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Describe the Main Strengths and Weaknesses of Utilitarianism

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Describe the Main Strengths and Weaknesses of Utilitarianism

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  • October 2012
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Describe the main strengths and weaknesses of Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism was originally formulated by Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century, and fully developed by John Stewart Mill in the 19th. It states that we should always act so as to produce the greatest ratio of good to evil for everyone concerned with our decision. As with all moral theories, utilitarianism has many strengths and weaknesses. The main strength for this theory is that it is always looking for the greatest good for the greatest number. This means that the majority will always benefit. This is a good strength as it is a system that looks to maximise pleasure for the greatest number. The fact that it is consequentialism is also a strength as when we act it is only natural to weigh up the consequences. Utilitarianism’s acceptance of the universal principle is essential for any ethical system. It is important to go beyond your own personal point or view. The idea of promoting the well-being of the greatest number is also important – this is the bases of the health care system. Care is provided to improve the health of the population and if more money is spent on the health service, people are healthier and therefore happier. Preference utilitarianism also gives us the valuable principle of being an impartial observer or, as R.M. Hare puts it, ‘standing in someone else’s shoes’. It is important to think about other people’s interests or preferences as long as one also includes behaving justly. The main weakness of utilitarianism is that it is extremely hard to predict the results of an action. The outcomes of all situations are hard to predict, so how can we possibly apply the rule of the greatest happiness for the greatest number if we do not know who will benefit most every time? It is also difficult to decide whether an outcome is morally good or bad. People have different opinions on what they think is right or wrong, so it would depend on the individual who is making the decision. This...

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