Jeremy Bentham

Felicific Calculus

Jeremy Bentham, British philosopher of many stripes, was a strange man— stranger and more brilliant than most strange men. Aside from the following 6-step algorithm for determining the expected pleasure of a given action (aka Felicific Calculus), Bentham's will stipulated he be mummified and left sitting on his favorite chair in a glass case. The University College of London still proudly displays the garish artifact, though with a fake wax head because students kept stealing the real one. True Story.

  1. Intensity: How strong is the pleasure?
  2. Duration: How long will the pleasure last?
  3. Certainty or uncertainty: How likely or unlikely is it that the pleasure will occur?
  4. Propinquity or remoteness: How soon will the pleasure occur?
  5. Fecundity: The probability that the action will be followed by sensations of the same kind.
  6. Purity: The probability that it will not be followed by sensations of the opposite kind.
  7. Extent: How many people will be affected?