- End justifies the means
- All about consequences
- Qualities such as love and kindness are not intrinsically good they're only good because they have good consequences.
- E.g. Stealing food for a starving family is okay
- Moral rules cannot be broken
- Duty to do what is right even if they have unfavourable consequences
- Couldnt life even if it would prevent a death
Main Scholar: Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
Book- The Principles of Morals and Legislation
Quotes- Nature has placed mankind under 2 sovereign masters, pain and pleasure'
3 main parts of Act Utilitarianism-
- Motivation of human beings
- Hedonic Calculus
- The principle of utility
The Motivation of Human Beings
Human beings are motivated by pleasure and pain
He's called a hedonist which means he is someone in the persuit of happiness.
'Nature has placed mankind under the governence of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasur . It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as determine what we shall do'
He saw all of this as moral fact as hey identifiy what we should/shouldnt do. He believed that all human beings pursued pleasure and sought to fight pain.
The Principle of Utility
The rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its 'utility' or 'usefulness'.
Usefulness refers to the amount of pleasure or hapiness caused by the action.
'An action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number'
The theory is democratic theory as pthe pleasure cant be for one person
When faced with a moral dilemma, Bentham argued that one should act in such a way that brings about the maximum possible happiness for the most people. However, the consequences must be measured clearly to establish what option brings most pleausre and most pain. To meausure, he proposed the hedonic calculus
The Hedonic Calculus
The hedonic calculus weighs up the pain and pleasure generated by the avaliable moral actions to find the best option. It ways up 7 factors:
Purity- The chance of it not being followed by pain
Remoteness- How immediate is the pleasure. Remote= Far away
Richness- Will it lead to further happiness
Intensity- How strong is the pleasure
Certainty- How sure are you that the action will produce pleasure
Extent- How many people are affected by pleasure
Duration- How long will it last
'Sum up all the values of the pleasures on one side, and those of all the pains on the other. The balance, if it be on the side of pelasure, will give the good tendency of the act upon the whole, with respect to the interests of that individual person; if on the side of pain, the bad tendency of it upon the whole.'
Strengths of Act Utilitarianism
- Bentham is not against moral rules rather he created the principle of utility as a method of social reform. It is a way of testing a law or legal maxim for its utility for human kind. It if does not meet the goals of a human then Bentham aruged the law should be changed.
- It is intuitively correct because common sense dictates that all situations are not identical and sometimes a different approach is needed
- It seeks to maximise a human goal its basis is therefore, grounded in humanity and does not seek authority from another source.
- It is democratic and balanced argument where the majority view is considered
- It rejects selfish persuits. Its all about the majority
- It takes into account cultural diversity- each culture is allowed to operate equally and in parallel without one being considered more superior than the other
- Its always wise to consider the consequences of our actions
- Morality and the pursiut of happiness= logical
- Its a simple rule and can be applied easily to all moral situations
Weaknesses of Act Utilitarianism
- There is the potential to justify any action
- It is quantitive rather than qualitive in natue. How much pleasure rather than the quality of that pleasure
- The scottish philosopher MacIntyre argues that Utilitarianism promotes happiness whilst forgetting about justice. He argues that Utilitarianism can be used to justify the Nazi policy of the extermination of the Jews
- It does not treat everyone equally in a true sense of equality. They are only equal in that their vote matters
- It is impractical to suggest that we have the time to deliberate and apply the calclus every situation we come across especially as we may not have the full information
Summary of Argument-
Believed quality is more important that quantity
Focus' on general rules that everyone should follow to bring about the greatest good for the community
Higher and lower pleasures- higher pleaures were qualitevely better and more important than lower pleasures.
'It is better to be aa human dissatisfied than a big sattisfied, better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied'
Pleasures of the mind are higher than those of the body
We must obey the rule even if it doesnt lead to the greatest pleasure for me it does for others. E.g. we must always drive on the left side of the road even if in a traffic jam because if everyone acts this way it will create the greatest good.
Rule Utilitarianism- John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
Main book: Utilitarianism (1861)
Quotes: 'It is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied, better to be a socrates disatisfied than a food satisfied' - more important to be intelligable and reasonable than something that is satisifed.
Perter Singers - Practical Ethics
Perference or best consequences means what furthers the best interests of those affected, rather than what creates most pleasure and least pain.
What matters is the satisfaction of all affected individuals interests
An individual cannot be sacrificed for others, as their interest must be resepected as much as everyone elses
Prefeence utilitarianism maximies the satisfaction of peoples preferences
People should deliberate on the general princples of how they should live, rather than consider each situation at a tmie.