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

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Introduction

What are the advantages of Utilitarianism? (28 marks) Identify the main problems of Utilitarianism. To what extent do these make Utilitarianism unacceptable? (12 marks) Utilitarianism is a secular ethic; an idea that the moral worth of an action can be determined by its contribution to utility, its contribution to happiness or pleasure as agreed among all persons. The single principle of utilitarianism is "the greatest amount of good, for the greatest number of people". It is teleological as it is based on consequences and not set rules and it relies on egality as it has adopted the principle of " each to count for one and no more". Utilitarianism can be contrasted with deontological ethics (which do not regard the consequences of an act as the sole determinant of its moral worth) and virtue ethics (which focuses on character). To begin with, the theme of democracy is very central to the principal of Utilitarianism. It encourages a democratic approach to decision making, as the majority's rights are considered. This is very much advantageous as any chance of dictatorship is decreased dramatically and more often than not, maximum utility is achieved. Utilitarianism demands consensus as it explains that an action ought only to be done if it brings maximum happiness to all parties affected. ...read more.

Middle

It also stresses that we should not be put off by criticisms as we should act in the confidence that the Consequential Principle is a reasonable method of deciphering between what is right or wrong. Conversely, Rule Utilitarianism considers the overall benefit that will be gained by a society if a particular rule is accepted. Rather than assessing the consequences of an action separately, rule utilitarianism adopts general rules about the types of actions which tend to produce the greatest happiness. I feel that when believing that utilitarianism is advantageous, rule utilitarianism must be considered. This is because it is easy to predict the consequences of everyone following a particular set of rules. Also it does not justify breaking promises, telling lies or more extreme sins such as murder or torture. All of which could be condoned under act utilitarianism, if the circumstance showed that it 'had greater utility on ocassion'. Hence I would conclude that utilitarianism possesses many advantages as a secular ethic. It is democratic (as it considers the rights of the majority), it is fair and just (as it judges each circumstance on its own merit), it is concerned with bringing about human wellbeing (as it is based on consequences and not on set rules) ...read more.

Conclusion

This is because many religious believers would argue that humans have been motivated to endure pain and suffering for something they believe to be right. They might think it is an offence to simply opt for an easy road to happiness and self fulfilment. This theme seems to be consistent throughout the bible: for example Jesus Christ himself endured much pain and sacrifice for his people, the Book of Job shows an innocent man enduring suffering and the case of Joan of Arc demonstrates an experience of pain for the purpose of something more valuable than pleasure. Many believe it is up to God to bring about the best possible outcomes of situations, not humans. And so Utilitarianism would be acceptable to many very religious people. To finally identify the problems of Utilitarianism, many feel that it is an unacceptable theory as: it is very difficult to carry out practically, the theory does not promote goodwill or the actions of morally acceptable intentions, it makes no allowances for personal relationships, it is anti-religious and in a sense taking God's role into human hands. And finally and most dominantly, it is unacceptable as the ideals of a majority ruling could promote acts of sadism and torture, suppressing the rights of a minority. Therefore ultimately, it could see the prevention of justice in society. ?? ?? ?? ?? Paris Fisher- Aziz ...read more.

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