Utilitarianism Notes

Topics: Utilitarianism, Ethics, John Stuart Mill Pages: 5 (1313 words) Published: January 27, 2013

Key Features
• • • Relativist Theory
– – – – – – – No Absolutes Morality Depends on individual circumstances Happiness is the most important thing Quality and Quantity of Happiness need to be taken into account The Measure of Usefulness or Fittingness for purpose an action may have Teleological Ethical theories such as Utilitarianism tend to rely on the principle of utility It is the way of measuring how useful an action is in bringing about the consequences that we desire Equality The Happiness of each individual person is equally important No Person's happiness is more important than another's You can work out the right action mathematically. Not absolute rules but we would all make the same decision under the circumstances. No rules. Principles are used to govern right and wrong rather than rules in Act Utilitarianism In Rule Utilitarianism, J.S. Mill introduced some beneficial rules, which acted as guidelines

Hedonistic Principle of Utility

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• • •

Hedonistic Calculus
– – – –

Anti-Legalistic Harm Principle
– – Put forward by Mill to avoid restricting the freedom of the minority. It states that each person can do whatever they want, as long as it does not negatively impact on the freedom of other people

Teleological Ethics
• In order to understand Utilitarianism, you must first study Teleological Ethics, which share many principles with Utilitarianism. • Teleological Ethics is to judge whether or not an action is moral by purely looking at the result or consequence of the action. • This is also known as 'Consequentialism'.

Teleological Ethics
• In Teleological Ethics, there are no moral absolutes. • Teleological Ethics only consider the consequence of an action, and disregard the motive or circumstances. • Teleological Theories are consequentialist (based on consequences) • Actions only have Instrumental Value, not intrinsic value. (see table below to see definitions)

Problems with Teleological Ethics
• How do you decide what a morally good or bad consequence is? • There are many conflicting factors • We can't tell the future, we have no way of knowing what the consequences will be!

The Principle of Utility
• Teleological Ethical theories tend to rely on the Principle of Utility • This is defined as the "measure of usefulness or fittingness for purpose an action may have" • A Principle of Utility is a way of measuring how useful an action is in bringing about the consequences that we desire • The Principle of Utility of Utilitarianism is Happiness. This is for the following reasons: – It is universally valued and desirable – Subjective (opinion matters) – However, it is also open to abuse - as it cannot be easily defined.

• This links to Hedonism

• Hedonism is the belief that happiness is more important than anything else • Pleasure or happiness are often interchangeable and used to mean the same thing

“Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do as well as what we shall do.” -David Hume

Before Utilitarianism
• Hume linked Utility with Happiness • It is difficult to define Happiness • Aristotle saw no difference between living well (flourishing) and living normally. Well being is part of the good life. This can include comfort and enjoyment

Act Utilitarianism
'Act Utilitarianism' is the earliest form of Utilitarianism. It was first put forward by scholar Jeremy Bentham

• Act Utilitarianism is a Relativist theory, which means that nothing is always right or wrong and the choice of actions depend on circumstances, which allows flexibility and is intuitive. • It also rejects God, as there is no proof as to whether or not God exists. It also rejects the Bible and religion in general. This removes the need for faith which makes it a theory that can be supported by both religious and secular people. • There are no absolute...
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