Strengths and Weaknesses of Bentham's and Mill's Utilitarianism

Some strengths and weaknesses of Bentham's original utilitarianism, how Mill improved it and weaknesses' with Mill's utilitarianism

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  • Created by: Becky
  • Created on: 17-12-10 14:08

Strengths of Bentham's Utilitarianism

It's reasonable to link morality with pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of pain

It seems common sense to consider the consequences of an action

It's flexible and takes account of every situation

It can be applied to real situations

The greatest number is important (for example the NHS use it as a system of allocation of medical resources)

It offers a balanced and democratic morality that promotes welfare and happiness for everyone

It's a popular theory that's still accepted by many people today (eg, Peter Singer)

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Weaknesses of Bentham's Utilitarianism

It relies on consequences which can't be predicted

Applying the hedonic calculus to every situation is too time consuming and we don't always have sufficient knowledge

How do you measure pleasure?

Any action could be justified as morally right if you could argue that more good than pain comes from it (eg, gang **** can be considered right because more people experience pleasure than experience pain) -minorities aren't considered

Things such as leisure activities could be ruled out as giving money to charity promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number

Apparently only consequences matter - what about emotion or the action itself?

Utilitarians look as what will happen so because a promise would have been made in the past it's no longer important which leads people to breaking promises

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How is Mill's Utilitarianism better than Bentham's

There's already rules which benefit everyone

You don't have to assess every action with the hedonic calculus so it's less time consuming (especially for a strong rule utilitarian)

It seperates higher and lower pleasures (and people know to always aim for the higher pleasures)

It appeals to common sense

Public accountability for moral decisions

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Weaknesses of Mill's Utilitarianism

Mill didn't clearly define the difference between higher and lower pleasures

A higher pleasure won't be the same for different people or in different situations

You can't predict the consequences of an action

How do you measure happiness?

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Really useful and helps me a hell of a lot! Thanks so much Becky! X

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