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The Utility Of Punishment

             Born from the ashes of the 18th century, the nature of human action was shifted with the arrival of a new ethical theory of utility. The divine law and virtue ethics use to be the standard of measurement, yet now the net utility of actions where weighted for their pleasures and usefulness. As the western mind changed from that of a power triangle, with God and nobles on top and peasants at the bottom, to an individual focus where man is the measure, a theory of ethics that judge's happiness as cost benefit calculations seemed to be an expected next step. In George Sher's introduction to one of John Stuart Mill's writings he recounts that, "the first elements of utilitarian thought" are brought out by the philosopher David Hume and then seen in political systems like utilitarianism (Mill, vii). However this thought's tradition truly found its home in England. The basis of his theory seems simple, just like a math problem The calculations begins with one adding up all the pleasures that will be a result of a human action. Along the same line, one also adds up the amount of pains resulting from an action. Then like an easy math problem one subtracts the pains from the pleasures to determine if an action is moral. Yet once the specific criteria is laid out for pleasure and pain, the easy math problem turns into a complex equation or theorem. One must consider intensity of both pleasure and pain as well as its duration or effects of other pleasure or pain that could ensue from an action. Utilitarianism, at its core, is a political philosophy and as a result is applied in relation to the common good or the greatest good. Utility did away with universal norms of morality and made a balance system that said one ought to do what has the most pleasurable results and lesser proportion of painful consequences. Jeremy Bentham was one of the first founding fathers to further this new system in England.

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