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

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

Extracts from this document...

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.

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

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. What are the advantages of Utilitarianism?

    They both identified happiness with pleasure so if it was interpreted in this way, if the action did not increase the happiness or please of the greatest number, the action was wrong. Utilitarianism is based on the consequences of the actions taken by a person.

  2. Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is an unfair system of ethics which could not work in the ...

    However, there are a number of criticisms for act utilitarianism, the main fault is that it has the potential to justify virtually any act if, in that particular case, the result generates the most happiness. Another problem is that it's impractical to suggest that we should measure each and every

  1. Explain how Benthams version of Utilitarianism may be used to decide the right cause ...

    calculus' which you can use to work out which option will produce the greatest amount of pleasure. There are seven factors which you must take into account when choosing what to do in a certain situation; the intensity of the pleasure, the duration of the pleasure, how certain pleasure will

  2. Nietzsche and Mill on Conventional Morality

    Nietzsche then gives the example: "The Master exploits the Slave" The argument he makes is that just as the bird of prey has no choice but to kill the lamb, so too, the master has no choice but to exploit the slave, it is neither moral nor immoral, it is life.

  1. Assess Utilitarianism

    Consider the extent of the pleasure/pain onto other people. 4. Calculate the total pleasure/pain units. 5. Repeat steps 1-4 for every action, and choose the ones which produce the most pleasure and the least pain. There are several obvious flaws with this calculus.

  2. Jesus And Women

    Jesus chose not to condemn the woman, but he did not tell her that her sin was unimportant or not actually a sin. The act of forgiving includes an acknowledgement that the act was indeed sinful, and he expects her to stop committing that sin.

  1. Why are justice and integrity problematic for utilitarianism?

    Faced, therefore, with a situation which would require one to go against their particular moral codes and values, thus against their integrity, in order to achieve maximum general happiness, are we not requiring too much from the person? Indeed, we are asking this person to take away their self-identity and admonish all previous commitments and experience.

  2. What makes a person valuable?

    In spite of that, a point could be that those who willingly choose to act as if their consciousness levels are lower from those who are good intentionally, are the ones that are less of a person as they are doing the wrong out of their own accord, their own

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