Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is a teleological ethical theory concerned with producing the "greatest happiness for the greatest number", a maxim originally coined by Frances Hutchenson and developed further by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism has shown itself to stand the test of time with more recent variations of the theory developed even further by contemporary scholars including Karl Popper and Peter Singer.

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  • Created by: Haleema
  • Created on: 09-05-14 23:25

Introduction

Utilitarianism is a teleological ethical theory concerned with producing the "greatest happiness for the greatest number", a maxim originally coined by Frances Hutcheson and developed further by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism has show itself to stand the test of time with more recent variations of the theory developed even further by contemporary scholars such as Karl Popper and Peter Singer.

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Considering the social situations Bentham developed Utilitarianism. Society wanted a clear explanation of everything and there were high demands on human rights. Bentham thought that there were too many options to base what morality is, e.g. the Bible, Conscience, so created an ethical system; which would provide a secure base for ethical behaviour. Actions are measured wthether they make the maximisation of pleasure and minimisation of pain. The Hedonic Calculus was produced to measure this. Bentham though he had taken a simple and scientific approach to morality and law.

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The principle of utility defines whether each action you take is morally right or wrong determining on whether they produce happiness or pain. The first stage is to recognise what is pain and pleasure for humans. The second stage is to know what the outcome of the action will be, and to see if it produces pain or pleasure. The third stage is to equate good with pleasure and evil with pain. The final stage is to see if pain and pleasure are both capable with being measured.

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John Stuart Mill introduced a new version of the principle of utility. Mill thought pain and pleasure were too base and substitued pleasure for happiness. Mill looked at the quality of happiness rather than quantity. Mill accepted the principle of utility but was concerned with the example of the sadisitc guard who tortures an innocent man. If the sadistic guard gained more pleasure in torturing this man, would it make this situation right? For Bentham happiness was seen as the ulitmate reward so this situation would be seen as acceptable but Mill disagreed. Both Bentham and Mill saw happiness as the intrinsic good however Mill thought cultural and spirtual pleasures were more signifcant.

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There are five different types of Utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism is assessing an action on its own merit detemining whether it produces the most happiness. Rule utilitarianism is having some general rules which can be applied to the majority in similar situations. Preference utilitarianism is fulfilling a person's own preferences. Negative utilitarianism is emphasising on reducing pain.

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