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

Utilitarianism is a contrast to classic approaches to ethics. One of the main features or indeed the basis of Utilitarianism is the 'Greatest happiness for the greatest number' theory which posses a secular oUtlook to ethics.

Extracts from this document...


Utilitarianism is a contrast to classic approaches to ethics. One of the main features or indeed the basis of Utilitarianism is the 'Greatest happiness for the greatest number' theory which posses a secular oUtlook to ethics. Utilitarianism is the doctrine according to which actions are made right or wrong so far as they promote happiness, wrong in so far as they promote the reverse. The form of this definition conceals the fact that Utilitarianism is often called the consequentalist doctrine. One main feature of Utilitarianism is that according to Utilitarianism actions are not themselves intrinsically right or wrong; they are right or wrong in so far as they have good or bad oUtcomes. The version of Utilitarianism which holds the 'greatest happiness for the greatest number theory was popularised by Jeremy Benthem and his disciple John Mill and from them we have the ' Greatest happiness principle'. This derived from a 19th Century philosopher, Jeremy Benthem (1748-1831) who was the founder of Utilitarianism; Utilitarianism began life as an ethical principle under Jeremy Bentham who theorised that an action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In its original form the argument had many flaws, so John Stuart Mill decided to defend the principle of Utility against its critics by refining its ideas making them more practical in society. Classic approaches to ethics stress good intentions as essential to morality. ...read more.


His method of qualitative assessment of happiness is a progression from Bentham�s solely quantitative one which recognises educated pursuits above swinish pleasures. Moral issues are given special treatment under his scheme of higher pleasures, which acknowledges our higher regard for them as human beings. He also attempted to tackle the unstable use of Epicurian words but could not overcome issues like the loss of justice or the difficulty of knowing all possible out. His version though more refined is still flawed leaving a gap for theologians of the future to fill. One of the main features of Utilitarianism is the fact that it gives simple straightforward answers to simple questions, hence the 'average man on the street' can relate to it. For someone who wants this type of philosophy, Utilitarianism is just that; simple and straightforward. As an example, if one asks ' what should be my guiding principle in life?' a Utilitarianism would give a one sentence answer, ' always act in accordance with the Greatest Happiness Principle'. And, lets face it, for the average man on the street that is a plausible thing to hear! One thing about Utilitarianism is that it does appear to be right. Right, that is, in so far as they involve saying that suffering is wrong, that we ought not to make people suffer- aim at preventing suffering, and that the promotion of happiness is right. ...read more.


If one has moral ideals then it means that from the start there is good intention, as utilitarianism is a conceqentalist doctrine then it is reliant on outcomes, and outcomes are never certain. Another criticism, which I noticed, is the fact that a problem could arise when two courses of action produce an equal manner of happiness or goodness, and here comes in the problem of quantifying happiness. Benthams hedonic calculus is meaningless for two reasons; * One cannot reduce happiness or pleasure done to a mathematical formula * We all experience pleasure in different ways, the hedonic calculus presumes we experience pleasure in the same way. We could, theoretically justify any action on utilitarianism grounds by claiming that pleasure is personal and therefore cannot be expressed as a mathematical formula. On a bigger scale a good point is that utilitarianism doesn't distribute goodness or happiness in an equal manner. In certain situations this maybe regarded as unfair, for example, global wealth. Basically assuming that the wealth of the globe is currently distributed in a utilitarianism manner, this means that some of the world population is starving, and this is evident in the world. It would be fairer to redistribute wealth so the poor do not starve, however this may not be justifiable in utilitarianism grounds. It may be that if the wealthy have to give up some of their resources they incur a disproportionate amount of pleasure derived from the poor. ...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. Compare and contrast Plato and Aristotle on the acquisition of ethical understanding.

    Plato puts a huge amount of weight on the knowledge and ability to acquire this on the philosopher alone and therefore would argue that only philosophers can be truly virtuous as they are the only people who understand how/when people should act.

  2. Outline the main features of Jeremy Bentham's guide to making moral decisions.

    For Bentham an action is good or bad depending on the amount of pleasure shared by a number of people. He was clearly only concerned with quantity of pleasure. Bentham believed that all types of pleasure were equal; therefore quality was not an issue.

  1. How Does Virtue Ethics apply to Business Ethics?

    So unless we act in a certain way we are reproached and told to stick to the common way.

  2. Virtue Ethics

    Either way we know how virtuous we are depending on how we respond to situations, by acting virtuously and doing virtuous things, we become virtuous. However, not all accounts of virtue ethics are eudaimonist. Michael Slote developed and idea of virtues based on common sense.

  1. Should our moral beliefs be based on the utilitarian principle of securing the greatest ...

    Otherwise the action is wrong. (Business Ethics 1999) To put this more simply, it is a moral principle that when a course of action produces greatest balance of benefits over harms for everybody that are affected. Then this action is morally right, otherwise, it is wrong.

  2. What are the main features of classical utilitarianism? Assess the strengths and weaknesses ...

    John Stuart Mill puts greater stress on the variety of pleasures and distinguishes between their respective values. He maintains that some pleasures, namely those on the mind, are higher and more estimable than others, namely those of the mind.

  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. Explain how Aristotle and Alasdair Macintyre applied Virtue Theory to moral decision making?

    The point is that the virtuous individual has developed the disposition to know how and when to do that in the best way possible. For example, a lieutenant might decide that it is better to increase the happiness of his men at the expense of fulfilling his duty to obey lawful orders.

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