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Utilitarianism. The father of utilitarianism is considered to be Jeremy Bentham, who believed the pleasure should be measured quantitively. For example, if ten people wanted to eat chocolate, and one person wanted to read Shakespeare

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Introduction

Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that derives from the 18th century during the enlightenment period. It focuses on the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number, and therefore aims to provide maximum pleasure to the maximum number of people/animals. It is teleological, which comes from the Greek word "telos" meaning "ends", and thus it is to do with the consequences of our actions, rather than the act itself. Utilitarianism is also relative, meaning there are no universal rules and each decision depends on the situation. The father of utilitarianism is considered to be Jeremy Bentham, who believed the pleasure should be measured quantitively. For example, if ten people wanted to eat chocolate, and one person wanted to read Shakespeare, Bentham would say that everyone should eat chocolate. Another philosopher, John Stuart Mill, disagreed. He thought that pleasure should be measure qualitively. So in the above example, Mill would say that everyone should read Shakespeare, because he considered it more intellectual, and therefore the better quality pleasure. ...read more.

Middle

Utilitarianism considers the majority when making decisions; this is positive as it ensures dangerous minorities (such as Hitler and the BMP) are not allowed to rule. As the majority has so many people with the same views, it is likely that this would be the right decision - it is only naturally to go with the greater number of people. This principle of utilitarianism can be seen in the government: in elections, it is the person with the most number of votes who is elected. Our government also highlights another strength of utilitarianism - everyone is considered equal (it is a democratic and egalitarian way of making decisions). This means that if the Queen voted in an election, her vote would have no more impact on the final decision than anyone else's. In addition, utilitarianism ensures that our emotions do not take over; emotions must be pushed aside in order to make a fair and equal judgement. As humans, we automatically consider the outcome of our actions. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although we naturally consider the outcome of our actions, we cannot predict the consequences accurately. Therefore, when we think we may carrying an act with good consequences (such as cooking dinner for the family), it may actually have unexpected bad consequences (eg. burning the kitchen down). This means that utilitarianism may result in people not focusing on possible bad consequences. G. E. Moore had another criticism - he said the utilitarianism committed the naturalistic fallacy. That is, not all pleasures are good. Utilitarian does not distinguish between good and bad pleasures. An example of this is taking hard drugs: to some people it may cause pleasure, but it is clearly not good. Despite these weaknesses, utilitarianism has proved to be very successful in the centuries since it first began. It has brought about many positive changes to society, such as animal rights, welfarism and equal opportunities for women. It is still actively used today, for example in our government, in which everyone is considered equal and we go with the majority. Many of us are utilitarians in many situations, and the theory has proved to be a simple and practical way of making decisions. ...read more.

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