Religious studies ethics

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  • Created by: nicole
  • Created on: 11-11-15 14:45


Explain the term Utilitarianism 

The ethical theory that argues that the correct way of action is that derived from working out what brings happiness to the greatest number.

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What is the greatest happiness principle? 

It is a calculation used in Utilitarian theory to assess the best course of action to take.

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3. What is consenquential thinking? 

It considers the consequences of a particular action or the ‘end’ result, and it is the assessment of this ‘end’ that determines whether or not the action is morally good. As it considers consequences it is also known as ‘consequential thinking’.

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Hedonic Calculus 

  • Intensity- the more intense, the better 
  • duration- the longer lasting, the better 
  • certainty- the more certain that pleasure will result, the btter 
  • fecundity( to make fruitful)- the more chance the pleasure will be repeated, or will result in other pleasure, the better 
  • propinquity( nearness) - the nearer the pleasure is to you, the better 
  • purity- the least amount of pain it involves, the better 
  • extent- the more people who experience it, the better. 
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5. What other names are given for the calculus? 

- Other names for it include the ‘pleasure calculus’ or the ‘felicific calculus’ (‘felicific’ means to bring about happiness).

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6. State 3 ways in which Mill's utilitarian theory is different to Bentham. 

The most important contribution by Mill was his introduction of the idea of universalisability. Similar to Bentham’s principle of utility, Mill wanted to show that what is right and wrong for one person in a situation is right or wrong for all. Mill also revised Bentham’s form of Utilitarianism by revisiting the definition of happiness (pleasure) and, similar to Aristotle’s idea of ‘eudaimonia’, he equated ‘happiness’ with the idea of what is good, wholesome, fulfilling and virtuous; that which leads to well‐being. Thirdly he distinguished between pleasure that stimulated the mind (higher pleasure) and pleasure that was merely physical (lower pleasure).   Could also have: Mill moved the calculation of pleasure away from quantity towards quality.  

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7. explain difference between strong and weak Rule utilitarianism 

Strong Rule Utilitarianism argues that rules are universal in nature and, if applied in any situation, they would lead to the greatest happiness of the greatest number (i.e. they would maximise happiness). Weak Rule Utilitarianism argues that on certain occasions the rules can be disobeyed if a greater amount of happiness will result.

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8. why may it be inaccurate to say that bentham was an act utilitarianism 

Although Bentham is said to be an Act Utilitarian, he did not claim that it was necessary to calculate the rightness and wrongness of every act from the hedonic calculus, just that this was generally the case.

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9. List five most impostant keywords you would use for applying the utilitarian theory of Mill to an issue.

Act, Rule, happiness, higher (and lower pleasures), quality (not quantity).

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10. strength of utilitarianism 

  • has aims that are attractive- happiness and avoidance of pain. it does seem that we  are motivated by pleasure and motivated to avoid pain 
  • it seems straightforward to apply to most situations and cocurs with common sense. 
  • it takes into account the consequences of our actions. for instance, keeping someone alive who is terminally ill and suffering great pain ignores the consequences for that person. 
  • it considers others and not just the individuals. it is concerned with the common good. t takes into account all who are affected by the action. 
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Weakness of utilitarian theory 

  • Ignore intentions and an individuals motive. The means by which greatest good is achieved seems incidental and of no moral revelance. in other words, justice is seen as right action, which seems contrary to common sense.
  • Because it is concerned with the greater number, the happiness of minorities may not be protected. 
  • in deciding whether an action is morally right, it requires outcomes of action to be known. howeven, outcomes may not be accurately predictable. this is certainly true in case of war. it is also true with some forms of genetic engineering. 
  • To decide what actions will produce the greatest good, the alternative actions also have to be considered and their possible outcomes predicted. this seems an impossible task. 
  • utilitarianism seems too demanding since we ought always to do that which gives greatest good for greatest number. but there may always be an act, other than what we choose, that would give greater good. 
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Strengths of Bentham 

  • it has method in its application of the calculus.
  • it is morally democratic approach that seeks the fairest result. 
  • the calculus is thorough in its consideration of measuring aspects of pleasure. 

Weakness of Bentham 

  • It is not clear how hedonic calculus resolves the problem of assesing the quantity of pleasure. for instance, how is it possible to quantify and compare intensity of pleasure with duartion of pleasure? Listing elements of pleasure doesnot resolve the problem of quantifying the pleasur. 
  • The calculus does not priorities or rank aspects of pleasure and so can lead to confusion.
  • Bentham's hedonic calculus appears to justify gang ****. 
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Strenght of Mill 

  • It is arguably a  more intelligent and thoughtful approach than Benthams's theory.
  • It avoids the pitfalls of Bentham's basic calculus
  • It comes across as a more refined and nobler system of thought.

Weakness or Mill 

  • Was mill right when he argued that higher pleasure are better than lower pleasure? 
  • It is too complex a system to calculate 
  • Due to its complexity it is therefore of no practical use.
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Which is more important- the ending of pain and su


  • If pain is great.
  • if pain is to be long term and there is no sight of pleasure
  • the quality of pleasure may be poor, eg. 'lower', and so not worth pursuing.
  • If one is already content, why increase contentment at the expense f suffering? this is morally wrong. for example, just because many people are well fed does not mean we should continue to leave the beggar to starve.


  • suffering of the few may lead to happiness of the majority eg. a just war.
  • if pain is minimal and the impact of pleasure far supersedes the pain. eg. allowing torture to save lives
  • depends upon the long- term potential, which may be tp allow immediate suffering for greater pleasure later.
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