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

Give an account of the main characteristics of Utilitarian theory.

Extracts from this document...


Transfer-Encoding: chunked Give an account of the main characteristics of Utilitarian theory. [35] Utilitarianism is an ethical theory based upon the utility principle: the moral decision is the decision that brings, ?the greatest happiness of the greatest number.? It is both teleological and consequentialist. Theories that are interested in ends are teleological, meaning the end does justify the means. You decide the rightness of an action by the end it produces. Stealing or lying is right if it leads to a better situation afterwards ? the lie that saves a life; the theft that prevents a person from starving. Consequentialism means judging the rightness or wrongness of actions is based on our assessment of the consequences of our actions. This means we can only judge whether we have done good or bad after the event has taken place. In examining utilitarianism, a good place to start is the views of Bentham. The English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham first formalised the ?theory of utility?. ...read more.


The theory can be applied to large groups as well as individuals. He wrote, ?if that party be the community in general, the happiness of the community: if a particular individual, then the happiness of that individual." Bentham was an atheist, and therefore his theory has proven popular in the secular world because it does not draw upon divine guidance. Moving on, another key figure is John Stuart Mill who proposed Rule Utilitarianism. This is a theory which takes in to account the results of obedience of certain rules of conduct. This idea was formulated because it was recognised that you need to have general principles to live by in order to secure the greater happiness of the majority in the long term. For example: telling a lie may produce happiness for the individual in the short term, but unless the principle of truthfulness is obeyed in society, they no one would be able to trust anyone, thus hampering the overall happiness of society. ...read more.


In answer to this question, Mill produced the harm principle ? the only time the liberty of another person can be interfered with is to prevent harm to others. Another form of utilitarianism is Preference Utilitarianism. This was developed by R.M. Hare in his book, The Language of Morals (1973). This view takes into account the preferences of those involved and the motives they have for acting in a particular way. The preferences of individuals are taken in to consideration except when they come in to direct conflict with the preferences of others. So the key is to do the thing that will be to the satisfaction of as many as possible ? maximising the satisfaction of the preferences of all involved. Thus this idea allows you to get around the difficulty of imposing one idea of happiness on someone who might have a very different idea of happiness. This can be applied to euthanasia. ...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. What are the Main Features of Utilitarianism as an Ethical Theory?

    Utilitarianism tends to compliment a secular society as many of us have wants and desires. Utilitarianism caters for the fact that our well-being relates to satisfaction of wants and desires and agrees that it is aright to be hedonistic but we should avoid blatant selfishness.

  2. RE euthanasia for and against

    Believers of pro choice support this view as it has a trigger effect that allows you make your own decision (that you have previously written) when the time comes. If going by this, then euthanasia can be legalised because people can decide for themselves way in advance.

  1. Explain the importance of good will in Kant's ethical theory.

    If euthanasia were good, it should be the duty of everyone, at least everyone in that situation. But euthanasia can not be a universal duty, and therefore, it can not be a good duty, and therefore, lacks moral value. Kant says that actions should be based on what is good.

  2. Utilitarianism.After Bentham had established that pleasure and pain were the important factors in determining ...

    If I were an act utilitarian I would believe that anything should be done to achieve the "greatest happiness for the greatest number", even if meant lying or even breaking a law. According to act utilitarianism, when determining whether an action is right, it is the value of the consequences of a particular act that counts.

  1. I will be discussing John Stewart Mill theory on utilitarianism. Then I will point ...

    How are we to decide which would be the most morally right action? We should look at what the state of the world would be after each action. Then look at the level of happiness of each person in the various situations.

  2. Give an account of Kants theory of ethics.

    [17] As I wrote above, Kant's theory is a theory, which he believed to be universifiable. Placing this is the context of abortion would be difficult to universalise to a range of differing situations. For example, if a woman was raped and this lead to her being pregnant then she may want to terminate the baby.

  1. Ethical Criticism of McDonalds

    Despite the obvious global success of McDonald's, it reported a loss in 2002 for the first time since the 50s and experienced the rare phenomenon of some outlets closing. For example, in October, 'pre tax profits slumped from �83.8 million to �23.6 million' (Sweeney, 2004).

  2. Evaluate a Utilitarian approach to Abortion.

    Mill developed Bentham?s theory by emphasising that it is not the quantity of pleasure, but the quality of happiness that is central to utilitarianism and the issue of abortion. He argued that Bentham?s hedonic calculus is unreasonable because qualities cannot be quantified.

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