A Reflection on Utilitarianism, Happiness and Friendship

A Reflection on Utilitarianism,  Happiness and Friendship

[Year 3]

A Reflection on Utilitarianism, Happiness and Friendship

In the presentation, my group talked on the topic of “suicide and living”1 where we discussed the morality of suicide and the meaning and motivation to live. The part most interested me is the utilitarian response to the topic given by Richard Brandt. Other than my own presentation, I find the discussion of happiness in the last lesson most thought-provoking; they mentioned the Aristotelian and utilitarian point of view, but frankly their talk on the utilitarian point was quite limited, and this has planted an urge into my heart to further the project. Happiness can be discussed from various aspects (e.g. that of Epicurus), but in this short essay, our discussion will be surrounding utilitarianism, firstly looking at happiness from the utilitarian point of view, and secondly criticizing utilitarianism from other perspectives of happiness, especially how it arguably conflicts with friendship, while friendship may be an indispensable element for happiness.

“Happiness” was used to be a reference of “the common end of all of them” in the propensity of our actions by Jeremy Bentham (Bentham, 1776). His account of happiness is, as many people today would think, naïve, since it was put just in terms of pleasure and pain. The thought experiment of the experience machine may have demolished Bentham’s notion of happiness (Nozick, 1974); for instance, when one hopes his mother to get well from cancer, one do not just wish the sensation or experience that he “thinks” his mother got well, but wishes his mother to actually get well in a certain state of affairs.

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A Reflection on Utilitarianism, Happiness and Friendship

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