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Outline and explain the ethical theory of utilitarianism b) Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism

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Introduction

a) Outline and explain the ethical theory of utilitarianism b) Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism "Nature has placed man under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure" (Jeremy Bentham). Utilitarianism is a Teleological and consequentialist theory whereby it determines that all actions should be judged in terms of their usefulness in promoting the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Jeremy Bentham devised this theory in 1789 and it was later advocated and reinterpreted by John Stuart Mill. Jeremy Bentham lived from 1748-1832 and lived in a time of great social change and demands were being made for a better democracy. In his The Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) he introduced the ethical theory of Utilitarianism and this can be divided into three parts, His view on what drives human beings, the principle of utility and the hedonic calculus, which is a system for measuring how good or bad an action is in terms of its consequence. Bentham promoted that human beings are motivated by pleasure and pain and so are hedonists. This can be derived from his The Principles of Morals and Legislation in which he said, "Nature has placed man under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure". ...read more.

Middle

is morally the right one to follow. Another person who had his on perceptions on utilitarianism was John Stuart Mill. John Stuart Mill lived from 1806 - 1873 and was Jeremy Bentham's God son and his works on ethics were on liberty (1859) and Utilitarianism (1861). Mill advocated that the happiness or well being of an individual was paramount but was concerned about the term pleasure being abused (as in the example of the sadistic guards Williams (1973) pp. 98-99). He thought that if good were just based quantitatively, what would stop one person's pleasure being completely eclipsed by the majority's pleasure from that act? (e.g. gang rape). To challenge this, Mill decided to focus on qualitative pleasure and preferred to refer to happiness rather than pleasure. He devised a system of lower and higher order pleasures in which he preferred higher ones to lower ones, a higher pleasure being intellect and knowledge and a lower one being physical pleasures e.g. sex. He said, "It is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied" This meant that Socrates and the human are better than the fool and pig because they intellectually are higher than ...read more.

Conclusion

and this is where utilitarianism fails to discuss different views on happiness. Also is pain such a bad thing? As we as humans know it is their for a reason, one being to sense injury which would be better for us in the long term as we know we must take care of it. Another weaknesses is its failure to be just. It offers nothing for minorities. There is nothing to stop five men gang raping one woman as their pleasure is worth more and the woman's own pleasure is sacrificed for theirs but we know this act in itself is wrong morally. In conclusion, despite the obvious weaknesses, Utilitarianism has evidently proved popular for a long time. This is due to its strong argument of practicality in real life situations and clear-cut systems it can provide for the modern organisation in decision-making in addition to its overall common sense and logical approach to decision making. However its strongest weaknesses are its failure to address the minority's own pleasure and its failure to consider other views on happiness. This is due to it only providing a general system on pleasure/pain and only pursuing the greatest happiness for the majority. Nevertheless, Utilitarianism will reside as a convictive tool to all parties, organisations and individuals that wish to use it in definitive decision making. ...read more.

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