"Explain Bentham's Utilitarianism" and Act Utilitarianism has immoral consequences Discuss.

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  1. Explain Bentham’s Utilitarianism:

Utilitarianism is a moral philosophy based on the utility, or usefulness of an action. This philosophy is rooted in hedonism, or seeking pleasure. Hedonism can be traced back to Ancient Greece, with philosophers like Aristotle writing about “eudaimonia” or happiness being the highest good. Some people would argue that hedonism is an egoist theory as it only considers the outcome for the individual, Thomas Hobbes thought that mankind was inherently selfish and that the only reason why we behave is because we have a “social contract” and understand that we must surrender our free will to the state in order to survive. Utilitarianists would agree that man is motivated by pleasure however Utilitarianism also considers what is best for society, as it focuses on the greatest good for the greatest number. They believe in a social contract but think instead it allows us to be free and get along with each other.

Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory meaning that it is concerned with the outcome of the action rather than an intrinsic value of the action itself. This means it is relative and dependent on the situation. Joseph Fletcher was a philosopher who proposed situation ethics as a moral philosophy. Although this is similar in some ways to Utilitarianism as it focuses on what is the most loving (and therefore creates happiness) Situationists would not consider the consequences of the action as they believed that you must make decisions spontaneously.  Both agreed that relativism is better than an absolutist theory such as Divine Command as it involves using reasoning to make a decision, and an act to be measured from how happy it makes a community of people. This makes Utilitarianism a useful moral philosophy for governments trying to decide what is best for its people, whereas Divine Command is based purely on the word of God, which may not always produce a good outcome, as Divine Command would state that you cannot steal in any circumstances, whereas Utilitarianism would argue that the pleasure it gives the thief (e.g feeding himself/his family) would outweigh the negative effect on the person stolen from.  

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The most well-known proponent of Utilitarianism was Jeremy Bentham.  He said that “mankind is under two sovereign masters, pleasure and pain” which means he believed that every action is based upon whether the action brings you pleasure or pain. He believed that what is moral is based upon creating the “greatest good for the greatest number.” He believed this was self-evident, as it was obvious that people will avoid pain if possible. Bentham believed that the good of something could be determined by using a hedonic calculus, or a mathematical way that would give you a quantitative result. He believed ...

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