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

Is what promotes the greatest good for the greatest number necessarily morally right?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Is what promotes the greatest good for the greatest number necessarily morally right? The question posed in the title above is one that utilitarianism tries to answer. Utilitarianism is an ethical theory, first developed by Jeremy Bentham, which is only interested in the ends (consequentialist) and not the manner in which those ends are achieved. The way utilitarianism determines between a right and wrong action, is by seeing which promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number, and this is known as the Principle of Utility. Bentham also believed that it was possible to calculate the amount of happiness using Hedons (Positive), and Dolors (Negative) as the units of measurement, and therefore the action that has the most Hedons is the right action. This was known as the Utilitarian Calculus. However to answer the title question we need to see whether Bentham's theory always results in an action that is necessarily morally right. ...read more.

Middle

This poses a moral problem, as most people would agree that it is not a morally correct thing to have inequality. Another problem of the utilitarian calculus is that not everything can be quantified, and therefore not everything can be calculated using Hedons and Dolors. Things such as love and emotion cannot be quantified, but these too can bring us pleasure and happiness, and there is that danger that we might ignore them because they cannot be easily measured. Many writers have criticized Bentham's work, and it was John Stuart Mill's aim to improve on Bentham's ideas. Mill introduced the distinction between higher and lower pleasures. He claimed that Bentham's utilitarianism made humans no better than pigs, if all we aimed to do was have sex, eat and sleep. Mill therefore said that it is not just the quantity that matters (e.g. five sweets may be better than one), but also the quality, which he described as pleasures that stimulate the mind. ...read more.

Conclusion

However a Rule Utilitarian would say that it is not right, because everyone, no matter what the circumstance, should follow the same rule. In this situation not breaking the speed limit would result in bringing less happiness compared to if you broke the speed limit, and therefore you cannot be considered a utilitarian. If on the other hand you are a Rule Utilitarian who believes that sometimes it is fine to break the rules on utilitarianism terms, then you are no longer a Rule Utilitarian and are effectively collapsing back into an Act Utilitarian. To conclude, something that promotes the greatest good for the greatest number can be morally right however it is not always the case. As shown above there are many problems with utilitarianism and it does not approach such ideas as fairness. Utilitarianism is results based (consequentialist) and does not care about the manner in which the results are achieved. This is a major problem when talking about morality and therefore my opinion is that, what promotes the greatest good for the greatest number is not necessarily morally right. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Ethics 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 GCSE Ethics essays

  1. Problems with Utilitarian and Kantian Ethics.

    of many others, the integrity of the murdered wife is defenseless under this theory. Harwood presents a defense from the standpoint of the utilitarian, that "we need not develop a moral principle that covers every imaginable problem in every fantasy land."1 This argument is responded by saying that regardless of

  2. What is utilitarianism? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the theory?

    He believed that pleasures of the mind were higher than those of the body; however there was a link between the two. One needed to pursue lower pleasures in order to achieve higher pleasures, for example one needs to eat and drink in order to enjoy poetry.

  1. Utilitarianism is a contrast to classic approaches to ethics. One of the main features ...

    In his famous argument he simplifies the term "happiness" and "pleasure" used by Bentham, as one major criticism is that the word "pleasure" does not have the same meaning as the word "good". Utilitarianism as an ethical theory possesses a main feature whereby it is concerned with the wants and needs of society.

  2. 'Explain how Act and Rule Utilitarianism differ.'

    Then by making this decision n a certain way, you are expecting others to act in that way in the future. Utilitarianism differs to this is the sense that you should always do the thing that will maximise the greatest happiness for the greatest number, rather than do something because you think that that is what someone else would do.

  1. "The greatest happiness for the greatest number" Using ToK thinking and terms, how far ...

    However, the problem is: is it a temporary happiness or a permanent happiness? Since humans have unlimited wants, we are always unsatisfied. Playing a bit more Play Station today does not mean that I will play less tomorrow. But yet this would result in an opportunity cost, which is the

  2. Gap between reason and emotion

    where "the ethical goal of each of us should be the promotion of our own self-interests" (Woolman, Michael). Nevertheless it can at the same time be a way to justifying a moral decision. As shown from this case study, emotion aroused by the Japanese mother must be filled with desperation and loss.

  1. What in your opinion is the difference between doing the best thing and doing ...

    It seems therefore as if doing the right thing must involve a good intention, and a sense of duty. Another example, which is less obvious, is that if you are a person who loves meat, but does not eat it because you believe it is wrong to kill animals, you

  2. Is a good action always that which promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest ...

    They also believe that the ultimate good is happiness and the ultimate evil is unhappiness. But is happiness something that is always being sought for its own sake? Surely happiness is a response to a given situation and not being sought for its own sake.

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