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Critically discuss utilitarianism

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Philosophy Critically discuss utilitarianism Utilitarianism is a consequentialist moral theory developed by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill in the 19th century. This theory means that actions are judged according to their consequences not the actual action itself. A utilitarian tries to produce consequences from actions that maximise utility, otherwise known as happiness. A utilitarian tries to act for the greatest good and for as many people as possible and every person affected by whatever the utilitarian does is counted equally. No one can have extra consideration at all not even yourself. In all cases of Utilitarianism utility is sort to be maximised but different Utilitarians have different ideas on what utility should be maximised. Bentham said that any sort of pleasure should be maximised and this would bring about the best consequences where as Mill said happiness should be maximised. Mill defined happiness as contentment or satisfactory in ones self and this also included fulfilling your potential and your autonomy. Other utilitarians like GE Moore are ideal utilitarians and believe that maximising pleasure and happiness is just not enough. ...read more.


In society there is a rule "do not tell lies" and this rule usually has good consequences and maximises utility so the utilitarian would follow it. There is also another type of utilitarianism called negative utilitarianism. Rather than maximising utility/happiness this was about MINIMISING unhappiness. However, to wipe out all unhappiness the answer is to kill everybody on the Earth in a painless way and this theory is considered as unacceptable and as a consequence negative utilitarianism has fallen out of favour. People would be in favour of utilitarianism due to it's thoughts of concequence. It seems unethical to not think of the consequences when actions occur especially in important decisions. Utilitarianism also gives a set of principles, or morals, people can follow to make the world a better place and provides guidance when other deontological principles do not. E.g. when considering building a power station next to a river/forest a utilitarian would think of the consequences of doing this rather than considering JUST the action. The morals utilitarianism also bring about would prevent the power plant from being built as wildlife and the environment would be badly damaged and this is because utilitarians follow acts/rules which are morally correct. ...read more.


Justice is also tainted in utilitarianism e.g. a person speeding may get a lengthy jail sentence and fine if the utility is maximised by putting people off doing it again but this isn't just according to the crime committed Advocates of utilitarianism respond to these points in support of utilitarianism. They say that we can weigh up the foreseen consequences to something and therefore come to an informed decision. Utilitarians also believe that if things have good consequences then virtues and values do not matter. Justice to the extreme, they believe, would only be done in extreme cases. If something did have an amazing effect then it would be done but otherwise it wouldn't. In conclusion utilitarianism is based purely on consequences to actions. The actions carried out themselves do not have anything to do with them. There are problems with utilitarianism e.g. the justice system and the factors which sometimes cannot be acknowledged but there are also benefits being the fact utility/happiness is always the factor trying to be increased and this usually works out for the greater good. There are many different utilities brought forward to the utilitarian way of thinking and the act and rule difference also gives a different view point to a utilitarian way of thinking. Laura Williams ...read more.

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