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Examine the strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism

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´╗┐Adaeze Ifeacho Weaknesses and strengths of Utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham, the key philosopher of utilitarianism saw happiness as the ultimate goal of existence, and the only thing desirable. The term utilitarianism is derived from the Latin word ?utils? meaning useful. It is a normative theory concerned with the usefulness of our actions. Whether an action will produce pleasure or diminish pain. The first of many strengths is the fact that, it is based on rational principles. The late 18th and 19th century saw that, morality was not just based with the belief of God. This is a strength because, Bentham used his experience and reasoning to work out how humans ought to behave. Another strength of utilitarianism is the democratic principle. This principle is often known as the common sense approach because, people would rather be happy than miserable. The majority are considered here because; it promotes general happiness and opposes individual pursuit. For example, if everyone is in support of the death penalty, it will have to be passed into the law because, it brings happiness to the majority. ...read more.


Utilitarianism is convenient because, it does not focus on the motive of the action but the results that the action will achieve. If it brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number (the majority) then the decision is morally good. If the murder of a criminal will bring will reduce the burglary incidents in a neighbourhood, thereby bringing happiness to the majority, then it is morally good. However, utilitarianism has its weaknesses so far as the strengths. Philosophers such as J.S.Mill disagree with some of the conclusions. One main problem of this theory is that, pleasure cannot be easily quantified. The hedonic calculus is not as straight forward as it seems. Different pleasures and pains cannot be easily quantified. The pleasure of seeing children grow up into adults cannot be compared with the pleasure of eating a chocolate bar. Likewise, the seven criteria of the hedonic calculus prove to be irrelevant. In addition to that, the prediction of consequences cannot be easily predicted. The main fact is that, human beings are not predictable so does our outcomes of any action. ...read more.


Despite the weaknesses, Utilitarianism has proved popular and useful in the centuries since its original formation. It remains persuasive due to its common sense approach to ethics. ii) Is it justifiable to reject Utilitarianism? The ethical theory so like many others has posed some difficulties. It falls into the naturalistic fallacy because; the theory assumes that goodness and pleasure is the same thing. This is not always the case. Bentham?s theory makes no allowance for personal relationships. If your father and a scientist with a cure for cancer were drowning, the utilitarian response would be to save the scientist. This action is justified if it produces the greatest happiness to the greatest number. Utilitarianism therefore refuses to allow special responsibilities to our loved ones to override our actions which increase the sum total of human happiness, due to its democratic nature. All emotional attachments must be out aside to do the right thing. On purely philosophical grounds, Bentham?s view of human nature is essentially passive: people are ?pushed? about or controlled by the search for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Hence, there are no ?bad? motives or ?moral? deficiencies; there are only bad calculations regarding pleasure and pain. ...read more.

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