Explain how Benthams version of Utilitarianism can be used to decide the best course of action

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Explain how Bentham’s version of Utilitarianism can be used to decide the best course of action.

Jeremy Bentham, father and founder of Utilitarianism, first proposed his theory, now known as and hereby referred to as Act Utilitarianism, as the basis for a complete social reform. Whilst Bentham may have failed in this aspect, he did lay the foundations for future ethicists such as J.S. Mill, P. Singer and H. Sidgwick to expand and explore his theory of Utilitarianism further. Bentham’s original theory of Utilitarianism can be boiled down to one underlying principle; the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Bentham proposed that an action’s moral worth can be determined by the use of the Hedonic Calculus. This formula takes into account the intensity, duration and number of people affected (amongst other factors) and places a numerical value on the outcome. This may seem like a rather clinical and mathematic way to try and measure what it ultimately an abstract concept such as pleasure or happiness, and subsequently critics have said Bentham’s version of Utilitarianism can be used to justify horrific acts such as torture, gang rape or murder.

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An example of when Act Utilitarianism could be used to decide the best course of action would be in a group of people choosing what topping to order on their pizza. If, for example, 3 out of the four people wanted pepperoni but the fourth person wanted ham, it only seems logical to order pepperoni. This is because the collective pleasure or happiness to be had by the first three outweighs the possible unhappiness, or possibly pain, of the fourth person. This is applying what we call the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number’ principle. If ham was ordered, then ...

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3/5 This essay includes the basic points about Bentham's classical act utilitarianism. For this sort of "explain" question, not much further detail is required and so the evaluation of Bentham's theory is not required. Instead, more information about the hedonic calculus would be good.