A summary of utilitarianism

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Teleological and Deontological Theories

Deontological theories concentrate on actions

Telelogical thinks believe that the end justifies the means

Utilitarianism is a teleological theory

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Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham divised the utiltarian theory.

Human beings are motivated by pleasure and pain

All humans pursue pleasure, which is good and seek to avoid pain, which is bad

The utility principle: the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its 'utility' or usefulness.

Usefulness refers to the amount pleasure or happiness caused by the action

' An action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest numbe'

The hedonic calculus weights up pain and pleasure based on intesity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, propinquity or remoteness, fecundity, purity and extent

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John Stuart Mill

The well being of the individual is of greatest importance, and that happiness is most effectively gained when individuals are free to pursue their own ends, subject to rules that protect the common good of all

Focused on qualitative pleasure - some pleasures are higher (mind) and other pleasures are lower (body)

' It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.'

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Act Utilitarianism

Closely associated with Jeremy Bentham

Act utilitarians maintain that the good action is the one that leads to the greatest good in a particular situation

Act utilitarianism is flexible, being able to take into account individual situations at a given moment

However it has the potential to justify virtually any act

It may be impratical to suggest that we should measure each moral choice every time

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Rule Utilitarianism

Closely associated with John Stuart Mill

Rule utilitarians establish the best overall rule by determining the course of action which, when pursued by the whole community, leads to the greatest result

Rule utilitarianism overcomes some of the difficulties encountered in act utilitarianism

However it may still permit certain pratices such as slavery, that appear to be morally unacceptable because minority interests are not protected

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Strong and Weak Rule Utilitarianism

Strong Utilitarianism:

The rules should never be broke, irrespective of the situation.

Actions are right and wrong, no matter what

Weak Utilitarianism :

The rules should be maintained but if there is a need to put the rules to onse side, in exceptional circumstances, then this is acceptable

Exceptions where not following the rule will bring about the greatest happiness

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Modern Utilitarianism

Preference Utilitarianism:

Takes into account the preferences of the individuals involved

R.M. Hare:

It is important to take into account, the preferences of individuals involved, except where those preferences come into direct conflict with the preferences of others

Right thing to do is maximise the chances that everyone's preference will be satisfied

So impose one idea of happiness on someone who might have a very different one

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Evaluating Utilitarianism

It is reasonable to link moralitly with the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of pain and misery

It is natural to consider the consequences of our actions when deciding what to do

Utilitarianism offers democratic morality that promotes general happiness and opposed individual pursuits

It is a commonsenes system that doesn't require special wisdom

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Difficulties with Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism relies on knowledge of consequences, but predictions may be mistaken or not apparent until years into the future

It is difficult to quanitfy pleasure

Some pain is good for us and some pleasure may be bad

The problem of justice: utilitarianism doesn't set out how that pleasure is distrubuted

Utilitarianism fails to consider different views on what happiness is

Utilitarianism has proved popular and useful in the centures since its original formation, with updated versions suggested by Henry Sidgwick and Peter Singer

Utilitarianism reamins persuasive due to its pratical dimension, which provides organisations with clear cut systems for making decisions

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