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

Utilitarianism (Weaknesses and strengths)

Extracts from this document...


Utilitarianism (Weaknesses and strengths) Utilitarianism states that "an action is right if it produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number". The two greatest promoters and followers of utilitarianism are Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and his student Stuart Mill (1806-1873). Although Mill was the one who perfected the theory, it is Bentham who was the theory's chief popularizer and an example that people followed. According to Bentham the correct ethical standard is the principle of utility, which states that an action should only be done if it brings the maximum amount of happiness to those who are affected by that action. This principle brings about the first concern with utilitarianism because how can you fully decide which people would be affected? The principle of utility only refers to the individual actions by individuals, meaning if more happiness is produced by actions the better the world would be. These actions must be voluntary as the moral responsibility depends on the person concerned having the real choice of whether to perform the action or not. Bentham gave us an illustration of how to choose which action to perform. ...read more.


This noble character can be very hard to achieve though so it's not a very sufficient solution. Consequences also play a very important role because decisions are made according to the calculation of those consequences. The rightness of an action depends on its producing the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness and this involves the action's effects. In most circumstances it is impossible to calculate all the consequences of that action and so it is impossible to know the greatest net happiness produced. You might be able to predict what consequences the action would have in short amount of time but because you can't predict the future you cannot know all the possible outcomes. An example could be drawn up for this - a doctor saves both a child and mother in a difficult birth. His concluding words are, "You'll be alright now Mrs. Hitler." - a utilitarian doctor would think that he would be making a lot of people happy by following the utility principle. The problem, however, is that he couldn't predict the future, and therefore made the wrong decision because Hitler ended up killing millions of Jews. ...read more.


If you did that, you would not be taking into account the benefit or happiness of the greatest possible number of people. Utilitarianism is scientific and impartial - make quantitative measurements and apply the principle of utility, giving no special treatment to ourselves, or anyone else because of race, gender and religion. It is an objective theory- it affords you a method for calculating how you should act regardless of personal confusion. Unlike most other ethical theories, utilitarianism has the apparent advantage that it includes in its range not only rational - i.e. human - beings, but all sentient beings, which can experience pain and pleasure. So, animals are not left out by utilitarian ethicists and cruelty toward animals can be consistently condemned by utilitarian theory. I think I have presented a sufficient amount of strengths and weaknesses in the utilitarianism theory to make an educated opinion on whether it is a good theory to follow. Overall the general idea is very good and it makes a lot of sense but it isn't really good enough to judge on the decisions that will affect the rest of your life, but it can work with small decisions e.g. should you have a mars bar all to yourself or share it with another person? Written by Diana Rough L6-6 ...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. Outline the main features of Jeremy Bentham's guide to making moral decisions.

    Mills feelings are summed up in his quotation, 'it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.' In this he is talking about quality rather than Bentham's view of quantity.

  2. Assess The Strengths / Weaknesses Of Virtue Ethics

    often alters our desires so that by the end of the action, we begin to form an attraction to it, i.e.

  1. Utilitarianism. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism

    Also, people will often make decisions in the moment and may not have time to think over all the consequences of an action. Some actions may create long term effects that are impossible to predict. Critics of the hedonic calculus say that the quantative nature of the calculus can not be applied to moral issues and decisions.

  2. With reference to abortion, examine and comment on the view that the sanctity of ...

    He believed that if one was to always to stick to the rules, it produces the 'immorality of morality'. This means that in some situations, if you go by what the law says, the outcome will be immoral. For example if a mother killed someone to defend her children and she was condemned for it, this would be immoral.

  1. Explain ethical egoism. Do you believe that it is true? Why or why not?

    It is argued that right acts can be determined by some other means such as intuition, feelings, religion, socials mores and perhaps even mystical revelations such as the Ten Commandments as revealed by God. In particular, intuition and feelings are often claimed to be equally valid means of determining morality.

  2. Explain how a Hindu marriage service might guide a couple in their married life?

    Men and women are believed to have a religious duty to marry and have children, and although some people do remain single, they are very much in the minority.

  1. Problems with Utilitarian and Kantian Ethics.

    We are presented with the case of the scientist who has killed his wife just before he discovers the cure for cancer. Utilitarianism would allow the scientist to go on with his studies in order to find the cure before he is jailed, because his cure would improve the lives

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

    The certainty is almost guaranteed, he will be able to buy drink with the money. However the pleasure of the drunk will be tinged with pain because of the guilt he may experience in doing something dishonest and a possible hangover in the morning.

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