What is the Hedonic Calculus?

The Hedonic Calculus is one of the central ideas of Bentham's Act Utilitarianism. Created by combining hedonism, (the pursuit of pleasures and avoidance of pains) and democracy (majority rule) the hedonic calculus is used to evaluate how much pleasure or pain would be caused by an action. This calculus consists of 7 parts: Intensity, which is simply how intense the pleasure of an act will be, duration: how long the pleasure will last, certainty: if we can guarantee that pleasure will arise from the action, fecundity: whether or not the pleasure will continue to be pleasurable if the act is repeated, propinquity: how "far" away the pleasure is, in terms of physical space or time, purity: how "pure" an action can be considered to be, and extent: how many people will be affected. To put this into an example, say we were given one million pounds, If we keep it all to ourselves the pleasure would be very intense and it would have a very long duration, but if we shared it among our family we could have the pleasure affect a greater number of people. It is so then that the hedonic calculus is created to value the aspects of acts to consider how worthwhile or correct they are in terms of the amount of pleasure they bring and to whom.

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