HideShow resource information

Bentham's Act Utilitarianism

Jeremy Betham developed Act Utiliatarianism in his book 

'An introduction to the principles of morals and legalisation 1879'

He believed our main aim in life is to achieve happiness and avoid pain

key quote-  ' Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign matster pain and please'

Act Utiliatarianism

Relativistic theory - no universal moral norms each situation looked at independently

Consequentialist theory - moral judgements based on the outcome 

Telelogical theory -concerned with end goal which should always be happines 

principle of utility - The greatest happines for the greatest number 

1 of 5

Hedonic Calculus

hedonic calculs - means of measuring happiness

Bentham was a hedonist, hedone means pleasure in greek

seven criteria's:

intensity - how strong is the happiness

duration- how long does the happiness last for

certainity- how sure can you be that the act will produce happiness

extent - how many people will receive the happiness

remoteness- how close in time is the happiness

richness- how likely is this happiness to lead to further happiness

purity- how free from pain is the act 

bentham was concerned with quantity

2 of 5

Mill utiliatarainism

Mill believed that quality of pleasure more important than quantity. He saw a major flaw in bentham theory mill was concerned that one person's unhappiness could be overlooked if majority were happy

Higher pleasure- pleasures of the intellect or mind are superior. e.g reading

lower pleasure- pleasure of the body are inferior e.g physical pleasure sex & eating

 Key Quote:' it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied'

Rule Utilatarianism - by using the principle of utility you can draw up general rules based on past experience which would help you to keep the principle.

strong rule - believes an rule created using the principle should never be broken

weak rule - principle of utility can be broken in extreme cases to achieve happiness 

3 of 5

To what extent is utilitarianism compatible with c

is compatible

  • encourages people to not be selfish christianity teaches ' love your neighbour as you lvoe yourself'
  • strong rule utilatiarianism and christians believe in absolutist and deontological rudes eg ten commandments
  • jesus self sacrifice is an example of principle of utility he died to give other happiness
  • a utilitarian ultimate goal is happines in religon based upon making people happy by establishing the right relationship with God.

Not compatible 

  • rules are based on any divine comand
  • humans made in God image  thereofre all humans deserve equal treatment
  • utiliatarians based on secular ethical theory. christians based moral system in belief in God
  • goal is to do God will not achieve happiness
  • christianity absolutist. utiliatrianism is relativistic
4 of 5

strengths and weakness


  • act utilatarianism is pragmatic and concentrates on the effectss of an action
  • happiness is important for many people in decision making
  • theory treats everyone the same noone gets special treatments
  • simple to follow
  • can calculate happiness


  • relies on human ability to predict consequencces which is impossible
  • happiness is subjective
  • fails to consider we have obligations toward other
  • hedonic calculus is impractical
5 of 5


No comments have yet been made

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all Ethics resources »