This book presents biographical/philosophical sketches of the founders of classical utilitarianism such as William Godwin, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and Henry Sidgwick. The great irony of the legacy of utilitarianism is that its name has long been an obstacle to its message, an irony compounded by the infatuation, in recent decades, with work in the area of “happiness studies,” an offshoot in many respects of the “positive psychology” movement that emphasizes the positive side of human nature. The influx of recent books on happiness has mostly not been matched by a serious interest in utilitarianism. This book revisits classical utilitarianism with the goal of highlighting some important aspects of it that have tended to be neglected or underestimated by both the critics and the professed supporters of utilitarianism, including many economists of the twentieth century.
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