The felicific calculus is an algorithm formulated by utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham for calculating the degree or amount of pleasure that a specific action is likely to cause. Bentham, an ethical hedonist, believed the moral rightness or wrongness of an action to be a function of the amount of pleasure or pain that it produced. The felicific calculus could, in principle at least, determine the moral status of any considered act. The algorithm is also known as the utility calculus, the hedonistic calculus and the hedonic calculus.
Variables, or vectors, of the pleasures and pains included in this calculation, which Bentham called "elements" or "dimensions", were:
- Intensity: How strong is the pleasure?
- Duration: How long will the pleasure last?
- Certainty or uncertainty: How likely or unlikely is it that the pleasure will occur?
- Propinquity or remoteness: How soon will the pleasure occur?
- Fecundity: The probability that the action will be followed by sensations of the same kind.
- Purity: The probability that it will not be followed by sensations of the opposite kind.
- Extent: How many people will be affected?
... Suffering · Pleasure Utility · Happiness · Eudaimonia Consequentialism · Felicific calculus Problems Mere addition paradox Paradox of hedonism Utility monster ... moral status of any action, which he called the Hedonistic or felicific calculus ... In his exposition of the felicific calculus, Bentham proposed a classification of 12 pains and 14 pleasures, by which we might test the 'happiness factor' of any action ...
... The units of measurements used in the felicific calculus may be termed hedons and dolors ... They may be regarded as similar to the utilitarian posends and negends ...
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