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"Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness."

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Terence Landman Monday 22 August 5pm Student Number: I.T.P. Essay. Term 3 605L2621 "Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness" In this academic essay there will be an in depth look at the words of Mill, in terms of actions and their labels of either right and wrong, and those connotations to happiness and, so to speak the reverse of happiness. There will be an attempt through various different channels, to illustrate the absurdity of utilitarianism, in the sense of its mere provisional assessment of promoting happiness. Furthermore this essay will also emphasize the fact that happiness is subjective and the ripple effects this would have on the utilitarian theory. Lastly this essay will deal with the complications utilitarianism might have on an individual's fundamental rights and the fact that though it is sometimes our duty, in terms of moral 'rights' to act in accordance to a utilitarian, this doesn't mean that we need adopt the principle or be forced to always adhere to its policies. In chapter two, 'What Utilitarianism is', Mill makes the statement and claim that morality is based on the foundations that the right thing to do on any occasion is that which aims to give the maximum happiness for all concerned: "... ...read more.


In accordance to this offshoot of utilitarianism, the rule utilitarian would object by saying that killing the cancer patient might very well result in less happiness, and that one should rather adhere to the set of rules that have been established i.e. Thou shall not kill, because this will lead to the general greater happiness. Though this may seem a plausible and sound response, why are we bound or obliged to follow a rule/rules, even in a situation that will result in less happiness? It would be ridiculous to insist that we tell the truth to a serial killer who demands to know where one's children are hiding, even if the truth does, in general lead to increased happiness (The Philosophy Gym, Stephen Law, 185) Surely it would be wrong to tell the truth under these circumstances? The utilitarian may create a counter example to the idea that we all have a fundamental right to life (this was discussed a little earlier) and in doing so they may believe that it shows that this would even create happiness to the utmost, with the least drawbacks: "You know that a submarine crew is, due to an equipment malfunction, unwittingly about to launch a nuclear strike that will result in the deaths of millions of innocent people. ...read more.


Is the potential suffering of both the child and parents, due to the handicap, such that the child's birth does not add to the sum of happiness? And possibly even more important than the previous question, who can possibly objectively make such an assessment? (Teach yourself Philosophy, Mel Thompson, p150) Therefore in concluding we cannot place moral value on the amount of happiness an action creates, because we are incapable as human beings to make that calculation and determine the happiness or unhappiness an action creates. Furthermore utilitarianism has overlooked the possibility that happiness may be subjective and that other people may not want what you deem to be their happiness. And lastly it is clear that human beings are packaged with some intrinsic human rights, such as the right to life, and though sometimes it's our duty to forego these rights, such as in the example of the submarine, this does not require that one adopt the principle that one should always do so. It is then with this that we can deduce that actions are not right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness and wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness, but rather a culmination of various different factors, both seen and unseen. ...read more.

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