Jeremy Bentham and Utilitarianism

February 2024 Forums General discussion Jeremy Bentham and Utilitarianism

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  • #86080
    jondwhite
    Participant

    The Bentham Project at UCL report the latest on the transcription work for publishing the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham

    Quote:
    Transcribe Bentham is starting a newsletter!  Sign up now to hear how we are progressing in the mammoth task of transcribing Bentham's papers.  Expect discoveries made by volunteers and Bentham-related news and events. Sign up!
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    Call for papers open for the next ISUS conference! The 2018 conference of the International Society for Utilitarian Studies will take place on 24-26 July at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.  The conference theme is 'Utility, Progress and Technology'.  The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 2 February 2018. 

     

    #132261
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Marx's view of Jeremy Bentham is here:https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/fi/vol02/no10/marx.htm

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    Had I the courage of my friend Heinrich Heine, I should call Mr. Jeremy a genius of bourgeois stupidity.
    #132262
    jondwhite
    Participant

    There's a few references in SS but not many.

    #132263
    Rusty Pigfumbler
    Participant

    Well I've missed the February 2 deadline, and on July 24 I shall be in Rhyl for the week.

    #132264
    Dave B
    Participant

    i Well if you couldn’t find that in; “………..Karl Marx, Das Kapital, vol.I. Footnote to Chapter XXII….”  It is because it is chapter XXIV. Thus;  Chapter Twenty-Four: Conversion of Surplus-Value into Capital 50.Bentham is a purely English phenomenon. Not even excepting our philosopher, Christian Wolff, in no time and in no country has the most homespun commonplace ever strutted about in so self-satisfied a way. The principle of utility was no discovery of Bentham. He simply reproduced in his dull way what Helvétius and other Frenchmen had said with esprit in the 18th century. To know what is useful for a dog, one must study dog-nature. This nature itself is not to be deduced from the principle of utility. Applying this to man, he that would criticise all human acts, movements, relations, etc., by the principle of utility, must first deal with human nature in general, and then with human nature as modified in each historical epoch. Bentham makes short work of it. With the driest naiveté he takes the modern shopkeeper, especially the English shopkeeper, as the normal man. Whatever is useful to this queer normal man, and to his world, is absolutely useful. This yard-measure, then, he applies to past, present, and future. The Christian religion, e.g., is “useful,” “because it forbids in the name of religion the same faults that the penal code condemns in the name of the law.” Artistic criticism is “harmful,” because it disturbs worthy people in their enjoyment of Martin Tupper, etc. With such rubbish has the brave fellow, with his motto, “nuila dies sine line!,” piled up mountains of books. Had I the courage of my friend, Heinrich Heine, I should call Mr. Jeremy a genius in the way of bourgeois stupidity. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch24.htm It is one of my favourites actually and used it before. This all falls into the more general philosophy of ‘consequentialism’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consequentialism You have to be a bit careful in discarding people and ideas that Karl attacked as he attacked everyone and often took onboard some of the core ideas of the people he attacked. Eg Max Stirner. I suppose these consequentialism’ people were saying that one should do stuff or rationally  organise things or adopt a position to maximise the welfare of humanity in total kind of thing. You could say it was possibly philosophically corrupted by ‘social aggregate’ of conditioned human culture and ideology etc. Thus the capitalist culture might condition us to have an insatiable desire for more and more, and bling etc. Or the desire to rise up above others ‘meritocraticaly’ renumerated with material incentives blah blah. Whatever. It also has an apparent ‘moral’ collective perspective. So it is talking about the greatest good of society as a whole rather than the greatest good for the individuals in it. However‘if’ we take the argument that ultimately and absolutely [or materially, scientifically or objectively or whatever ] moneyless communism is the greatest good for society. Then we are materialistic consquentialists. The other argument that I want communism just because it is good for me as an individual rather than for society, in this philosophical respect, formally excludes consequentialism. Because in this ‘other argument’ that ‘moneyless communism is the greatest good for society’ is the incidental consequence [excuse the joke] and not the predicate, which is what ‘is good for me’. Back to Max Stirner. In 1844 Karl and Fred were human nature or human essence communist Fuerbachians. The argument then was quite simple as it popped later with people like Kropotkin in his Mutual Aid. We where, as in 1844, for some reason naturally co-operative and had communistic instincts and that was our human nature or essence. We were not in our natural social environment in 1844 with capitalism and all that. And a return to a communist society would be harmonious with our instincts as well as other stuff and consequentially good.  Stirner in his aptly named ‘Ego And His Own’ adopting a consequentialism of his own said no, no! The consequence to be sort for, or predicated, is the welfare of the individual or the masses thereof. And let that ‘consequentially’ drop out as it will. Karl’s dog nature quote is an interesting flashback I think. So dog’s nature, or the nature of dogs, in 1867 was obviously conditioned or bred to produce its special and particular behavioural effects etc etc. But they are all original wolves at the end of the day. It is a bit anecdotal etc as regards social conditioning versus forced behavioural genetic conditioning of dogs etc. But the philosophical question is what is good for a corrupted wolf, or cocker spaniel? Send it to Montana and introduce it to elks or something? It has implications for Karl as well. So in the Gotha programme what is initially good for the corrupted working class with its ‘bourgeois limitations’. Is a labour voucher transitional period as the cocker spaniel makes the transition back to its wolf nature?? He actually hated the idea but what could he say to the working class, with their ‘cocker spaniel’ culture, who felt they needed time to transition? Importantly admittedly Bentham didn’t take a class position.  As an aside, Dogs are becoming really important now over the last few years in serious scientific research. It was sort of stimulated by proper scientists with impeccable reputations responding to trivial surveys on their ‘relationships’ with their pet pooches. So they did a seminal survey as part of one of these sociological and psychological exercises initially. Like do you think they never landed on the moon and it was a hoax. And you sort collect ancillary data like do you have a science degree, what papers do you read and how much do you earn etc. They did it for the dog thing which obviously pulled in a large dataset.  With stuff like does your dog know what you are thinking and respond to your emotional state and can you tell what mood your dog is in by the sound of its bark etc. The results were horrifying as there was even a positive squew to the yes amongst scientific intellectuals. They weeded out the professors of quantum mechanics at MIT etc and interviewed them. To check it out to see what was going on. They were a bit embarrassed but stuck to their story. They did an even more challenging selective survey of the ‘scientist’. They took them and just them and played them tapes of unknown dogs barking and asked them to select a range of options or multiple choice of what they thought the situation was. They statistically significantly, by a large margin, selected the correct choices. I know it sounds crazy but the selective breeding of dogs that can sort of tap into and interact with human beings is a possibility? As a scientist and having owned a dog for a long time I have to admit I one of them as well. And I am fully aware of anthropomorphism and trick cyclist ‘projection’ and all that.  Dogs have also beaten the chimps when it comes to vocabulary. They can also do the abstract thinking stuff.  So they can be shown a picture of a red carrot and told to go and get it from the next room from a larger jumble of rubber toys etc. In a controlled experiment it is quite amazing to see it. Out of the other room is important as all this new technology has revealed that the dogs are watching the humans eyes and paying attention to what the human is looking at. And there is this kind of stuff? https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/3354028/Dogs-can-read-emotion-in-human-faces.html  

    #132265
    ALB
    Keymaster
    Dave B wrote:
    Dogs have also beaten the chimps when it comes to vocabulary.They can also do the abstract thinking stuff.So they can be shown a picture of a red carrot and told to go and get it from the next room from a larger jumble of rubber toys etc.

    Is this really abstract thinking or is it conditioned behaviour? And if it is abstract thinking how is it different from getting a dog to smell some scent and setting it off to find it?

    #132266
    Dave B
    Participant

    iI did actually start responding to this last night but realised it starts complicated very quickly and knew exactly where it would go to and how long it would take as I have done it before. It has to do with the ability cope with symbolic representations of real things. It is in its higher form in humans connected to intelligence as when we think just in our heads we do with language symbols. It has nothing to do with sound obviously. As deaf people and chemists do it. So if a chemist was thinking about melibiose actually the word itself wouldn’t be really important; they would be conjuring up an image of the stick diagram on the rhs  Anyway on dogs?  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201301/can-we-communicate-dogs-using-photos-and-replicas If you ferment something with raffinose in it the invertase will partially breakdown the raffinose into melibiose. Raffinose is in beet sugar at about 0.2% ; it used be thought that it was bit lower than that but not for much longer.   Beet sugar is used to adulterate fruit juices and the grape juice used to make wine. Find the melibiose and you find the adulteration. Nobody has published a method to do that, yet. 

    #132267
    Dave B
    Participant
    #132268
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Interesting but symbolic communication is not the same as abstract thinking, i.e. thinking about something in the absence of its physical presence made possible by words as names/symbols for things and ideas. I don't think this experiment shows (or claimed to show) that dogs are capable of this. I only raised this (apart, that is,  of course of Bentham's connection with the theory of animal rights) becaue I was reading Cat Sense by John Bradshaw which disusses the same issue in relation to cats and comes to the conclusion that they can't think abstractly like humans can. In fact, no other animal can, even if humans can communicate with them by means of (concrete) symbols and many of them can amongst themselves and to other animals.

    #132269
    Dave B
    Participant

    iWell I suppose I need to start with the ‘maxim’. Transformation of Quantitative Into Qualitative Changes This is hegelian and marx stuff as well although I think Hegel plagiarised the notion from the progess of science. Rather than Hegel’s philosophy being proved by science. This is just a quicky found article below for an example only and to get the drift even though there are things I don’t like about it. https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Transformation+of+Quantitative+Into+Qualitative+Changes Fred discussed it in various parts of ante duhring but  I wasn’t that keen on some parts of that either. But basically I think it can be useful. Thus I suppose if you analyse anything that exists now as part of some developing process eg higher human conciousness or abstract thought. Or modern computers.  Then you might want to consider analysing it as merely just more of something more elemental.  I am not, at this stage anyway, not really that interested  in trying to link up computers to consciousness but just as two possible examples but you could pick your own?) Looking at something now that is quantitatively developing and extrapolating it into the future is more difficult. But it is being done rationally. Thus serious bods are thinking about quantitative developments in artificial reality technology and where it might end up. Uploading our entire consciousness into computers and maybe staying there and escaping the limitations of a material bodily form or whatever. Another interesting and very big subject; but back to dog’s and humans. You might want to argue that human conciousness and abstract thought is the ability to covert real things into symbols in our heads. Manipulate the interactions and relationships of these symbols according to ‘idealised’ to rules and laws that ‘reflect’ or mimic the real world. And then if required convert the results back to sense perception reality. And maybe check to see if it makes sense of reality. This will be much harder for non scientist to get a grasp of because scientists are more directly used to doing it even if they don’t think much about what they are doing? Thus Hook paraphrasing Fuerbach; "………That systematic knowledge cannot be developed on the basis of sense-perception alone, Feuerbach of course does not deny. He admits that even science, which he holds up as an illustration of the fact that sense-perception can be important element in systematic knowledge, must recognise an inescapable opposition between objects of sense perception and scientific objects.""But in science as distinct from philosophy this opposition between sense-perception and thought (in modern terminology sense data and hypothesis) is not unmediated. That is to say, scientific thought even though it must transcend sense-perception takes its point of departure from it and returns to it somewhere in the process of scientific proof.""Science is not opposed to ordinary experience. It does not deal with another order of being but is an effective human method of controlling experience………." Thus perhaps you could argue that the quantitative element of abstract thought or the first step or whatever is the ability to convert a sense perception ‘image’ into a ‘symbol’ and then later match the symbol to a real sense perception object or whatever. My thesis on the human condition and language and co-operation is as follows, it is shared by others but not all eg Chomsky. So we need to co-operate which may have started with something simple like warning calls; eg small monkeys have a vocabulary of snakes eagles and jaguars or whatever is a hazard infant apes in particular. The sound call is a generalised symbol for something else. Thinking in idealised symbols expands or makes easier to think. Then co-operative language facilitates or becomes a tool or a basic mechanism for thought. And then there synsergistic co-evolutionary development of language and intelligence in tandem.Thus what a dog or more some dogs can do is an elemental quantitative form of human conciousness?  It helps of course to have had one of these dogs and shared ownership with it with another scientist. I will add this as just another link from a quick google search. Find your own! http://www.eva.mpg.de/psycho/dog-cognition.html

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