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-Teleological/ consequential theory.

-First devised by Augustine.

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-Proposed in the 60's at a time of great social and scientific change.

-His theory is known as ACT- 'the rightness or wrongness of an ACT can be caculuated by the amount of happiness it brings about'

-Key focous on the QUANTITY of pleasure an action will bring about.

His theory can be divided into 3 parts-

  • Humans are driven by right or wrongness
  • The principle of utility 'usefulness'
  • Hedonic caculous- A systum put in place to estimate the consequences of an action in relation to good or bad.
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Bentham- Part 1-Hedonism

-He beleived that we are all hedonists meaning we are driven by pleasure and the avoidence of pain.

'nature has placed man kind under the governance of two master sovereigns, pain and peasure.'

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Bentham-Part 2-Principle of utility

The principle of utility-meaning usefulness states-

  • The rightness or wrongness of an action can be derived from it's utility.
  • Utility refers to the amount of pleasure or pain an action will bring about.
  • An action is right if it brings about the 'greatest good for the greatest number', this should always be seen as a main aim.
  • This principle should be applied to every moral decision making process according to Bentham.
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Bentham-Part 3- Hedonic calculus

A utilitarian system whereby the effectiveness of an action can be measured by the amount of pleasure or pain it brings about- it weighs up the pain or pleasure as a result of a moral decision.

Seven Factors

  • Duration- how long will it last
  • Intensity-The degree
  • Certainty- How certain you are about the outcome
  • Extent- Number of people whom are effected 
  • Remoteness-How imminent the pleasure is going to be/ how near
  • Purity-The chance of it not being followed by an OPPOSITE reaction
  • Fecundity- Chance it has of being followed by the same reaction
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Bentham- Strengths.

There are 3 major strengths of his theory-

  • Flexible- This means it can be applied to any moral decision making process 'one size fits all'.
  • Takes into account each individual situation- This means it takes into consideration the complexities of human life which may not be fully understood when just following the rule book.
  • Gives everyone a voice-Peoples views aren't blocked out due to the fact that they don't fit in to what the 'rule book says'.
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The main weaknessess of Benthams theory are as followed-

  • Could justify any act- Pleasure is subjective and therefore it can lead to individuals justifing immorality under the idea of 'the greatest good'.- Hitler 
  • Impractical to measure every single act- The hedonic caculs has spesific gidelines which can make a moral dision tedious.
  • Time consuming- Each critera needs to be considered very carefully to enable the correct outcome, this could take a long time.
  • Pleasure is different for eveyone- Pleasure and pain are both subjective making everyones idea of the best outcome different. 
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  • Bentham thought rules and laws were secondary, Mill argued that there was a more positive role for them-They are principles that work as a general means for securing the greater good.
  • He was a child prodigy
  • His father was a follower of Bentham
  • The well being of an individual is of the greatest importance and happiness is best achieved when people are free ( this freedom is subject to common rules put in place to for all to follow)
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Mill-Part 1- Quality

Mill accepted the 'Principle of utility', however disagreed with a number of Bentham's ideas.

  • He saw this as a QUANTITAIVE approach rather then the desired QUALITIVE.-He felt that by concentrating on the quantity of pleasure meant minority's pleasure or pain is seen as less important as it is masked by the 'greatest good for the greatest number.'
  • Mill took a more QUALITIVE approach, looking at the VALUE and NATURE of the pleasure or pain in hand, concluding that the type of pleasure is more important the the amount.
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Mill- Part 2- Higher and Lower pleasures

To address the issue of quantitive and qualitive pleasures Mill proposed HIGHER and LOWER PLEASURES-


  • These are seen as more disirable and should allways be ones end aim.
  • Accidemic/ mindly pleasures-poetry 
  • Qualitive 


  • Seen as less disirable and preventitive in relation to reachinf higher pleasures in the future.
  • Body pleasures such as food.
  • People tend to get fixated with a quantitive approch- temptation is seen to lead people away from hiher pleasures

Only one who has expereinced both fully has the ability to judge.

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Mill- Part 3- Strong and weak rule

Mills ideas came known as Rule utilitarianism-

  • The best overall rule is to determine the course of action which when pursued by the whole community leads to the best result- This means you need to think about everyone as a group when picking your actions, rather then just your individual gain or loss.
  • 'It is better to be a human dissatisfied then a pig satisfed'


  • Maintains that rules established through the application of utilitarianism principles should NEVER be broken


  • Tries to allow for the possibility that those same utilitarianism principles can take priority over other rules in SOME situations- however the rule would still play part of the decision making process.
  • Weak rule utilitarianism accepts the need to be flexible over the implementations of a rule of utility- the rule would still need to be taken into account. 
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There are a number of strengths of Mills Rule utilitarianism-

  • It encourages rules to be followed and sees them to have a positive role in society-rule encourages one to follow the rules to varying degrees' strong and weak' this helps society to work in harmony.
  • Always looks at the bigger picture- The prevents selfish minority gain and aims to help all within the situation.
  • Clear cut way of making moral decisions- It is practical as there is a 'rule book' to referee back to within a moral decision making dilemma.
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Mill- Weaknessess

There are a number of weakness connected with Mills rule utilitarianism-

  • R.M.Hare argues that it is ridiculous for one to always keep the rules even if it doesn't provide the greatest good?- sadistic guards
  • By just following the rules you can be seen as neglecting your moral duties to prevent evil as suffering- this means that you can hide behind the idea of 'rules' to prevent you having to stand up for what is right in an individual situation.
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Peter Singer- Practical Ethics

  • Pleasure should not be the principle consideration in utilitarianism ethical decisions.
  • He proposes an ethical system with the best interests of the individual- The individual should be at the heart of the decision making process.
  • Weighs up the interests of all those effected.
  • Replaces pleasure with- 'BEST INTERESTS'.
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Evaluating utilitarianism


  • Commonsense approach- seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
  • Promotes general happiness.
  • Doesn't support the individual pursuit of pleasure at the expense of minority groups.
  • Can be applied to modern day situations as it takes into consideration the complexity's of human life.
  • Flexible.
  • No need for special wisdom.


  • How do we know/estimate the outcomes of an action?
  • How far in the future do we look?
  • It is hard to be sure of who or when the effects of an action will happen.
  • Pleasure and plain are both subjective and therefore different for everyone.
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Justice and Happiness

The idea of justice and happiness poses a number of issues as they could be seen to go hand in hand.

  • Pleasure for the majority, but what about the minority?- is it just for some peoples happiness to be compromised for the greater good?
  • Is the pursuit of justice as impossible as the pursuit of happiness?
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Questions about pain and pleasure.

Pain and pleasure hold an number of issues when looking at utilitarianism and it's approach to moral decision making processes- they include..

  • It's difficult to measure the extent of both pain and pleasure.
  • Are pleasures equal?
  • Some pain could be seen as beneficial to reach the end goal of happiness- child birth.
  • Pain is natural-death and grief, therefore to remove this pain is not natural.
  • Should the hedonic calculus account for emotion?
  • Happiness is so subjective and differs for everyone- therefore looking the the greatest amount of happiness fore everyone is an impossible task.
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