Happiness for all

Ref: C2341045

Happiness is generally regarded as worth having in life but people can disagree about its meaning and importance. Philosophy can help clarify our thoughts and give more structure to our debates. This course is an opportunity to practice thinking skills with the help of the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832) and modern interpretations of utilitarian ideas. Bentham coined the phrase "the greatest happiness of the greatest number". His ideas have influenced our attitudes to crime, to health and wellbeing, to government and to planning (for example transport planning) and are still used extensively today.

Course aim

An opportunity to explore different meanings of happiness and its role in human life, and to familiarize yourself with the utilitarian philosophy of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number"

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Explain different meanings of happiness
  • Give an indication of the intellectual background for Bentham's theory of happiness
  • Explain Bentham's theory of 'pain' and 'pleasure'
  • Identify the advantages and risks associated with the 'greatest happiness of the greatest number' principle
  • Using examples, show and evaluate the influence of Bentham's ideas today

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • You may wish to have a look at the article on Bentham in the online Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Suggestion for more advanced reading : Hampsher-Monk, Modern Political Thought, chapter VII (very in depth)

Download full course information sheet

Happiness for all

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This course has been cancelled.


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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