Strengths and Weaknesses of Utilitarianism

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  • Created by: Courtney
  • Created on: 30-11-13 12:20

Strengths and Weaknesses (Para 1)

  • Many people hold the view that the weaknesses of Utilitarianism outweigh it's strenghts. 
  • The consequentialist concept of Utilitarianism can be viewed as a weakness as it asks you to predict consequences accurately. 
  • Although we can use past experience to guide future experience, there is no garantee the consequence will turn out exactly the same. 
  • On the other hand, If there were no consideration of consequences the evaluation of moral choices may be unreliable.
  • In this case the strenghts outweigh the weaknesses of the consequential feature.
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Strengths and Weaknesses (Para 2)

  • Richard Brandt argues that Act Utilitarianism can make you overlook those whom you have a personal relationship with.
  • It 'implies that when you bring home your monthly pay cheque you should use it to support your family and yourself only if it cannot be used more effectively to supply the needs of others'.
  • This is a weakness in the principle of utility 'the greatest happiness for the greatest number.'
  • This weakness outweighs the strength of ensuring the minority do not dominate as I think personal relations shouls be considered before majority.
  • Because in a family young children can only learn the true meaning and value of sympathy and empathy through personal relations.
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Strengths and Weaknesses (Para 3)

  • A further strenght of Utilitarianism is identified by James Rachels who stresses that it provides a clear stand against prejudice and irrationality by sticking firmly to the Principle of Utility as the only standard for judging right and wrong. 
  • However many would argue that relying on a single principle is a weakness as we cannot solve every dilemma in the same way as each dilemma is unique. 
  • And the ability to know and measure what gives people happiness can change from time to time so it's not always reliable. 
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Strengths and Weaknesses (Para 4)

  • The view that the weaknesses of Utilitarianism outweigh its strenghts is not always valid.
  • The weakness of universalisability being that to move from each person to everyone is a fallacy.
  • Mill however identifies this as a strength as putting interests of the group before own interests is comparable to the Golden Rule of Jesus of Narazareh 'In everything do to others as you would have them do to you' (matthew 7:12).
  • The strenght outweighs the weakness as it has strong religious support and it means that religious believers can also be a Utilitarian.
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Strengths and Weaknesses (Conclusion)

  • I don't think that weaknesses of Utilitarianism outweigh its strengths applies to all features of the eithical theory. 
  • The strengths Utilitarianism has of being able to consider consequences of actions which prevents conflict of duties overcomes it's weaknesses as it makes the theory more beneficial than other ethical theories such as deontology.
  • Furthermore despite the weaknesses of utilitarianism it has proved useful in the centuries since its original formation.
  • One example is seen in Henry Sedgwick's 'The Methods of Ethics'  in which he produces a more complex account.
  • Sedgwick rejected Bentham's view of persuing own pleasure and replacing it with ethical hedonism, seeking general happiness. 


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