Utilitarianism

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By bwalya
Words 1010
Pages 5
Explain the main features of the theory of Utilitarianism

The theory of Utilitarianism takes its name from the Latin word Utilis, meaning ‘useful’. It was first developed by Jeremy Bentham, a philosopher and legal theorist of the 18th century. Bentham sought to produce a modern and rational approach to morality which would suit the changing society of the industrial age. Utilitarianism may be regarded as a relativist and teleological system of ethics, prescribing no fixed moral rules and judging an action by its consequences or end result (Greek: telos).

Bentham argued that one should maximise happiness for the majority, ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ a view which is known as the ‘Utility Principle’. Happiness was thus equated with moral goodness. Good is seen by Bentham as the maximisation of pleasure and minimisation of pain or Happiness=pleasure-pain. This idea further identifies Bentham as a ‘psychological hedonist’, since he regarded humans as being primarily motivated by pleasure and the avoidance of pain. A contented society would be a good society.

In assessing the consequences of actions, Utilitarianism relies upon a theory of intrinsic value: something is held to be good in itself, apart from further consequences, and all other values are believed to derive their worth from their relation to this intrinsic good as a means to an end. Bentham and Mill analysed happiness as a balance of pleasure over pain and believed that these feelings alone are of intrinsic value and disvalue. Utilitarian’s also assume that it is possible to compare the intrinsic values produced by two alternative actions and to estimate which would have better consequences. Bentham believed that a hedonic calculus is theoretically possible. A moralist, he maintained, could sum up the units of pleasure and the units of pain for everyone likely to be affected,…...

Similar Documents

Utilitarianism

...Utilitarianism and the Theory of Justice* by Charles Blackorby, Walter Bossert and David Donaldson August 1999 revised August 2001 Prepared as Chapter 11 of the Handbook of Social Choice and Welfare K. Arrow, A. Sen and K. Suzumura, eds., Elsevier, Amsterdam Charles Blackorby: University of British Columbia and GREQAM Walter Bossert: Universit´ de Montr´al and C.R.D.E. e e David Donaldson: University of British Columbia * We thank Don Brown, Marc Fleurbaey, Philippe Mongin, John Weymark and a referee for comments and suggestions. Financial support through a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is gratefully acknowledged. August 20, 2001 Abstract This chapter provides a survey of utilitarian theories of justice. We review and discuss axiomatizations of utilitarian and generalized-utilitarian social-evaluation functionals in a welfarist framework. Section 2 introduces, along with some basic definitions, socialevaluation functionals. Furthermore, we discuss several information-invariance assumptions. In Section 3, the welfarism axioms unrestricted domain, binary independence of irrelevant alternatives and Pareto indifference are introduced and used characterize welfarist social evaluation. These axioms imply that there exists a single ordering of utility vectors that can be used to rank all alternatives for any profile of individual utility functions. We call such an ordering a social-evaluation ordering, and we introduce......

Words: 22833 - Pages: 92

Utilitarianism

...Utilitarianism ●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●● 1. Introduction Utilitarianism is one of the most powerful and persuasive approaches to normative ethics in the history of philosophy. Though not fully articulated until the 19th century, proto-utilitarian positions can be discerned throughout the history of ethical theory. Though there are many varieties of the view discussed, utilitarianism is generally held to be the view that the morally right action is the action that produces the most good. There are many ways to spell out this general claim. One thing to note is that the theory is a form of consequentialism: the right action is understood entirely in terms of consequences produced. What distinguishes utilitarianism from egoism has to do with the scope of the relevant consequences. On the utilitarian view one ought to maximize the overall good — that is, consider the good of others as well as one's own good. The Classical Utilitarians, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, identified the good with pleasure, so, like Epicurus, were hedonists about value. They also held that we ought to maximize the good, that is, bring about ‘the greatest amount of good for the greatest number’. Utilitarianism is also distinguished by impartiality and agent-neutrality. Everyone's happiness counts the same. When one maximizes the good, it is the good impartially considered. My good count for no more than anyone else’s good. Further, the reason I have to promote the overall good is the same...

Words: 17864 - Pages: 72

Utilitarianism

...Traditionally, the basis of utilitarianism is to do what will result in the greatest good for the most amount of people. However, in the article I read; Analyzing Insider Trading from the Perspectives of Utilitarian Ethics and Rights Theory written by Robert McGee, McGee described that as a bit of an outdated perspective. He instead gave a description of what he sees as the “modern utilitarian position”, where in order for something to be considered ethical, the gains would simply need to exceed the losses. He uses both of these definitions of utilitarianism to weigh the ethical correctness of insider trading and to address the common arguments against such practices from a utilitarian standpoint. The most obvious strength of this approach is that it serves to benefit the most amount of people. In his article, McGee emphasizes that efficiency is not a substitute for ethics, which I see as paralleling utilitarianism and is another aspect that makes it such a rational approach. This ensures that even though there may be a way to do something better/faster, if it doesn’t result in a positive outcome for the most amount of people, it isn’t the right thing to do. Using the example given in the article, although insider trading may increase efficiency for a single company, the hit that competing companies would most likely take as a result would eliminate any benefit to the larger population. The strengths of such an approach are ideal, seeing as regardless of all else, they......

Words: 620 - Pages: 3

Utilitarianism

...The principle of utilitarianism the moral test for the rightness or wrongness of an action. It is based on the principle of utility, aiming to maximise pleasure and minimize pain. The word utility comes from the Greek “utilis” meaning beneficial/useful theory. It is a teleological consequential argument, as everything is focused on the end result and whether or not it generates happiness. It is relative to the situation as can bend the rules, allowing hedonistic acts to occur, hedonistic acts are those which are selfish pleasures. There are two types of utilitarianism Act and Rule and they vary in the following ways. Jeremy Bentham is the founder of Act Utilitarianism, and his theory is quantitive. He focuses on making the majority of people happy “greatest happiness for the greatest number”. Bentham stated “pushpin is just as good as poetry” as it wax his belief that all pleasures were the same. However John Stuart Mill who is the founder of Rule Utilitarianism his theory is qualative, and believes that there are higher and lower pleasures. Higher pleasures being those which stimulate the brain e.g. poetry and lower pleasures being those that have a physically pleasuring sensation directly to the body e.g. sexual intercourse. Mill justifies his belief by stating “poetry is superior to pushpin” criticising Bentham’s idea that all pleasures are of the same depth. Mill emphasises the fact that higher pleasures are far superior to lower pleasures by stating “it is......

Words: 1587 - Pages: 7

Utilitarianism

...In chapter five of Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill attempts to correlate the human sentiments of justice with the principles of his Utilitarian doctrine. His task is to identify whether justice exists by itself or is derived by other sentiments. In so doing, he must also identify the range of our conceptions of justice to determine whether his theory can suitably address the demands of moral thinking. Mill does not describe every variety of the human notion of justice -- he could not have. The point of this exercise has been to bring into view a more complete picture of justice, and to demonstrate that a good deal of it may be served on the basis of utility. There are circumstances where the bonds of the doctrine as a whole are stretched, and that is to be expected, as far as moral theories are concerned. In many cases, choosing right action can be simplified by referring to the events and outcomes in human history. Human affairs have long required moral thinking and to ensure stability within our societies, certain standards of morally-correct behavior have emerged. Mill outlines these common elements of justice beginning with the moral impositions of our societies, namely, laws. A law is a system of rules which protect certain personal liberties or property and are enforced through a set of institutions. A law is usually intended to protect a person's or peoples moral right, though the stipulations of a law may not always receive unanimous agreement. Mill finds......

Words: 1113 - Pages: 5

Utilitarianism

...Outline important concepts of Utilitarianism. (21) Utilitarianism is a theory which denotes actions that are right and wrong from there consequences. There are three types of Utilitarianism, act, rule and preference. Act Utilitarianism was initially developed by the theorist and psychological hedonist, Jeremy Bentham who believed that our main aim in life was to achieve 'happiness' and avoid 'pain'. He wanted to produce a different approach to moral decision making to suit the advancing society of the industrial age and argued that "natural rights is simple nonsense".This principle focuses on the individual action and the consequences that come with it. His moral rule was the 'Principle of Utility' which clearly stated that we should aim to achieve the 'greatest good for the greatest number', therefore he equated moral goodness with happiness. Bentham then created the 'hedonic calculus' to measure happiness and show the process for making moral decisions; it included seven key criteria: intensity, duration, certainty, extent, remoteness, richness and purity. Overall, the calculus gave the principle reason and allowed people to understand what was classed as a morally correct act in terms of 'happiness'. Considering the consequences of an action is a sensible approach which is not outgrown by society as it's flexible and can be applied to any situation under any circumstances; however, the fact that it is so flexible and that there are very few solid rules means that......

Words: 1561 - Pages: 7

Utilitarianism

...Utilitarianism is a teleological theory. It states that something is morally right if it produces pleasure and it’s morally wrong if it produce pain. The principle of Utility refers to the greatest amount of pleasure or happiness for the greatest number of people. According to Bentham, most moral acts are those that maximise pleasure and minimise pain. An action is correct according to Bentham if it gives higher quantity of happiness. Jeremy Bentham’s principle of utility states that ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number.’ Bentham stated that human being is governed by two sovereign masters: pain and pleasure. By pleasure he means the benefits, advantage, goodness and happiness. By pain Bentham refers to evil and unhappiness. An example of this will be childbirth. During the period of pregnancy and throughout the labour the mother goes through different level of pain. However, the result is pleasure as baby is born. This not only brings happiness to the mother, also to a greater amount of people especially the family members. The greatest happiness is given to greatest number. Bentham said: ‘Nature has placed us under the governance of two sovereign master, pain and pleasure. An act is right if it delivers more pleasure than pain and wrong if it brings about more pain than pleasure.’ This approach of Bentham can be used to decide on the right course of action as it considers an action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number. This approach...

Words: 322 - Pages: 2

Utilitarianism

...Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism has the considerable attraction of replacing moral intuition with the congenially down-to-earth idea of human happiness as a measure of justice. According to utilitarianism theory actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. Pleasure and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends; and all desirable things, are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as a means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain. Opponents of utilitarianism claim that, though the approach treats individual person equally, it does so only by regarding them as having no worth; their value is not as persons, but as ‘experiencers’ of pleasure or happiness. Secondly, critics query why we should regard as a valuable moral goal the mere increase in the sum of pleasure or happiness abstracted from all questions from the distribution of happiness, welfare, and so on. A kind of attack alleges that the analogy used by utilitarians, of a rational single individual prudently sacrificing present happiness for later satisfaction, is false for it treats my pleasure as replaceable by the greater pleasure of others. Kantianism: Kant’s moral philosophy is grounded on several related values. Its primary idea is that of the rational agent as a self-governing being. This is closely related to the equal dignity of all......

Words: 677 - Pages: 3

Utilitarianism

...(i) Examine the key features of utilitarianism (21) (ii) To what extent are the concepts undermined by relevant criticisms (9) Utilitarianism was founded by the scholar Jeremy Bentham in the time in which both enlightenment (the point at which people were starting to turn to science over religion) and the industrial revolution ( when an influx of people flocked to the cities to find work- this caused extreme poverty, poor living conditions and an outbreak of disease and death. Bentham’s theory is teleological and focuses mainly on the end goal. Similarly it is consequentialist, therefore its main focus is not on the process but on the outcome. The theory is also secular and is therefore non-religious (hence the link to enlightenment) and it is relativist, making it flexible as there are no fixed rules. The principle of utility and the key to Bentham’s utilitarianism, also known as act utilitarianism is that it seeks the greatest good for the greatest number. This means that in a circumstance where there is a lot of people to think about you would do the thing which caused pleasure or benefitted the majority, e.g torturing a terrorist to find out where they had planted a bomb so that more lives could be saved. The famous principle of utilitarianism was coined by Sir Francis Hutchson. Another important feature of Act Utilitarianism is that it is hedonistic and therefore tries to seek out the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number of people....

Words: 498 - Pages: 2

Utilitarianism

... Utilitarianism Essay Shirnel Charles Grand Canyon University: PHI-305 Ethical Thinking in Liberal Arts Instructor John Wise September 21, 2014 The Story of Ethics states that the point of the Utilitarian theory is to conceptualize exactly what is good life by “bringing about consequences of a certain sort that is the greatest happiness for the greatest number” (The Story of Ethics). The Story of Ethics also states that the Utilitarian principle of greatest happiness for the greatest number was first popularized by Jeremy Bentham who according to the Lecture Note “version of utilitarianism is known as quantitative utilitarianism” (Lecture Note). According to The Story of Ethics Bentham states that the principle of utility recognizes right and wrong and the causes and effects from right and wrong. These effects can lead to the nature of mankind being either in pain or pleasure and “Bentham assumes that one can only act according to their aversion to pain or desire for pleasure” (The Story of Ethics). The understanding that I have gained from Bentham’s theory is that good and bad is judged by pleasure and pain that is the greater the pleasure the greater the good and the greater the pain the greater the bad. Bentham’s theory is the ethical position that influenced both John Stuart Mill and his father James Mill. According to an article in the Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia “the central aim of John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism is to defend the view that......

Words: 992 - Pages: 4

Utilitarianism

...morally right or wrong. In this paper, I will explain the fascinating ethical theory of Utilitarianism and discuss about two very influential people to Utilitarianism, who are Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart Mill. Along with discussing their contributes to this theory, I will evaluate their personal perspective on Utilitarianism and determine which is more plausible between the two. Ultimately, by doing this I will be able to support the idea that Utilitarianism is not an overall plausible ethical theory to follow. Utilitarianism is a type ethical theory from the ethical objective theory called Consequentialism. Much like in the Consequentialism theory, where morally right and wrong decisions are completely dependent on the consequences produce by an action, morality in Utilitarianism is reliant on the utility of the consequences produced by an action. Utility in this sense means the usefulness of a consequence or the benefits the consequence brings to those all affect by the action. Utilitarians have a strong focus on doing actions that produce the most good. This is due to the principle of utility, which in Utilitarianism states that an action is right if it produces the greatest possibly utility for all those affected by the action. In other words, if an action produces the most good, pleasure, for that situation then that action is right. Unlike in other ethical theories, in Utilitarianism an action is morally right only when it produce the most pleasure. According to......

Words: 1910 - Pages: 8

Utilitarianism

...Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill’s ethical theory is known as Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism, according to Mill, is about judging the moral rightness/wrongness of an action by looking at if the outcomes produce the best balance of good over bad for all concerned. Mill develops his theory of Utilitarianism through five major tenets; the greatest happiness principle, the definition of happiness, the hierarchy of pleasures, and the impartial spectator. The foundation of Utilitarianism lays in Mill’s definition of happiness and the Greatest Happiness Principle. Mill defines happiness as the promotion of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. After defining happiness, Mill provides what he calls the “creed” of the foundation of Utilitarianism, the Greatest Happiness Principle. The Greatest Happiness Principle holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. The Greatest Happiness Principle uses an utilitarian standard; for that standard is not the agent’s own greatest happiness, but the greatest amount of happiness altogether; and if it may possibly be doubted whether a noble character is always the happier for its nobleness, there can be no doubt that it makes other people happier, and that the world in general is immensely a gainer by it (Mill 516). Mill states that humans are able to experience a higher level of pleasure than animals in the statement: “To suppose that life has (as they......

Words: 1159 - Pages: 5

Utilitarianism

...utilitarianism 1. Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism, which states that the consequences of any action are the only standard of right and wrong. This view can be contrasted or combined with virtue ethics which holds virtue as a moral good. Some believe that one's intentions are also ethically important. Singer did account for if bob would have saved the boy then there would be no car yes, but I also think there would have been a way for bob to save the boy as well as save the car as well. 2. Utilitarianism is distinctly different from other forms of consequentialism such as egoism as it considers all interests equally. Proponents of utilitarianism have been split about whether individual acts should conform to utility or whether agents should conform to ethical rules. Utilitarian’s additionally remain split about whether utility should be calculated as an aggregate (total utilitarianism) or an average (average utilitarianism). 3. Utilitarian moral theories purport to be in favor of maximizing the well-being of all concerned. In accordance with this principle, several of an agent’s values must receive protection while practicing any form of utilitarianism, considering protection of human rights to be conducive to human well-being. Autonomy would seem to be one such value. In utilitarian theory, however, autonomy appears to have its value only in its existence as a means to the greater end of well-being. This observance raises the question of whether or not a......

Words: 376 - Pages: 2

Utilitarianism

...Utilitarianism Overview 1. Fundamental Tenets of Utilitarianism 2. Standards of Utility/History of Utilitarianism 3. The Utilitarian Calculus 4. Act and Rule Utilitarianism 5. Criticisms of Utilitarianism 6. Concluding Assessment Basic Insights of Utilitarianism n The purpose of morality is to make the world a better place. n Morality is about producing good consequences, not having good intentions n We should do whatever will bring the most benefit (i.e., intrinsic value) to all of humanity. n The Purpose of Morality n The utilitarian has a very simple answer to the question of why morality exists at all: – The purpose of morality is to guide people’s actions in such a way as to produce a better world. n Consequently, the emphasis in utilitarianism is on consequences, not intentions. Fundamental Imperative nThe fundamental imperative of utilitarianism is: Always act in the way that will produce the greatest overall amount of good in the world. –The emphasis is clearly on consequences, not intentions. The Emphasis on the Overall Good n We often speak of “utilitarian” solutions in a disparaging tone, but in fact utilitarianism is a demanding moral position that often asks us to put aside self-interest for the sake of the whole. n Utilitarianism is a morally demanding position for two reasons: – It always asks us to do the most, to maximize utility, not to do the minimum. ...

Words: 1813 - Pages: 8

Utilitarianism

...Utilitarianism ENG300 Information Literacy Assessment [Type the author name] This paper will discuss utilitarianism, its origins and how we can apply it to our lives today. I will show what would happen if everyone adopted this code of ethics and reasoning, and why I chose it.   Utilitarianism What is Utilitarianism? According to our textbooks, utilitarianism is the ethical system which believes that which is ethical is what will bring the greatest good or happiness to the greatest number of people (Turner, 2006). In a direct quote from the American Heritage Dictionary, utilitarianism is the ethical theory proposed by Jeremy Bentham and James Mill that all action should be directed toward achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). Though there are many varieties of the view discussed, utilitarianism is generally held to be the view that the morally right action is the action that produces the most good. There are many ways to spell out this general claim. One thing to note is that the theory is a form of consequentialism: the right action is understood entirely in terms of consequences produced. What distinguishes utilitarianism from egoism has to do with the scope of the relevant consequences. On the utilitarian view one ought to maximize the overall good — that is, consider the good of others as well as one's own good (Driver, 2009).A well-known dialogue by......

Words: 865 - Pages: 4

Sofm stream | The Blueprint 3 | Socio-Economic Study - 1877 Words