Utilitarianism Mindmap

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  • Utilitarianism
    • Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
      • Bentham was born in London, and lived in a time of great scientific and social change.
      • Bentham maintained that human beings were motivated by pleasure and pain, so he an be called a hedonist.
        • Hedonism is the belief that pleasure is the chief 'good'.
      • Bentham believed that all human beings pursued pleasure and sought to avoid pain. He saw this as moral fact, as pleasure and pain identified what we should and should not do.
      • As a hedonist, Bentham believed that pleasure was the sole good and pain was the sole evil: hence Bentham's utilitarianism is called hedonic utilitarianism.
      • The Utility Principle
        • The rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its 'utility' or usefulness.
          • Usefulness refers to the happiness or pleasure caused by an action - hence it is a teleological ethical theory which determiners a good act by the ends it brings about.
      • The hedonic calculus is a utilitarian system whereby the effects of an action can be measured as to the amount of pleasure it may bring.
        • The hedonic calculus weighs up pain and pleasure generated by the available moral actions to find the best option.
          • Bentham considers how strong the pleasure is, whether it is short-lived or life-long and how likely it is that there will be pain or pleasure.
            • The action that leads to that best consequence is the morally correct one to pursue.
          • He considers how immediate the pain or pleasure is and how likely it is to lead to more of the same, the extent to which there might be a combination of pains or pleasures, and lastly, the number of people affected.
            • The balance of pleasures and pains is compared with those of other options and the best result determined.
      • Act Utilitarianism
        • A version of utilitarianism according to which the rightness or wrongness of individual acts are calculated by the amount happiness resulting from these acts.
        • Closely associated to Jeremy Bentham.
          • Bentham was not anti-rule nor anti-law.
        • Act utilitarianism maintain that, whenever possible, the principle of utility must be directly applied for each individual situation.
          • When faced with a moral choice, a person must do what action will lead to the greatest good in a particular situation.
        • According to act utilitarians, when determining whether the act is right, it is the value of the consequences of the particular act that counts.
          • A person may break any law if, in that situation, greatest happiness will result.
        • Act utilitarianism has the benefit of flexibility, being able to take into account individual situation at a given moment, although the actions that it justifies can change.
        • A disadvantage is that it has the potential to justify virtually any action, if in that particular case, the result generates the happiness for the greatest number.
          • It is impractical to suggest that we should measure each and every moral choice every time, especially as we may not have all the information required by the hedonic calculus.
          • Act utilitarianism can have some quite extreme results.
          • Difficult to quantify pleasure.
    • John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
      • Mill maintained that the well-being of the individual was of greatest importance and that the happiness is most effectively gained when individuals are free to pursue their own ends, subject to rules protecting the common good.
      • While Mill accepted the utility principle of the greatest good for the greatest number, he was concerned about the difficulty raised in the example of the sadistic guards.
        • If the greatest good for the greatest was purely quantitative, based on the quantities of pleasure and pa caused, what would stop one person's pleasure from being completely extinguished if the majority gained pleasure from that act?
      • Mill was aware that utilitarianism was being criticised as promoting nothing other than desire and the pursuit of pleasure and that it lowered human nature of that of swine because of the badness.
        • to identify and address this difficulty, Mil distinguished between higher and lower pleasures, and the higher pleasures were qualitatively better and more important than lower pleasures.
          • Lower pleasures are associated with the body and higher pleasures are associated with the mind.
            • It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied: it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied
          • People may in error, seek the lower pleasure over the higher while still recognising the higher pleasure is the better.
          • For those who are experienced, self-consciousness and self-observant provide a bench-mark standard of morality.
          • An appreciation of higher pleasures must be cultivated or there danger  that a person declines into gratuitous pursuit of bodily pleasures.
      • Qualitative - concerned with the value and nature.
      • Morality is concerned with which actions are right and wrong, rather than the character of the person.
      • Rule utilitarianism
        • Is a version utilitarianism in which general rules are assessed for the happiness-making properties rather than individual decisions, often associated with Mill.
          • Actions are therefore 'right' or 'wrong' depending on whether they conform to the happiness making rule, not because of their individual effects.
        • Rule utilitarians establish the best overall rule by determining the course of action which, when pursued by the whole community, leads to the greatest result.
        • Rule utilitarianism overcomes some of the difficulties of act utilitarianism.
          • However, it may still permit certain practices, such as slavery, that appear to be morally unacceptable, because minority interests are not protected.
          • Difficult to predict consequences.
          • Difficult to quantify happiness.
          • No defence for the minorities.
        • Associated with John Stuart Mill and British Legal Philosopher John Austin (1790-1859).
    • Preference Utilitarainism
      • Preference utilitarianism is a utilitarian theory interested in the best consequences for those involved rather than what creates the most pleasure of least pain
      • Peter Singer's (1946-) practical ethics.
        • Preference or best consequences means what furthers the best interests of those affected, rather than what creates the most pleasure and least pain.
      • What matters is the satisfaction of all the affected individual's interests.
      • An individual cannot be sacrificed for others, as their interests must be respected as much as anyone else's.
      • People should deliberate on the general principles of how they should live rather than consider each situation every time.
      • Hare believed that we should consider our own preferences and those of others.
        • Everyone's preferences are equal.
        • Focuses on empathy, also argues for universality.
    • Henry Sidgwick
      • Argues that the balance over pain is the ultimate goal of ethical decisions.
        • Closer to Bentham than Mill, as he argues how is it possible to distinguish one higher order pleasure from another.
      • Concerned with justice in society like Mill. Positive view on human nature.
      • Obviously different to Bentham, but both are described as Act Utilitarians.

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