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Extended Essay on Bentham's Utilitarianism.

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Introduction

Extended Essay on Bentham's Utilitarianism 1) Outline the main features of Bentham's guide to making moral decisions. Bentham's type of Utilitarianism is Act Utilitarianism and he is hedonistic. The definitive feature of his theory is that each individual action is judged to be good (or bad) purely on the maximum (or minimum) amount of pleasure over pain the action produces. Hence being Act Utilitarianism. Also quantitive theory is a main aspect. Bentham's primary concern was with the amount of pleasure produced; rules and laws are of secondary importance. The Hedonic Calculus is the major factor that guides an individual to making moral decisions in Bentham's eyes. It is a moral theory that promotes pleasure over pain and has seven criteria; o Intensity o Duration o Certainty o Extent o Remoteness o Richness o Purity These criteria would be taken into consideration when making a moral decision which could have an effect on the happiness or pleasure of people in a community. ...read more.

Middle

"It was inevitable that Bentham's ideas would be considered inadequate by religious believers and especially by later Utilitarians. His ethical theory had to be suspended." Critically examine this view. There are clearly problems with utilitarianism in the Hedonic form and John Stuart Mill aimed to rectify these problems. He builds on Bentham's work, but believes there are structural problems with the theory. A major flaw with Bentham's work was that pleasure was quantitive. This is faulty because it will just lead to over indulgence and people may not pay attention to the more important things in life. Mill moves away from this into a new structure where happiness is qualitative. Mill wants us to make judgments as to the quality of one thing over another. Even if one may bring less pleasure than another it is a good thing as it is a higher quality pleasure and therefore more noble and of greater value. ...read more.

Conclusion

Act utilitarianism provides a flaw. People can make misjudgments with relation to pleasure and people are unable to predict the medium and long term consequences of their outcomes. Mill replaces act utilitarianism with rule utilitarianism, in that a utilitarian principle can lead to the framing of general rules, these may be broken in exceptional circumstances. In answer to how religious believers would feel Bentham's theory to be inadequate, I would say that some of his theory goes against traditional Christian morality. In calculating the happiness to be achieved, it does not appreciate the value of self-sacrifice, which features highly in traditional Christian morality. Mill attempts to counter this and tries to link his theory into Jesus' teachings, by claiming that to love your neighbour as yourself comprises 'the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality'. Secondly he gives a positive role to self-sacrifice. In conclusion, there are many flaws in Bentham's original utilitarian theory. However some very good foundations have been laid which enabled Mill to build upon the theory. For religious believers, I feel there are not to many inadequacies, and where there is, Mill sufficiently deals with them. ...read more.

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