Explain Utilitarianism

Topics: Utilitarianism, Morality, Ethics Pages: 4 (1586 words) Published: October 8, 2012
Explain Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism was developed in the 18th century by Hutcheson, who used the phrase ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ to describe his theory. Hutcheson’s idea, seeks to find a rational means of assessing how best to put this promotion of happiness into practice. It is split into two types; Act Utilitarianism, this is the earliest form in which what is deemed right is based on the assessment of results of a particular action, and Rule Utilitarianism which allows to be taken into account the general benefit to society that occurs when people follow general rules. It is argued that utilitarianism is a relativist, consequentialist and teleological system of ethics, prescribing no fixed moral rules and judging an action by its consequences or end results. Bentham and Mill each argued respectively for these types of Utilitarianism and thus their beliefs differ. Bentham was born in London at time of huge scientific and social change. He looked to produce a modernised approach to morality which would suit the changing society of the industrial age he grew up in. This was also the era of the French and American revolutions. He argued that humans were motivated by pleasure and pain “nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pleasure and pain”. This later on became known as Act Utilitarianism. Bentham believed that everyone had an equal right to happiness irrespective of their situation or status in life and argued that everyone counted equally in the assessment of the benefits of an action. He believed that overall, this would benefit the individual who did so and this would lead to that persons greatest happiness as well. His theory is democratic as pleasure cannot be for one person alone. Bentham’s Hedonic Calculus this is what Bentham thought was an empirical process for making moral decisions, it weighs up the pain and pleasure generated by the available moral actions to find the best option. It asks...
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