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

Critically discuss utilitarianism

Extracts from this document...


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.

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 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 Philosophy essays

  1. Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is an unfair system of ethics which could not work in the ...

    When faces with a moral choice, I must decide what action will lead to the greatest good in this particular situation. When faced with a moral choice, I must decide what action will lead to the greatest good in this particular situation.

  2. Utilitarianism. Identify the main problems of Utilitarianism. To what extent do these make ...

    The other problem with this is the fact that desires can change or be altered and manipulated. Mills says that when referring to higher and lower pleasure we should naturally choice the higher pleasure as this is what we have been taught throughout our lives.

  1. Science Solves All The Problems About Where We Come From Discuss

    Feelings such as lust and hunger have been passed down through evolution as those who eat more are more likely to survive and those who have sex more are more likely to pass on their characteristics in their genes. Even favour of high status, he claims, can be pin-pointed to

  2. Nietzsche and Mill on Conventional Morality

    However what Nietzsche fails to realise is that whilst in the first instance it is the subject that dictates the predicate, in the second it is the predicate that dictates the subject.

  1. Assess Utilitarianism

    However, he doesn't specify what pleasures are higher and what pleasures are lower, so it's hard to put this into practice. He does, however, make the point that intellectual pleasures are higher than those of the body. This, unfortunately, makes the theory rather elitist (much like Plato's and Aristotle's ideas

  2. Should the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Be Opened to Oil Drilling?

    as it improves the environment and protects the earth's climate, it is fully secure and already delivered to customers, immune to foreign potentates and volatile markets, rapidly and equitably deployable in the market, and supports jobs all across the US.

  1. Sartre is a very strong proponent of strong determinism, that is, he does not ...

    Another issue to discuss it the concept of our mental world being constrained by our will. This would seem a troublesome idea, especially for someone like Sartre. There seem to be countless instances where the mind wanders somewhere we do not want it to, experiences emotions we find undesirable, and

  2. Since utilitarians hold that justice can be subordinated to overall utility, utilitarianism is morally ...

    In teleological theories such as utilitarianism, the theory of the good is determined first, and then the theory of the right is derived from this as the method for maximising the good. Rawls suggests that this way of approaching morality is very rational: ?it is tempting to suppose that it

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