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Jeremy Bentham, Utility, and the Golden Triangle of Happiness

Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS,volume 76)

Abstract

When authors describe ‘utility’ according to Bentham (An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation. Doubleday, Garden City, 1780), their usual interpretation is in terms of happiness linked to monetary wealth. However, Bentham was a legally-trained philosopher, not an economist, and his actual description of utility shows a far more nuanced meaning. He appreciated that life quality exists in two dimensions, objective and subjective, and recognized the uncertain relationship of these dimensions to one another. Monetary wealth does not equate with happiness, either for Bentham or within contemporary psychological science. This chapter concerns present-day understanding of this wealth-happiness interaction, informed by the Theory of Subjective Wellbeing Homeostasis. Homeostasis theory provides an explanatory model for predicting the way objective measures of life quality, including money, interact with the subjective experience of trait happiness. One aspect of this understanding involves identifying the key forms of wealth supporting homeostasis. Through the use of multiple regression, these are revealed as money, an intimate relationship, and having an active life purpose. These three homeostatic resources form the ‘Golden Triangle’ of happiness.

Keywords

  • Bentham
  • Utility
  • Golden triangle
  • Homeostasis
  • Happiness
  • Subjective Well-being

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2016S1A3A2924563).

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Cummins, R.A. (2019). Jeremy Bentham, Utility, and the Golden Triangle of Happiness. In: Brulé, G., Suter, C. (eds) Wealth(s) and Subjective Well-Being. Social Indicators Research Series, vol 76. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-05535-6_4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-05535-6_4

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