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Give an account of the main characteristics of Utilitarian theory.

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Introduction

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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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.

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