The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the measure of right and wrong”.

Jeremy Bentham Quote~

it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong“.

Ok, I’ve reached critical mass on the issue of “morality” and all the excess gas has got to go somewhere….


I’m not going to accept christians asserting that atheists can’t be moral anymore.  That shit stops here today.


Mr Atheist Froggy knows two important things.  First someone must demonstrate that a god exists and that it isn’t some ineffable nebulous entity. Because without a god, there is no authority for [christian] morality.  Even apologists assert it must be “grounded” in something.  Second, there may be a point at which we can agree on the meaning of morality, however, there is no such fucking thing as objective morality.  I don’t know who originally thought it up but I hear it most from William Lane Craig and the apologist wannabees.  It’s made up shit to fit in the same gap their absent god lives in.

Objectivity is a central philosophical concept, related to reality and truth. Generally, objectivity means the state or quality of being true completely independent of an individuals personal biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings. A proposition is considered objectively true (or to have objective truth) when truth conditions are met and are “bias-free”; that is, existing without biases caused by, feelings, ideas, etc. of sentient subjects. In other words something true independent of the operation of the mind.  It’s impossible for a human to think of something in a completely bias free way.  It’s not how cognition and emotion work. Christians like to pretend that if they call something objective in the sense of being based on facts rather than feelings or opinions that somehow that imbues it with an independent divine agency that exists outside space and time, and that morality is “grounded” in it.  They never get around to explaining the mechanism and evidence for that position beyond hand waving and repeating “god” over and over.  So, even if they meet the bias free burden, I have yet to see any apologist argument meet both criteria- the truth conditions are never satisfied.


Subjectivity is a process of individuation and socialization wherein the individual isn’t ever isolated in a self-contained environment, but continually engaging in interaction with the surrounding world. Culture is a living totality of the subjectivity of any given society constantly undergoing transformation. Subjectivity is both shaped by it and shapes it in turn, but also by other things like the economy, political and religious institutions, communities, as well as the natural world.  [Which is why morality shifts and changes over periods of time.]  It relies on feelings, bias, personal experiences, ideas, and so on.  All things that are subjective are an operation of the mind. They require interpretation of an individual’s perception of reality. Inanimate objects can’t observe, have feelings, or act on them.  Inanimate objects can’t perform moral acts or be acted on by them.

Therefore, all moral actions are by definition subjective.  They [morals] have no agency independent of the subjects who perform or experience them.  If the earth were barren of animal life, morality would/could not exist. Therefore, objective morality is falsified as an incoherent concept.

I like Bentham’s definition and will use it in the future to describe secular morality.  It’s simple.  “The measure of right and wrong is the greatest happiness for the greatest number“.  I think Sam Harris talks about morality in terms of the maximal good and the least well being. More or less the same idea.

We [atheists] have abrogated our human rights to those who would rob us of our equality and dignity as people in order to force us into conformity with their goat herding ideology.  I’m taking that back today.  No longer will I allow apologists to define morality as something it clearly isn’t.


*Author’s note: I realize the graphics look like they are done by a five year old.  I’m switching OS on my equipment and I don’t have access to my usual graphics programs. They’ll improve with time and practice.

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5 Responses to The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the measure of right and wrong”.

  1. Think Always says:

    There must be something in the water ’cause I have been writing about this, using a lot of the same points you brought up here. I absolutely share your sentiments.

    I also used that Bentham quote in one of my drafts. I need to take some time to read his writings. He was a utilitarian, and while I am not a utilitarian, I consider myself a consequentialist who also sees value in virtue ethics and moral rules-of-thumb. I would ultimately lean more towards his definition or one of Mill’s if I were to say what morality should be judged by. A criteria such as that cannot make morality objective (as you point out) but it can give us an external justification for morality. This will always be subjective, so it’s important that compassionate, empathetic, intelligent people rise to the challenge of defending ethics on pragmatic grounds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • persedeplume says:

      Lol. I don’t know about the water, but it’s definitely been prominent on twitter with the religionists I’ve talked to recently.
      I also wouldn’t consider myself a utilitarian. His quote was too good to pass up regardless of what philosophy it was rooted in.
      I love the Hitchens classic test question “what moral act can you do that I can’t”. It sums up my objection to “you can’t be moral without god”.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hiramcrespo says:

    I have not fully made up my mind on the issue of “objective morality” or “scientific morality” (a morality that would be observable in nature) but here is my piece “Reasonings on Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape”. Sam Harris sees it as his project to prove that morality can be discerned in nature, but I think that the use of the word “objectively” or “objective” may confuse people because a very important component of our moral compass is rrational and therefore subjective, but no less REAL and no less EXPERIENCED. In Epicurean and rational hedonistic tradition, that would be the pleasure / aversion faculty, which I believe leads us to the tangibles of ethics.

    I think a less confusing term might be naturalist morality, one that is based on reality (nature) and not on logical (philosophers’) or authoritarian (religious) considerations divorced from the tangible, real pleasure and pain experienced by living creatures.

    I believe subjectivity is not merely a function of “mind” but also of body, of our own nature. In other words, natural selection has give us exactly the faculties that we need to make our way in our environment, and we ignore these instincts to our detriment.

    And so I think hedonism is the best way to explore secular ethics. However, Bentham’s adage (which you cite) raises troubling questions because it can sometimes legitimize unnecessary attacks on individuals and minorities that generate unnecessary suffering. I wrote on this here:

    My own ideas are evolving but I think the questions you raise are extremely important, and these ideas have been pondered by others in Epicureanism and I think it seems like they came up with libertarian and contractarian answers to these questions (we are free individuals who make laws and we can change them according to mutual benefit, and we should enter agreements with each other to not harm or be harmed) ….


    • persedeplume says:

      I’m delighted, Hiram. You’ve given me much to ponder and an opportunity to make another post on this path less trodden. I haven’t had the opportunity to read Harris’s “Moral Landscape”. I should move it up in priority as my list will likely outlive me.
      Also my answer will be a lengthy one.

      Liked by 1 person

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