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Utilitarianism…read more

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Utilitarianism is the doctrine that actions are right if they are
useful or for the benefit of a majority
o `The greatest good for the greatest number' - Jeremy
It is a relative theory and focuses instrumental values rather
than intrinsic values
The theory is adaptable to different situations accordingly
causing it to be teleological
Bentham, Mill and Singer are ethical philosophers who has
proposed variations of utilitarianism…read more

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Bentham's Utilitarianism
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was accepted as the originator of
He believed that acts morality should be measured on the amount of
happiness they produced from the most
Bentham argued that we pursue pleasure and avoid pain. We should
therefore make decisions which follow our genetic teachings
The belief of pleasure and happiness being related owes to a previous
ethical theory called hedonism
It is teleological ethical theory (concerned with consequences)
The theory is guided by the principle of utility which says actions or
behaviors are right in so far as they promote happiness or pleasure,
wrong as they tend to produce unhappiness or pain
Bentham: `Greatest happiness of the greatest number'…read more

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Bentham's Hedonic Calculus
Jeremy Bentham developed the Hedonic Calculus, which he believed could
calculate the amount of pleasure in an action's outcome
The criteria for measuring whether actions are moral are as follows:
1. Intensity: How strong is the pleasure?
2. Duration: How long will the pleasure last?
3. Certainty or uncertainty: How likely or unlikely is it that the pleasure will
4. Propinquity or remoteness: How soon will the pleasure occur?
5. Fecundity: The probability that the action will be followed by sensations
of the same kind.
6. Purity: The probability that it will not be followed by sensations of the
opposite kind.
7. Extent: How many people will be affected?…read more

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Strengths and Weaknesses of Bentham's
Hedonic Calculus
Strengths Weaknesses
Mathematical method Humans are more complex that a
mathematical method
Popular approach - seeks pleasure, plays to Subjective - people have conflicting opinions
natural senses on pain and pleasure e.g Sadistic Guards
Assesses the consequences of an action Consequences are difficult to predict
Uses common sense Excludes minority
Flexible and applicable to exceptional Time consuming
In line with the philosophical principles of It is possible to justify any action
Democracy…read more

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Mill's Utilitarianism
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) agreed with Bentham's theory of
Utilitarianism, however, revised it according to the theory's weaknesses
Mill identified that the Hedonic Calculus was time consuming and not
practical in real life situations
He believed that the desire for pleasure was animalistic and nothing
more than an animal instinct. To counteract this he distinguished and
ranked different pleasures into `higher' and `lower'
Mill developed the theory of Rule Utilitarianism which argues that we
must focus on how decisions are made. The theory means that individual
pleasures are sacrificed to the community. Furthermore, Rule
Utilitarianism suggests that society needs rules, which have been
reasoned with utilitarianism, in order to operate…read more

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