Explain how Benthams version of Utilitarianism may be used to decide the right cause of action and the strengths and weaknesses of Utilitarianism

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Explain Bentham’s version of Utilitarianism may be used to decide the right cause of action.

By Beatrice Meecham

Utilitarianism is the ethical theory that shows the reasons for a person choosing to carry out an action – it justifies an action being for the greater good. Utilitarianism is a teleological theory which means it looks at the consequences or result of an action – to decide whether it is subsequently right or wrong this also makes it a consequentialist theory. The theory of Utilitarianism began with Jeremy Bentham.

Bentham’s theory of Utilitarianism is where actions are judged based upon the pleasure gained in the result. Jeremy Bentham was the man who originally thought of and came up with the idea of Utilitarianism, he believed in ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’. There are two types of Utilitarianism; Bentham’s theory is Act Utilitarianism. Act Utilitarianism is about creating the greatest amount of pleasure in a particular situation through a particular action.  

Bentham believed and used research to conclude that people would naturally seek pleasure and avoid pain. ‘Nature had placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do as well as to determine what we shall do.’ (Bentham) Bentham truly believed that pleasure was the purest form of good and pain the sole evil; he saw this as moral fact. This is why Bentham is also known as a hedonist. The hedonists were a group of Greek people who sought to find true pleasure; ‘hedone’ means pleasure in Greek, this group included people such as Plato and Aristotle – who agreed that good was found in the greatest happiness.

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The principle of utility was a way to find out how good or bad an action was, based on its utility (usefulness). An action that creates the most pleasure and the least pain is a useful one and therefore it is good – pain v pleasure. For Bentham good, is the maximum amount of pleasure with the minimum amount of pain afflicted and bad, is pain with little pleasure received. Bentham believed that in any situation a person should think of a solution that will lead to the maximum happiness for the maximum of people. For example, if a ...

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