Examine how Benthams utilitarianism may be applied to one ethical issue of your choice. Organ transplants.

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Aleksander Filipczak        Religious Studies

Examine how Bentham’s utilitarianism may be applied to one ethical issue of your choice.

I will examine how Bentham’s utilitarianism would be applied in terms of organ transplantation.

Utilitarian’s believe that humans are motivated by the pursuit to maximise happiness and minimise pain, which is called a hedonist view. Utilitarianism is an ethical principle, a philosophical system which takes into account consequences of an action rather than motives, where the happiness of the greatest number should be the result, as it is therefore morally right.

Jeremy Bentham’s understanding of the utilitarian principle is called Act Utilitarianism. His approach states that the rightness or wrongness of an individual act is calculated by the amount of happiness that results from the act. His view is also a hedonist view, which proposes that the main good is pleasure, whilst the main evil is pain. He therefore proposed that all humans pursue the maximisation of pleasure and minimisation of pain.

Bentham believed in the greatest good for the greatest number, and believed that quantity (rather than Mills belief in quality) played the main role in deciding whether and act was good or not, as the one providing most pleasure for most people, whilst providing least or no pain, is seen as the best choice by Bentham. To decide the value of happiness created within such an act, Bentham created the Hedonic calculus, with 7 criteria which help calculate pain and pleasure generated by an act. These are –

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  • Duration – how long the pain/pleasure lasts. If there were 2 options, one which causes a long lasting pleasure, and the other which causes a short lasting pleasure, the long lasting pleasure would out win the other.
  • Fecundity – probability that the pleasure/pain will reproduce. If the pleasure will keep on occurring in the future, rather than just happening once, it is seen as a higher pleasure.
  • Purity – Will the pleasure bring about more pleasure? If an act, that causes pleasure to one, but later becoming a pain is impure. Therefore a pleasure that would bring about more ...

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