Utilitarianism: The Greater Good? - Humanities Seminars Program

Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 6:00am to Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 8:00am
All Humanities Seminars take place in the Humanities Seminars room in the Helen S. Schaefer Building at 1508 E. Helen Street (one block north of Speedway and one block west of Cherry Avenue).

Thursdays 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

October 3 until December 12, 2013

Utilitarianism is the idea that one ought to perform those actions that produce the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers, which is one of the most important views of morality ever developed. In this course we will explore Utilitarianism’s philosophical origins, its influences on politics and literature, and recent attempts to show that contemporary neuroscience and psychology validate it. We will read works of the philosophers David Hume, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill, and excerpts from the novels of Dickens and Dostoevsky. The contemporary writers we will critically examine include the Princeton philosopher Peter Singer, whose controversial Utilitarian views have sparked intense and often vitriolic political and moral debate throughout the world, and the Harvard psychologist Joshua Greene, who has claimed that the fMRI results of people making moral decisions provide powerful reasons for us all to become Utilitarians.


Bentham, Jeremy. The Classical Utilitarians: Bentham and Mill. Hackett Pub. Co., 2003. ISBN: 0872206491.

Michael Gill is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona. His work focuses on the origins of our moral judgments from the perspectives of both history and contemporary moral psychology. He has written on the ethics of end-of-life decisions, the relationship between morality and religion, and moral pluralism. He is the author of The British Moralists on Human Nature and the Birth of Secular Ethics (2006) and Humean Moral Pluralism (forthcoming).

Cost $150.00


If you wish to register immediately by mail, please download the form below.

Click here to download the Registration Form for Fall 2013
Portable Document Format (PDF) (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Please mail the Registration Form to:

Humanities Seminars Program
Attention: Kerstin Miller
P.O. Box 210150
1508 E. Helen Street
Tucson, AZ 85721-0150

For any other registration questions, please call Kerstin Miller at (520) 626-7845 or contact our program by e-mail at humansem@email.arizona.edu


HSP will charge an administrative fee of $25.00 for early drop-outs before the second class meeting with refunds of the balance of the original tuition.