Utilitarianism - AQA AS

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Bentham's Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is the basic principle that the rightness or wrongness of an action is
determined by its utility or usefulness.
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory which is teleological which means that it stresses that
an action is right or wrong depending on its intended outcome ­ `the end justifies the
Bentham calls pain and pleasure the sovereign masters and it is what his theory of
utilitarianism is based upon.
The Principle of Utility The rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by the
amount of pleasure an action brings the idea is to maximise pleasure and minimising
Bentham's Utilitarianism is qualitative because you `measure pleasure'.
Hedonism ­ the view that pleasure is chief good. Bentham was a hedonist.
To decide the best thing to do, Bentham came up with the hedonic calculus:
o RICHNESS ­ lone pleasure/brings many joys
o PURITY ­ accompanied by pain/painless
o REMOTENESS ­ distant/immediate
o INTENSITY ­ mild/intense
o CERTAINTY ­ unlikely/probable
o EXTENT ­ affects just one person/ affects lots of people
o DURATION ­ brief/lasting
Bentham's form of utilitarianism is often referred to as act utilitarianism ­ a teleological
theory that uses the outcome of an action to determine whether it is good or bad.
Strengths and weaknesses of Bentham's utilitarianism
Strengths Weaknesses
Flexible Potential to justify any act e.g. gang rape
Takes in individual Impractical to measure every moral choice using the
situations at a given hedonic calculus.
moment. Extreme results can occur Example: an act
Method in its utilitarian goes to the cinema & on the way she sees
application of the someone collecting money for charity. She gives her
calculus money to the charity collector rather than buy a
Morally democratic ticket. The next week, she goes back and sees the
approach that seeks same collector and giver her money to the collector.
the fairest result ­ giving up her money generates the greatest
happiness for the greatest number. Taken to

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utilitarianism deals with this issue.
John Stuart Mill's Approach
Mill was also a hedonist and stressed happiness rather than pleasure was of the greatest
Mill modified Bentham's approach with an emphasis on the quality of the pleasure rather
than the quantity of the pleasure
He distinguished between higher and lower pleasures.
Higher pleasures being more qualitatively better and more important than lower
Higher pleasures are pleasures of the mind, with examples such as reading, going to the
opera.…read more

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More intelligent and thoughtful
approach than Bentham's theory
Comparison of Bentham & Mill
Bentham Mill
"The greatest good (pleasure) for the "The greatest happiness for the
greatest number" greatest number"
Focus on the individual alone We should protect the common good ­
Quantitative ­ hedonic calculus
Qualitative ­ higher & lower pleasures
Act utilitarianism
Rule Utilitarianism
In search of maximisation of happiness
Act & Rule Utilitarianism
The distinction between the two is what the principle of utility is applied too
ACT RULE…read more

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To invoke rules means that the
approach becomes deontological not
Preference Utilitarianism
Singer modified Bentham & Mill's version and came up with the alternative ­ Preference
A utilitarian theory interested in the best consequences for those involved rather than
what creates the most pleasure and the least pain.…read more

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Mill's version of utilitarianism focus' on higher and lower pleasures.
It can be argued that embryo research is a higher pleasure because of knowledge you
gain ­ scientific and you have a duty to share the knowledge.
However, it can be argued that it is a lower pleasure as it is bothered with body not mind.…read more

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A utilitarian would argue that this is The negative consequences of
true via the principle of utility ­ the allowing the suffering to continue may
idea of that being the maximise outweigh any shortterm good
pleasure and minimise pain.…read more

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Utilitarianism is only concerned with the happiness of the community, not the happiness
of the individual.' How far do you agree?
The example of the sadistic guards is Rules may promote the `higher'
an example of where the happiness of pleasures (e.g. subsidise ballet and
the majority is ensured through the opera) rather than `lower' quality
pain of a minority, show that the pleasures (e.g. subsidise football), so
happiness of the individual is not taken the benefit of certain individuals may
into account.…read more

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