pleasure of the party can turn into a much greater pleasure. But if our student follows Bentham’s footsteps, he will waive his participation in the party and take the time necessary to study.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook; “Understanding Philosophy in All Its Aspects” by Kenneth Shouler