- A relativistic moral theory: There are no absolute moral rules that everyone must obey. It depends on the circumstance.
- A teleological theory: Moral truth can be found through nature and purpose.
- A consequentialist theory: The right thing to do depeds unpoon the circumstance of actions.
Jeremy Bentham and Act Utilitarianism
Jeremy Bentham believed that nature place mankind under two sovereign masters: pleasure and pain.
Act Utilitarianism: Looks at the consequence of each individual act and calculates utility each time the act is performed.
- Bentham created the Hedonic Calculus.
- Its aim is to measure the moral value of an act by reference to the consequence.
- It measures by the quantity of the pain or happiness.
- Intensity: How intense the pleasure will be.
- Duration: How long it will last.
- Propinquity: How near it is.
- Certainty: How certain that pleasure will results.
- Fecundity: How much it will lead to pleasure of the same type.
- Purity: How many will gain pleasure.
Strengths of Bentham's Theory
- Common Sense: Good common value; everyone would like to be happy. (Universal)
- Clear and Consistent Ethics: Everyone would know where they sttod, ethics anyone can understand.
- Flexable: It does not force people to fit in with fixed values which may seem harsh or oppressive. It does not pass judgment of lifestyle choices. People have the freedom to choose.
- Equality/Democracy: Everyone is always worth one and favours the majority. All are treated with fairness and everyone's interests are considered.
Weaknesses of Bentham's Theory
- The furture is difficult to predict: How can we know what the consequences will be.
- How do you measure pleasure: Telling us to measure something that is unmeasurable and are all pleasures worth the same?
- No Jusitice: Allows the punishment of the innocent or persection of a minority as long as it causes the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number.
- What is happiness?: Happiness is subjective.
- Evil Pleasures: Only one experiene pain, so it is still pleasure for the majority.
John Stuart Mill and Rule Utilitarianism
- John Stuart believed that happincess was better than pleasure
- He believed that quality was more important than quantity.
- Pleasures of the mind are greater than that of the body.
- "Better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied, better to be socrates dissatisfied then a fool satisfied."
John Stuart Mill and Rule Utilitarianism
Rule Utilitarianism: Looks at the consequence of having everyone follow a particular rule and calculate the overall utility of accepting or rejecting the rule.
- Mill agreed wiht Bentham that a person's well being is of utmost importance.
- Mill agreed with the utility principle but had an issue with the quantitative element .
- Developed a system og higher and lower pleasures.
- To pursue pleasures of the intellect were 'higher' than say the pursuit of pleasures of the body.
- Higher = Reading, Art, Music.
- Lower = Sleep, Food, Sex.
- Mill wanted to reformulate the utilitarian theory to reflect the fact that not all pleasures are equal.
Weaknesses of Mill's Theory
- It may be very dfficult to distguish between higher and lower pleasures.
- It is not possible to rely on one moral principle, namely the greatest happiness for the greatest number, to solve all moral problems.
Other Utilitarianism Theories
Preference Utilitarianism: Peter Singer
- The goal or 'telos' of ethical action should not be happiness but the statisfaction of one's preferences.
Negative Utilitarianism: Karl Popper
- Actions should not strive to create maximal pleasure. The avoidance of pain is seen as being as being a more valuable goal than the creation of happiness.
Welfare Utilitarianism: Robert Goodin
- the goal of an action is to provide the necessary conditions in which to live comfortably.
Strengths of Utilitarianism
- It supports the view that human well-being is good.
- Actions should be judged according to their effect on this well-being.
- A person's motivesmay be good or bad, but only consequences matter.
- It encourages democracy and the interests of the majority.
- Circumstances can be judged without reference to previous ones.
- It does not rely on religious principles.
Weaknesses of Utilitarianism
- It requires people to predict the long-term consequences of an action.
- There is no guarantee that circumstances will turn out exactly as predicted.
- not every action done out of good will is going to result in good consequences.
- Happiness changes from one person to another.
- It does not allow for someone doing what they believe to be morally right whatever the consequences.
- The theory cannot be used to decided what is truely good.
- The majority is not always right.
- The theory can lead to injustice, perticularly on the minority.
- It makes no allowance for personal relationships.
- People may not be motivated by pleasures and happiness