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How can Bentham's Utilitarianism be used to decide the right course of action?

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´╗┐Georgina Macaulay How can Bentham?s Utilitarianism be used to decide the right course of action? Jeremy Bentham was an English philosopher born in 1748. He influenced the idea of utilitarianism, which is the teleological theory of ethics looking at the consequences and results of an action to decide whether an action is right or wrong and is a consequentialist theory. Utilitarian?s were social reformers and utilitarianism got its name from the question ?What is the use of it. Bentham came up with this idea when he came across ?the greatest happiness for the greatest number?. Bentham defined happiness as ?the sum of pleasures and pains? and his philosophy is known as utilitarianism due to its emphasis on the utility of acts consequences. Good is defined in terms of happiness; an act is right or wrong according to the good or bad that results from an act. ?Happyism? would?ve been a better name as this utility is seen as a contribution to happiness. ...read more.


Nature has placed us under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. An act is right if it delivers more pleasure than pain and wrong if it brings about more pain than pleasure. By adding up the amounts of pleasure and pain for each possible act we should be able to choose the good thing to do. Bentham argued that we should be guided by the principle of utility; not by rules. However, it may be necessary to use rules based on past experience, especially if there is no time to work out the consequences. An example of when Act Utilitarianism could be used to decide the best course of action would be when a group of 4 friends are choosing where to go on holiday. If, for example, three out of the four people wanted to go to Spain but the fourth person wanted to go to France, the logical choice would be to go to Spain. ...read more.


The hedonic calculus gave Bentham a method of testing whether an action is morally right or wrong and placed a numerical value on the outcome meaning whatever is good or bad can be measured in a quantitative way. This might seem a mathematical and numerical way to measure pleasure, however it has been said that Bentham's version of Utilitarianism can be used to justify horrific acts such as torture or murder. According to utilitarianism, euthanasia would be right as the suffering and pain is taken away so the individual doesn't have to suffer and neither does the family members. Euthanasia can also be measured by the hedonic calculus. When taking someone off a life machine. It will save money for the health care service. However, if they are kept on for longer, there would be unnecessary suffering for the family and also the person and money could otherwise be spent elsewhere, so therefore this is better for society overall. The Hedonic calculus is all about measuring pain and pleasure that is caused from an action; it is not always useful though because sometimes people do not spend time calculating consequences properly. ...read more.

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