Jeremy Bentham's:Act utilitarianism


Introduction to Utilitarianism

  • Ethical theory, overview of how to behave.
  • It means useful (utility)
  • What is most useful from Man kind
  • If you follow this you'll maximise pleasure for the greatest of people.
  • Proportionality–lett the punishment fit the crime

What makes an action moral?

  • And action or decision that can affect others, to take overs into consideration, to fit into with other people.
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Utilitarianism- Jeremy Bentham

  • Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
    • ' nature has placed mankind under the governance of of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do. On the other hand, the standard of right and wrong, and on the other the chair of cause-and-effect.'
  • utilitarianism is a teleological theory because it focuses on the purpose or the our outcome of action.
  • It is also a consequentialist action, because each action has consequences.
  • Bentham's headonic calculus:
    • 1. Duration-> how long it will last?
    • 2. Intensity-> how intense it is?
    • 3. Propinquity-> how near or remote?
    • 4. Extent-> how are widely covers
    • 5. Certainty-> how probable it is?
    • 6. Purity-> how free from pain it is?
    • 7. Fecundity-> lead to further pleasure?
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Act utilitarianism

  • The end justifies the means
  • 'the end' determines whether or not action is morally good, in this case the goal should always be happiness
  • Bentham thought that previous experiences did not always help to make choices and that each situation is different
  • For act utilitarianism in its strong form, in each situation the calculus should be applied regardless of previous experiences in decision-making. 
  • Therefore this theory is considered to be relativistic, meaning that there are no universal moral norms or rules and that each situation has to be independently looked at.
  • Act utilitarianism appears to favour that individual situations more than the cases for the majority
    • For example: World War II
  • Although it is not necessary to calculate the rightness on the wrongness of every act.
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Advantages and disadvantages



  • An advantage of Benthams calculus is that it can help you decide how useful in action is going to be before you do it.
  • It can also be applied, the equality that can be used in alot of situations.
  • Although there is not always the time to apply the calculus before each action needs to  take place.
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