Essay On Utilitarianism

Identify the problems of Utilitarianism to what extent do they make Utilitarianism unacceptable? Jeremy Bentham founded Utilitarianism. He lived at a time of great change. With revolutions in France and America, demands were being made for human rights and greater democracy. Bentham worked on legal reform. Utilitarianism is associated with the principle of utility. Utility means the amount of satisfaction or pleasure that somebody gains from consuming a commodity, product, or service, i. e. ; useful. The hedonic calculus, which is his system for measuring how good or bad a consequence is:

At the time Bentham put forward the theory it was instrumental. It changed the way society was run and the way society now thinks for the better. It dramatically made changes to the poverty in Britain positively. Theories that are interested in the ends are known as teleological. Telos is Greek for the end. Therefore teleological means that the ends justify the means, utilitarianism follows this rule. Utilitarianism is the greatest goodness for the greatest number of people. The rightness of actions depends on their utility, and the utility is measured by the consequences, simply meaning the greatest good by moral actions.

If the consequences are good, then the moral actions are not as relevant. A positive example is "Lucy wins the lottery. Instead of keeping it all to herself, Lucy decides to share it out with some of her friends, because she thinks it will make them happy. " Lucy is doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people and is doing it using goodness from her morals. A negative example is "James, Peter and Matthew are sexually frustrated and are on a desert island with Louise. Louise does not want to have sex. James, Peter and Matthew rape Louise, as there are three of them and one of her.

" This is the greatest good for the greatest number of people; however it is an immoral action. Bentham was an empiricist (the philosophical belief that all knowledge is derived from the experience of the senses), i. e. ; food or sex. Bentham maintained that human beings were motivated by their five senses and that humans would always seek pleasure and avoid pain at all costs. To measure the pleasure he devised the hedonic calculus, which consisted of seven principles each of which could be given a numerical score.

These consist of its intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, propinquity or remoteness, fecundity, purity and possibly wit. This should make it clear how beneficial the greatest good for the greatest number is. An example could be "A car is on fire. Inside the car is a doctor with the cure to cancer and your own child and you can only save one. " Using the hedonic calculus you would save the doctor with the cure to cancer rather than saving your own child. This is the greatest good for the greatest number of people, even though it is not the greatest for the individual and family.

However, while John Stuart Mill agrees with Bentham's fundamental principles and approves of his method he maintains that the well-being of the individual was of greatest important and that pleasure or happiness is best when individuals are free to pursue their own ends, including rules and laws that protect the common good of all. Simply Mill believed that the more freedom people have, the happier they will be. Mill believed we should all be free to go after our own happiness as long as our attempts to be happy don't interfere with the happiness of others.

An example of this could be; the richest man with all the physical pleasures he wants, but at the same time be the unhappiest man in the world by not being mentally stimulated. Mill believed quality rather than quantity was paramount. He claims 'It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied". The lower pleasures are less important than the higher pleasures. An example is "casual sex, compared to making love". According to his theory making love should be better than casual sex because it contains emotion and is more mind-stimulating.

Utilitarianism is in two parts. There is act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism means that utility must be directly applied for each individual situation. Depending on the situation act utilitarian's must choose what action will lead to the greatest good in that particular situation. Rule utilitarian's follow a guideline for general decision making within a community to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. Weak rule utilitarian's bend the rules to fit with the circumstances.

Strong rule utilitarian's follow the rules to the exact words. There are a number of difficulties with utilitarianism. Firstly, we cannot categorize actions that are good. One action that is deemed good by someone might not be thought of as a good action by different person. For example; "Claire's mum has a new hair cut Claire hates it, but tells her she likes it anyway". Some people say that Claire has done a good moral action so as not to hurt her mum's feelings. Others would say that lying is not acceptable and Claire should just tell her mum the truth.