AQA AS Utilitarianism

  • Created by: Harriet
  • Created on: 25-03-13 21:23


 The theory of utilitarianism- Jeremy Bentham

The theory of utilitarianism was devised by the english philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). He was born in London an dlived at a time of great scientific and social change. With revolutions in france and American, demands were being made for human rights and greater democracy. betham worked on legal reform and wrote The Principles of Morals and Legislation- 1789, in which he put forward his ethical theory. This can be divided into three parts

  • His view on what drove human beings, and what goodness and badness was all about
  • The principle of utility (Useful), which is his morla rule
  • The hedonic calculus, which is his system for measuring how good or bad a consequence is

The motivation of human beings

  • Bentham states that human beings were motivated by pleasure and pain
  • So therefore he is a Hedonist
  • 'Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure'
  • Believed that human beings pursued pleasure and sought to avoid pain
  • Saw is as a moral fact, as pleasure and pain indentified what we should and shouldnt do
  • Pleasure was the sole good and pain the sole evil

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 happiness casued by the action
  • Hence it is a teleological ethical theory which determines a good act by the ends it brings about
  • The theory is known as the greatest happiness principle, or a theory of usefulness
  • 'An action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number'
  • Where the greatest good is the greatest pleasure/happiness and the least pain/sadness
  • Benthams theory identifies are those with the most pleasure and least pain
  • His theory is democratic, because the pleasure can't be for one person alone
  • When faced with a moral dilemma, Bentham argued that one should choose to act in such a way that brings about the maximum possible happiness for the most people
  • The possible consequences of different possible actions must be measured clearly to established which option generates he most pleasure and the least pain
  • To measure the results, Betham proposed the hedonic calculus

The hedonic calculus

  • Weighs up the pain and pleasure generated by the available moral actions to find the best option.
  • 7 factors- PPI Claims Dont Fregin Exist
  • Propinquity
  • Purity
  • Intensity
  • Certainty
  • Duration
  • Fecundity
  • Extent
  • Considers how strong the pain or pleasure is
  • Whether it is short-lived or life-long
  • How likely there will be pain or pleasure
  • How immediate the apin or pleasure is and how likely it is to lead to more of the same
  • The extent to which there might be a combination of pains and pleasures
  • The number of people affected
  • The balanced of pleasures and pains is compared with those of other options and the best result determined
  • The action that leads to this best consequnce is the morally correct one to pursue

Act utilitarianism


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