Course: Utilitarianism and its Critics

James Hill

Time: Monday 12.30-14.05

Place: Room 225v in the Philosophy Faculty


This course will have two main parts. Firstly we will study J.S. Mill’s Utilitarianism (1859) with a particular emphasis on his distinction between the quality of different forms of pleasure, and his attempt to prove the validity of the principle of utility. We will place Mill in the tradition of Epicurean hedonism and we will contrast his utilitarianism with the earlier version of the theory in the work of Jeremy Bentham. In the second part of the course we will consider some of the most important criticisms of utilitarianism, to be found for example in the work of Bernard Williams and Robert Nozick.