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

Describe the main strengths and weaknesses of Utilitarianism

Extracts from this document...


Describe the main strengths and weaknesses of Utilitarianism Strengths * Utilitarianism is simple. It doesn't have a lot of complex rules, but instead the individual can decide would be the 'best', by how it affects others. * It is flexible: no law or principle is unchallengeable. * It allows for circumstance, so you can decide what is the best thing to do given the current circumstance. * It ties in with the Christian ethic of unconditional love, as preached by Jesus. * If someone believes that both lying and breaking promises are acts that are intrinsically wrong, utilitarianism provides a principled way in which they can choose which moral rule to break if forced to make a choice between them. * The emphasis on impartiality, unselfishness and altruism is to be commended. * There is no need to consider precedents as absolute - just because one action worked for someone does not mean that it must be enforced again, when it may not work for someone else. ...read more.


Some would claim that utilitarians are simply idealistic and unrealistic because they do not accurately evaluate human behaviour and just assume we are all perfect, caring equally for everyone. * It is impossible to be certain about a consequence, which is a general problem with teleological ethics. * It is very difficult to measure pleasure given by any outcome. It will take a great deal of time, thought and study, considering effects on both people and the situation. * Can we compare one person's happiness to another person's happiness? * If only the total happiness counts, imagine these two situations: [A] 80% population live very well and are very happy because the other 20% are their slaves. [B] There are no slaves and everyone is happy but not as happy as the 80% in situation A. The total and average happiness in both situations is the same, therefore to a utilitarian there is no difference between the two, and both are equally morally right, but slavery is considered wrong. ...read more.


* Rule utilitarianism may just be act utilitarianism in disguise: all the rules are focussed around the maximisation of happiness. Rule utilitarians believe that the best way to maximise happiness is to maximise happiness with every act- but this is just act utilitarianism. * Human rights, justices, and other such values may not have any place in a utilitarian ethical system if the wishes of the majority override them. * Christians, Muslims, and others of religious faith would argue that god decides what is rights, and what is the best outcome; it is not four humans to try to calculate. * Utilitarianism ignores 'meaning well' - benevolent motives. * Utilitarianism "seems to require more of a human that many are capable of providing" * Just as there are no absolutes for determining acts which are intrinsically wrong, there is also no way to define what is universally good. * There must be sufficient account taken of the minority view - the majority are not always right, even though the satisfaction of their wishes might create the most happiness. ...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 Practical Questions 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 Practical Questions essays

  1. Examine the Strengths and Weaknesses of Kants Ethical Theory

    in a critical situation I can let my emotions take over me, and therefore end up making some really brainless decision which is not based on wisdom. However, many people oppose Kant's theory, and exploit its weaknesses. A key weakness being its in-flexibility.

  2. What are the Main Features of Utilitarianism as an Ethical Theory?

    possible that our actions will produce circumstances that we do not like and will cause a greater deal of pain than good. As a utilitarian, if your actions have dire consequences then you will, and would not, have nothing to fall back on and no absolute way of vindicating your actions.

  1. What is Natural Moral Law? What are the strengths and weaknesses of NML?

    For example, a woman has the potential to have lots of babies; however, she also has a brain and thus has the potential to have a successful career.

  2. Outline and explain the ethical theory of utilitarianism b) ...

    followed by other pleasures, or pains by other pains), its purity (or how likely the pleasure is of being followed by pain) and its extent (or how many people will be affected by the pleasure). To sum up, the action that leads to the best consequence (i.e.

  1. Analyse and explain the strengths and weaknesses of deontology

    However, this can be seen as a great strength of Kant's theory as by relying on logic it is technically incontestable, and therefore more convincing than those which rely on unverifiable eschatological claims which depend largely on faith. I would contest the idea that Kant hinges his theory on; that his claims are based on logic alone.

  2. Examine the key features of utilitarianism and its strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism

    that pleasures are not all of equal value, and that he took human nature into account. Mill distinguished that there were two forms of pleasure, higher pleasures and lower pleasures. "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied, better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied".

  1. `Always tell the truth and Always keep your promises' Kant's Categorical Imperative.

    The two principle questions we must ask ourselves when constructing our own moral code or set of maxims are: (i) Would it make sense for others to act in this way?

  2. Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Kantian Ethics.

    Suppose that everyone were to adopt the principle of promising falsely: since there would then be much false promising, trust would be destroyed and many would find that they could not get their false promises accepted, contrary to the theory of universal agreement of the principle of false promising.

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