Bentham’s Theory of Happiness

Human Nature and Nature has somewhat of a common goal and that goal is to find Happiness or to be Happy. Many may have differences when it comes to values that may contribute towards their happiness, meaning that not everyone has the same preference when it comes to that one thing or set of things that allow them to feel at peace and complete. Bentham gave a thought process on how one should really incorporate certain actions within their daily routines. Basically, he is stating that if you can feel, you can prevent and cure.

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The Theory of Value touches on different topics such as pain and pleasure, good and bad, Utility, and how should the value of something be measured. These topics revert to the main one which is Utility. By utility is meant that property in any object Bentham 1.3(2).
Bentham is basically saying in the above quote that whatever you value the most should bring continuous happiness whether it is a person, place or thing. He then goes on to say the principle of utility. the tendency has to augment the happiness. greater than diminish it. Bentham 1.6 (3). Therefore, utility allows a person to make the correct decisions based on certain situations. The value of said utility can allow an individual to move accordingly. If the good outweighs the bad or the bad outweighs the good, a person will know to whom or what to give all of their attention to. This theory may also be looked at from the perspective of if the subject can feel pain or the question that Bentham asked Can they suffer?… Bentham 17.4 note (310). Bentham believed that once an object can show emotions, they should add a great value and be of priority. They should be protected from anything that may cause harm or pain.


Human Nature has people with different mindsets. According to Bentham, Human Nature is governed by pain and pleasure Bentham 1.1 (1-2). For Bentham, this is the base for all forms of decision making. He thought that everyone deserved to be secured from pain since it is seen as being evil. The business of government is to promote punishing and rewarding Bentham 7.1(70). This shows that it is the duty of the government to protect its people and allow them to have happiness in the process. It can also go for everyone else other than just the government. When living in a community once someone has caused another pain without any form of sympathy, it should not go unpunished. Bentham brought light to this by using slaves as an example. He stated that no one has any rights of owning things that have any way of showing feelings.

Bentham stresses the fact that we all have a duty to not cause harm or do evil. Human Nature is supposed to be sensible beings and should know how to treat not just only self but also those around us. Human Nature on a whole is subjected to moral duties, and together with those duties, there should be some form of sympathy shown towards each other. There should not be any kind of bias when it comes to showing sympathy. Human Nature is filled with sensitive individuals from human beings to animals, therefore, sympathy is a part of said duties.


Overall, Human Nature as stated above has a moral duty when it comes to how others should be treated. Bentham gave a small outline of what it should be. The three parts to said duty are as follows, Probity, Prudence, and Beneficence. The way that these words were placed according to the context, Probity means to not cause pain or harm to others. Prudence means that one has a duty to avoid causing pain to one’s self. Beneficence means that one should be able to assist someone or to prevent pain from happening to others. He then continues on to give reasons under Beneficence. The first is to refrain or stay away from any harm, the second is to make an attempt to prevent the harm; one will choose to or choose not to carry out such an action if it is within your power to prevent it, and if it is too much of a ?sacrifice’. With these in place, it gives a person some assistance in the choices that should be made.

Bentham added that EthicsBentham 17.2-17.9 (310-314), plays a big part in the way situations are being handled. It is the way an activity is carried out towards the fulfillment of happiness. If something is going on one cannot just stand there and allow it to happen. Bentham gave different scenarios in Chapter 17 note (pg 323), A woman’s head-dress catches fire: water is at hand:a man looks on and laughs at it. What is being said is that if one can give any form of assistance to anyone who is in harm’s way, they should do it. This goes back to where he speaks about having sympathy and the moral duty of Human Nature. If the man assisted the woman with putting out the fire, he would be helping prevent any harm being done to her. The man would be performing the moral duty which is Beneficence.

To sum it up, How ought I to act?, can be taken from the above theories. All these theories have a part to play in the main part of how every one should be treated. It should not matter whether one is in the government or in a lower class than others, all should be treated as an equal because of the fact that they can suffer. Utility, since having something of value is part of Human Nature, the moral duty will fall into place. By not causing harm to others or self, no one would feel pain and will always look forward to enjoying the pleasures of the things they value the most.

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Bentham's Theory of Happiness. (2019, Apr 22). Retrieved December 2, 2022 , from

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