Explain how Benthams views on utilitarianism can be used to decide on the right cause of action

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Thomas Hurley

Ethics Homework

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Explain how Bentham’s views on utilitarianism can be used to decide on the right cause of action (25 marks)

Utilitarianism is an ethical theory behind the justification for the greatest good. This focuses on the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Utilitarianism is a teleological and a relative theory, this means that it is dependant on the outcomes and not concerned with the motive or intention of an action. So as long as an act, no matter what the act is, maximises happiness then it is good. However this is extremely controversial as these actions of goodness may conflict with the law. Bentham was in favour of hedonism, this is the most useful thing to do and therefore the moral thing to do is to maximise pleasure and minimise pain. Bentham created the hedonic calculus as a tool for weighing up the consequential pleasure and pain that results from an action in order to work out whether the action was good or not. Using abortion as an example, the hedonic calculus will work out whether it is good or not, however this calculus can be extremely subjective and may depend on the circumstances of the action.

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Firstly, there is a certainty that there will be pain as many people may feel despaired at the act of loosing a baby that could have had a happy life. However the pleasure may be far greater if for instance a young teenager was raped, not ready for a child, abortion would benefit everybody’s lives including the baby as it could be argued that it may not have the surroundings and care needed at childhood. Secondly is the duration, it could be thought of as the pain lasting forever due to the memory of killing an unborn baby but ...

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