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

The strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

(i) What are the main advantages of utilitarianism? (21 marks) (ii) Identify the main problems of utilitarianism. To what extent do these make utilitarianism unacceptable? (9) Utilitarianism was developed by Jeremy Bentham and is a modern form of the hedonistic ethical theory which teaches that the end of human conduct is happiness, and that consequently the discrimination norm which distinguishes conduct into right and wrong pleasure and pain. The aforementioned Bentham lived in era of great social and scientific change and unrest. He therefore, because of his social surroundings developed a theory that stated that right actions are those who produce the most pleasure for everyone affected and wrong actions consequently are those who do not. He coined the phrase "the greatest good for the greatest number" which summarises his aim which was to iron out the deep inequalities of his time. Bentham being a hedonist believed that all humans naturally pursued pleasure and conversely avoids pain. ...read more.

Middle

Rule utilitarianism, which was developed by Mill, highlights the centrality of rules in morality and establishes the best overall rule by determining the course of action which results to happiness. Rule states that you must obey the rule even if it doesn't lead to the greatest pleasure. The rule should always take president over any given situation. A key distinction between Bentham's and Mills theories lie differences. Act utilitarianism was one of Bentham's key ideas. Bentham approached this idea to be that he treated each individual separately, without any rules to guide the individual. Mill on the other hand proposed that one should make rules based upon the consequences of that action. E.g. stealing tends to cause pain, so we should have a rule against stealing. So, despite supporting the same principle idea, we can see that Mill and Bentham arrived at two very different approaches to morality, with Mill avoiding some of the fundamental and debateable idea put forward by Bentham. ...read more.

Conclusion

In addition, with negative utilitarianism; the good could possibly mean people being happy and the bad could mean people being un-happy, or the good is people getting what they want in life and the bad is people not getting what they want out of life. Although most utilitarian's agree that whatever the good and bad are, we ought to bring about as much of the former and as little of the latter as possible. E.g. suppose that I have a choice to make: I can either make the happiest man in the world even happier than he already is, or I can alleviate some of the suffering of the unhappiest man in the world. This would mean that if I were to alleviate some of the suffering from the unhappiest man, the happiest man would still be happy and not affected from the choice but yet the unhappiest man becomes happier than he already was. Therefore, I should always choose to alleviate suffering rather than promoting happiness. ?? ?? ?? ?? Kerrie Freeman ...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 Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay


2/5

The student makes lots of accurate and good points in this essay and describes utilitarianism for the most part correctly (with the exception of the second question where a number of mistakes are made). Unfortunately the student does not answer either of the questions that have been set. In consequence almost everything that has been written is irrelevant.

Marked by teacher David Moss 31/03/2012

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 Philosophy essays

  1. Explain Plato's Form of the Good

    He soon sees, with amazing clarity, objects which he thought he knew before. He sees the sun for what it truly is- the source of all life. For the first time he would understand the truth. He completely disregards the cave and the shadows, and realises that they are not what is real.

  2. Explain Plato's Theory of Forms

    Roundness is just pure roundness, without any other properties mixed in. The forms differ from material objects, then, in that they are transcendent and pure, while material objects are complex conglomerations of properties located in space and time. Plato believed there is basically an 'Ideal' everything.

  1. Plato's Theory of Forms.

    On finding out what were pretences, and what were the real objects? All these questions Plato answered in his Theory of Forms, which is at the heart of his philosophy. He believed that, as well as the material world we live in and of which we experience; there is another world, an eternal world of concepts, or Forms.

  2. Explain what Plato meant by the Form of the Good?

    be made that such objects at one time will not be true at a later time. Because what is fully real must, for Plato, be fixed, permanent, and unchanging, he identified the real with the ideal realm of "being" as opposed to the empirical world of "becoming".

  1. What are the principles of natural law? Every adult has the right to become ...

    Using general principles applied to specific cases, 'casuistry', can lead to such problems in the interpretation of 'purpose'. Indeed, some would argue that there is no purpose for the world, that we got here through chance and that we posses reason merely for survival.

  2. a) Compare and contrast deontological and teleological approaches to ethics. b) Compare and contrast ...

    it action is done with an expect that something will be returned, then the act is not moral. However, in teleological approach, the action with bad consequence outcome is considered an immoral action in any way.

  1. Explain and evaluate the role of conscience in moral decision-making

    Newman also believed that the more relativist (atheist) a person is the less of a conscience they will have as they do not follow a God (an absolute unchanging moral authority).

  2. Philosophers have proved conclusively that religious language is meaningful. Discuss

    Tillich believed that religious language operates as a symbol and therefore it must be meaningful. Tillich maintained that religious language is a symbolic way of pointing towards the ultimate reality, the vision of God which he called ?Being-Itself?. ?Being-Itself? is that upon which everything depends for its being and Tillich

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