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There are many arguments for and against Utilitarianism and whether it provides an adequate basis for making moral decisions

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Introduction

Utilitarianism is the greatest good of the greatest number. It takes the view that an action is right if it is likely to produce the best consequences compared to all the other possible actions. The best consequences are those which involve the maximization of what is good and the minimization of what is bad. The worst consequences are which involve the maximization of what is bad and the minimization of what is good. The basic premise is the idea that the greatest good comes from creating happiness for the greatest number of people. Pleasure and freedom of pain are the only things desirable as ends. In Utilitarianism it is the greatest happiness of everyone involved which is right, so one must be impartial to one's own happiness. Utilitarianism takes the view that if needed, you should sacrifice your own happiness for greater pleasure of others. For Utilitarianism bases action on pleasure and pain. It clearly takes pleasure to be desirable as it recommends producing greatest pleasure and minimal pain. ...read more.

Middle

Therefore, if a police detective was a Utilitarian, and under pressure to find the attacker, then he would feel it was right to convict an innocent man just to make the greater number of people feel safer and therefore happier. This also means a Utilitarian could not differentiate between an accidental death and a murder. Despite the actions or intentions being obviously different, the consequences or result, the person dying, are exactly the same. There is no question as to whether or not this example assists in, or provides an adequate basis for, making moral decisions, as it is morally wrong to convict someone who is completely innocent. The deterrence theory, which is used by people opposing the Utilitarian argument, is where a Utilitarian would feel it is okay to punish innocent people to promote deterrence to other potential criminals. In the example of the society mentioned before, Utilitarianism takes the view that it would be good and an obligation of the detective's to convict an innocent man to scare off any other rapists. ...read more.

Conclusion

There can also be a lot of circumstances where the right action is the one to have the best consequence. For example a father likes to play golf on Sunday but the circus is coming to town and his three children would be very happy if they could go. Therefore if the father were a Utilitarian he would realise that his three children's happiness is more than his individual happiness and he would take them to the circus, which is a good thing to do. Lastly, most of the things near-universally agreed to be good are things which make people happy, and most of the things near-universally agreed to be bad are things which make most people unhappy. Which is also the view that Utilitarians take - maximum happiness for the majority and minimum unhappiness for the majority. In conclusion, Utilitarianism does provide an adequate basis for making moral decisions to an extent as it is good and morally right to promote as much happiness as possible and the greatest good for the greatest number is therefore right. However the principle of justice and individual rights are ignored in Utilitarianism especially where autonomy and deterrence are concerned, as the innocent should definitely not be punished. ...read more.

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