CFP: [International] Two Centuries of Utilitarianism

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Emilie Dardenne

Utilitarianism remains largely misunderstood in France where it has been
reduced to a couple of caricatured position which disparage its image.
This attitude is at odds with a number of dominant theories taken mostly
from the English speaking world which grant utilitarianism a privileged
status: either as a source of inspiration or as a rival concept. From a
theoretical point of view, it represents a major tradition and
philosophical benchmark. From a practical point of view, it ranks among
the most influential ethical and legal doctrines.
This conference aims to examine on the one hand the roots of
utilitarianism and on the other its legacy, evolution and development.
More than two hundred years after the Introduction to the Principles of
Morals and Legislation, what has become of utilitarianism? What has
become of Bentham’s emblematic concepts: “felicific calculus,” happiness,
pleasure, well-being, and the panopticon? Is it true that, in the words
of Tim Mulgan, “perhaps the most important question dividing utilitarians
is the definition of happiness or ‘well-being’ or ‘utility’ or ‘whatever
makes life worth living.’”? (Understanding Utilitarianism, Stocksfield:
Acumen, 2007)
In the light of such questions, we would like to encourage the opposition
of interdisciplinary viewpoints (English studies, philosophy, sociology,
law, economics, history etc.) on key political and social issues
(justice, democracy, international law, rights, political economy, ethics
etc.). In addition, we advocate the comparison of classical utilitarians
(Bentham, Mill, Sidgwick), and 20th-century utilitarian theories (Hare,
Moore, Singer).

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Received on Thu Apr 10 2008 - 11:01:28 EDT