Utilitarianism practice paper essay plan.

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Utilitarianism test 5th May


* Explain theory – teleological, Bentham, hedonistic, act utilitarianism, Mill – lower and higher pleasures, weak and strong rule, preference utilitarianism.

* Weakness – felicific calculus too complicated, emotions are subjective, may allow murder if it is creates enough pleasure to the majority, people are bias,

Utilitarianism is a teleological theory that is consequentialist and relativist. It evaluates whether an action is morally good if it benefits the majority. Jeremy Bentham is the founder of utilitarianism. He put forward act utilitarianism, which tries to achieve universal hedonism. This means that it tries to create enough happiness for everyone. Utilitarianism is also egalitarian, meaning that everyone is treated as equals. Bentham said that humans are ‘governed by two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure’. Therefore, an action is deemed morally good if it produces the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people, this is the foundation of Act Utilitarianism. Furthermore, another principle of utilitarianism is that it is anti-legalistic; you are entitled to change the laws if you are trying to create the maximum amount of pleasure. In order to work out how to gain the most amount of pleasure and the least amount of pain, Bentham created the felicific calculus. Some of the principles of the felicific calculus are duration, purity, extent, fecundity and propinquity. Duration is how long the pleasure or pain lasts, purity is how much pleasure without pain there is, extent is how far it reaches, fecundity is how far it goes into the future and propinquity is the remoteness of the pain or pleasure. As Bentham said, ‘push pin is as good as poetry’. However, when John Stuart Mill suffered a nervous break down at the age of twenty due to his devotion to Utilitarianism, he decided to develop certain principles. Mill put forward strong and weak rule Utilitarianism. Strong rule is where you must follow rules to gain pleasure, however if these rules need to be changed, that is when you revert to weak ruled utilitarianism. Mill also said not all pleasures are the same, and so he suggested that there should be higher and lower pleasures. Higher pleasures would be intellectual ones such as opera, whereas lower pleasures would consist of watching non-educational television. As Mill said, ‘It is better to be a human satisfied then a pig satisfied.’ Mill also put forward the harm principle, this states that you are allowed to try and achieve pleasure, as long as it doesn’t harm those around you. Utilitarianism has continued to develop throughout time, for instance Singer created preference utilitarianism, where the preferences of others must be considered. Hare was also in support of this.
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There are many reasons why Utilitarianism may be considered a failure. The felicific calculus requires the ability to predict the future, which no one can achieve. It is also too complicated for many people, therefore they may abandon their quest to use act utilitarianism because they do not understand the method. If people find it too complicated, then this will require time and effort that may not be available in a situation, especially if an answer is required quickly. Another aspect of utilitarianism, which contributes to why it may be considered a failure, is that emotions are too ...

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