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

Examine the key ideas of Utilitarianism and to what extent are the strengths outweighed by the weaknesses?

Extracts from this document...


´╗┐Examine the key ideas of Utilitarianism Utilitarianism is a consequentialist, relative, teleological theory that judges an action by whether or not it benefits the majority. Jeremy Bentham is the founder of Utilitarianism. Bentham put forward act utilitarianism, which focuses on trying to create happiness for the majority, otherwise known as universal hedonism. It is also egalitarian, as it treats all individuals as equals. The principle of utility is the greatest pleasure for the greatest number. The theory is consequentialist because it looks at the results an action will produce, and it is anti-legalistic. It does not necessarily follow the laws if they create a barrier between creating the greatest happiness for the greatest number. As Bentham said ?We are governed by two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.? To allow people to follow the theory and apply it to a situation, Bentham created the felicific calculus. The felicific calculus is a quantitative mathematic measure of emotions. Some of the principles of the calculus are duration, extent, purity, fecundity and propinquity. ...read more.


Lastly, Mill also introduced the harm principle. He said that those who wanted to try and reach the maximum amount of pleasure were allowed to, as long as they didn?t cause harm to others. Another developer of Utilitarianism is Hare. Hare put forward preference utilitarianism, which focuses on the preference of individuals so they are not excluded from the situation. There are many reasons why Utilitarianism may be considered a convincing ethical theory; some of these may include the fact that it applies to secular parts of society. This allows non-religious believers to follow a theory that will not interfere with their values. Another reason why Utilitarianism may be considered as a convincing theory is because it is teleological instead of deontological, this allows individuals to make their own decisions. Furthermore, the theory is consequentialist. This allows people to evaluate the outcomes of their actions before committing them, which may prevent greater harm being inflicted upon society. Utilitarianism might also be considered a persuasive ethical theory because it provides followers with a method, the felicific calculus, to apply Utilitarianism in specific situations. ...read more.


His pain is outweighed by their pleasure. This is also another challenge of Utilitarianism. Emotions are not quantitative data; they are too subjective to be measured in a mathematical calculus. Despite the calculus providing individuals with a method to apply utilitarianism in situations, the calculus may be considered too complex for some. This may hinder their decision in a situation, which may result in more damage. Furthermore, the calculus requires the ability to predict the future, which is not possible. This downfall of the calculus outweighs any strengths it might have to offer. To conclude, I believe that to a large extent the reasons I mentioned before, are outweighed by the challenges in Utilitarianism. It is impossible to practically apply the theory when the hedonic calculus is flawed. Moreover, the main foundation of the theory is imprecise. It is idealist to try and create the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest amount of people, however the reason why it has never been achieved is because emotions are too subjective and no one can measure the extent of the theory; therefore the strengths are outweighed by the challenges of the theory. ...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. Marked by a teacher

    The strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism

    In addition, if physical needs were met then surely humans would prefer a higher pleasure. Act utilitarianism was one of Bentham's key ideas of utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism states that when faced with an action, we must first consider the consequences of that action so then we can determine the most happiness from any given situation.

  2. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the teleological, deontological and hybrid systems of ethics ...

    of cloning is wrong, despite the morally wrong action potentially benefiting the majority. Another major weakness of this system is that it is not individualistic and is impersonal. This means when using this system in a 21st century medical issues, one does not consider the patients personal situation, including family, or their religion and culture.

  1. Compare, contrast and evaluate Plato and Mill on the relationship between individual and society

    Children are to be removed from their parents and are not to know who their parents are and visa versa. They are to call all males old enough 'father' and all females 'mother', the purpose of this was to minimise private possessive emotions therefore reinforcing their focus on their relationship with their community.

  2. Why are justice and integrity problematic for utilitarianism?

    The visitor does not actually do this to enhance overall happiness of the patient, but because he feels a sense of duty to do so. Therefore, Stocker argues, that actions may be done for reasons other than for the purpose of aggregate happiness.

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

    Utilitarianism is based purely on human experience which means again it will appeal to more people and it also helps people to understand the aspects of it as they can see the ideas and ways for themselves in the world around them.

  2. Explain how Benthams version of Utilitarianism may be used to decide the right cause ...

    life of the child as they are considered to be innocent, however with Bentham's theory you should do the maximum amount of good for the maximum amount of people, which means you should save the man. By saving the one man you then save thousands, the action of letting the

  1. To what extent are minds private?

    Be that as it may, a critic of this theory may well point out that neurons not seem to be ?about? anything. There are certain qualitative that are unique to the person experiencing them. The problem of Qualia is such an example.

  2. Examine the strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism

    Hannah may decide to lie to protect her friend due to a drug accusation; on the other hand, if she admits the truth to the authorities, it will save her friend from becoming a drug addict. Some critics say that, a strength of Bentham?s theory is the fact that, the hedonic calculus offers us a method for measuring pleasures.

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