• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Advantages and disadvantages of utilitarianism

Extracts from this document...


What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Utilitarianism? "Goodness means the greatest happiness of the greatest number" This claim is the single most important teaching of utilitarianism, as the principle of utility. Utilitarianism is a nineteenth century ethical theory most often attributed to Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. They adopted the principle that goodness is identified by actions, which produce the greatest total pleasure for everyone involved or affected by the consequences. Wrong actions are those, which do not produce the greatest total pleasure for everyone involved. However, it was at this point that Mill made an important change to this 'pleasure principle'. He replaced 'pleasure' with 'happiness' and it is his definition, which has become the commonly adopted principle of Utilitarianism. The principle is a consequentiality theory, which holds that actions are made right or wrong by what happens after the action occurs- the consequences. The principle claims that we should choose the action most likely to bring about the greatest happiness of the greatest number. ...read more.


He claimed: 'it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied'. The fact that the principle of utility can be applied universally, to any situation also works in favour of this ethical theory. As too does the fact that it is relatively straightforward, constantly weighing up happiness and consequences. The Principle encourages a democratic approach in decision-making, which is also seen as an advantage. The majority's interest is always considered and a dangerous minority is not allowed to dominate. However, everyone's happiness is taken into consideration and for this reason it is observed that nobody's happiness is more important than anyone else's. The theory also appeals to theists as its principles are compatible with the teachings of Jesus, who preached an ethic of love, requiring men to work for the well being of others. 'Do to others as you would have them do to you'. ...read more.


However, we cannot solve every dilemma by reference to one ethical theory because every situation is unique in some way. Furthermore, values such as justice have no relevance, as the majority may not support that view and not every action done out of good will is going to result in good consequences. The theory also makes no allowance for personal relationships, for example if a man's wife were dying in a fire, reason would not tell him not to rescue a scientist with a cure for cancer first but his wife would be his first priority. We have duties to those whom we love which will always be more important to us than duties to a society we do not know. The amount of critics as opposed to supporters seem to suggest that there are a number of flaws in the principle of utility which have failed to be addressed in future developments of the theory. In principle the theory does appear to be practical, however, in reality it is debatable whether it would be a workable ethic. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Political Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Political Philosophy essays

  1. What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Utilitarianism?

    and extent of the pleasure. It would therefore be theoretically possible to calculate whom it was morally right to rescue first from a fire; a child, a pregnant woman, an old man or a scientist who possesses the formula for the ultimate cure for cancer.

  2. Explain Bentham's version of Utilitarianism.

    For example, if a man with the cure for a disease, which affects thousands of people, a year and a child was in a car crash, one would assume to save the life of a child as they are considered to be innocent and helpless, however Bentham states that you

  1. Notes on John Stuart Mill's On Liberty

    Time and energy prohibit me from providing a synopsis at this time. I will, however, provide the following brilliant quote from the second chapter of On Liberty. If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be in silencing mankind.

  2. What exactly is Weber's Protestant Ethic Thesis?

    His insistence that salvation was by God's grace and that no good deeds or sacraments could influence God, (along with other challenges to Catholicism) led to the establishment of Protestant Churches. Their approach to the issue of salvation was based on the theory of predestination - only an elect will

  1. What are the main features of utilitarianism as an ethical theory (10) Examine and ...

    information from someone who is ill, for fear of causing them harm. So far I have considered Bentham and Mill, who believed in 'act' and 'rule' utilitarianism. There is however another from that can be termed 'preference' utilitarianism, this was argued for by R M Hare his book 'The Language

  2. ExplainJ.S. Mills version of utilitarianism.

    Mill came up with the idea of strong and weak rules, the strong rules are the general rules that in principle can never be broken and the weak rules take into account the pleasure or plain involved in a situation that take preference over a general rule, taking the example

  1. What are the advantages of utilitarianism?

    The result (the greatest pleasure for the greatest number) is altruistic, happiness and pleasure being an ultimate common goal in a person's life. The degree of simplicity of the theory appeals, as it is a commonsense system that can be practically applied to real-life situations and has no need for a special wisdom.

  2. Devolved power has all the advantages of unitary systems but none of the disadvantages ...

    Prior to devolution in Scotland, the introduction of the poll tax, indicates that testing policies does not work so well in a unitary system, due to the physical distance of the policy initiators and also the unpopularity of the law.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work