“How Would Aristotle Respond to Utilitarianism?”

Topics: Ethics, Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill Pages: 4 (1087 words) Published: October 7, 2011
Short Paper 2

“How would Aristotle respond to Utilitarianism?”

How would Aristotle respond to Utilitarianism?

The Definition of “Utilitarianism” is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "good" of the greatest number of individuals. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined by its resulting outcome. The most influential contributors to this theory are considered to be Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.”1 Utilitarianism is a simple theory and its results are easy to apply. It also allows for degrees of right and wrong, and for every situation the choice between actions is clear cut: always choose that which has the greatest utility. Utilitarianism is believed to have been derived from "Eudaimonia" which is the central concept in Aristotelian ethics. “In Aristotle's works, eudaimonia was used as a term for the highest human good, and so it is the aim of practical philosophy, including ethics and political philosophy, to consider (and also experience) what it really is, and how it can be achieved.”2

Aristotle believes that humans are rational beings and that a human life is essentially rational activity, by that he means that human beings live their lives by making choices on the basis of reasons and then acting on those choices. All reasoning about what to do proceeds from premises relating to the agent's beliefs and desires, desire is the motive for action and the practical syllogism (Aristotle's label for the reasoning by which people decide what to do) is its translation into choice. Your choices are dictated by your beliefs and desires, provided you are rational. The choices, the reasoning that leads to them, and the actions that result from them are what Aristotle means by the sort of rational activity that makes up a human life. We can sum up this point of view by saying that people are rational end choosers. If Aristotle is right, then...
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