Utilitarianism Evaluated

Utilitarianism Evaluated

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Utilitarianism Evaluated
This is seen as a positive aspect to the theory.
Teleological ­ it is the end or goal of
Utilitarianism tries to make the world a better place.
moral action, not the act itself, that is
Bentham and Mill were both concerned with political
good or of value
reforms such as the welfare state that improved society.
Consequentialism is summed up as "the ends justify the
Consequentialist ­ moral judgements
means". Some people disagree. It is easy to give examples
based on outcome
of bad actions that lead to good consequences (e.g.
hospitalising someone in a fight who turns out to have a
tumour that they treat). The consequences of an action
don't make the action right; the consequences cannot be
predicted; even if you knew for certain what would happen,
you couldn't calculate the consequences for everyone.
This statement is attacked on two counts. Firstly, we desire
Hedonistic ­ humans desire pleasure and
a range of things ­ some people actively seek pain!
seek to avoid pain
Secondly, the naturalistic fallacy comes in here ­ just
because we do desire pleasure doesn't mean we should.
This makes any calculation easier. All pleasure has the
Quantitative - "Quantity of pleasure being
same value. Mill disagreed (see Mill).
the same, pushpin is as good as poetry"
The positive is that the theory is flexible and allows you to
Act Utilitarian ­ each situation should be
do the `right thing' in each situation. However, it is
assessed separately
impractical. You can't work out all of the effects of every
moral choice you make.
It is far better to reduce one person's pain than increase
Reduce pain first before increasing
one person's pleasure. It would be better to have ten
people not enjoying themselves than five having fun while
five others suffered.
If it is good to help one person, it must be better to help
Principle of Utility ­ greatest good for the
ten people. Try to help as many people as you can ­ that
greatest number
seems a good rule.
Although this may seem obvious, in Bentham's society only
"Everyone to count for one, and no-one to
the rich got good medical care, education etc. Even today
count for more than one"
there are some who think they are more important because
of status, power etc. Bentham disagrees.
A very practical system for working out the utility
Hedonic Calculus:
(usefulness) of a course of action. If you thought about it
REMOTENESS yourself, you'd come up with a similar list. To work out
PURITY how much pleasure, you need to know how long it lasts, how
RICHNESS many people feel the pleasure, how strong the pleasure is
INTENSITY etc. Some people still feel that it is too hard to do the
CERTAINTY whole calculation, but it is in line with how we work when
EXTENT deciding, for example, how to spend lottery money. "Only a
DURATION few people will benefit from the Opera." Etc.
This answers the criticism aimed at Act Utilitarianism
Rule of thumb ­ if a decision greatly
above. It provides a way of making quick decisions in new
resembles a previous decision, you can use
it as a rule of thumb to avoid doing the
hedonic calculus in detail again
This almost sounds like rule utilitarianism, and Bentham
Precedent ­ if your act has good
clearly sees the possible problems of his theory. We do
consequences but will set a precedent
need rules in society, and must bear in mind the `rules' or
leading to bad things in the future, do not
precedent we will be setting when we act.
do that.

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Qualitative ­ not merely the amount of This answers the criticism that sadistic guards might be
pleasure/pain right to torture someone for pleasure ­ theirs is a
worthless sort of pleasure. This also moves away from
hedonism ­ maybe `happiness' is a better term than
pleasure.…read more


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