- The promotion of good consequences
- Actions are judged according to the results they achieve
- Often considered to be the most used ethical theory in 'common sense' decision making
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- Lived at a time of great social and scientific change
- Industrial revolution
- people began to realise that the people at the top of the hierachy arent always right (Divine command)
- Act Utilitarianism - no rules bu makes the best decision for each situation based on the principle of utility. This may mean doing immoral things for a greater good
- Humans are motivated by pleasure and pain (Hedonism - pursuit of pleasure)
- Humans pursue pleasure and avoid pain
- Pleasure and pain are useful guides to tell us what we should or should not do
- An action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number
- Principle of utility - usefullness= the amount of pleasure caused by an action
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- Composed of seven 'tests' with with to asses the utility of actions:
- Chances of the same effects being repeated
- Chances of the same effect not being repeated
- Number of people affects
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John Stuart Mill
- Rule Utilitarianism - focuses on general rules that everyone should follow for the greater good of the community. This means that you might have to obeya rule for the greater good of the community even if doing so has a negative effect on me.
- Accepted the notion of the 'greatest good for greatest number'
- Was worried about the 'sadistic guards' who would gain pleasure out of torturing a wrongly imprisoned innocent man which under Bentham's theory would be justified
- The individual needed to be considered when making ethical deicsions.
- Focused on the quality of pleasure rather than the quantity
- Higher pleasures (intellectual pursuits such as art)
- Lower pleasures (physical pursuits such as food)
- "it is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied"
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- Reasonable to link morality with the persuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain
- Common sense to consider the consequences of an action
- Flexible and takes account of every situation
- Can be applied to real situations
- Greatest number is important
- Offers a balanced and democratic moral system that promotes welfare and happiness for everyone
- Popular theory that is still used today (Peter Singer)
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- You cannot predict the consequences
- Too time consuming and impractical
- How do you measure pleasure?
- Any action can be justified
- Only consequences matter - what about emotions or actions?
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Strengths of Mill's Development
- There is already rules that benefit everyone
- You dont have to assess every situation with the Hedonic Calculus so it is more practical
- Seperates higher and lower order pleasures (people know to aim for higher)
- Appeals to common sense
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Weaknesses of Mill's Developments
- Mill didnt clearly define the difference between higher and lower pleasures
- Higher pleasure wont be the same for different people in different situations
- Cant predict that the consequences will always be the same
- How do you measure happiness?
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Quotes to remember...
- To be a utilitarian means that you judge actions as right or wrong in accordance with whether they have good consequences. So you try to do what will have the best consequences for all those affected - Peter Singer
- Better to be a human dissatisfied rather than being a pig satisfied.
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