University of Nebraska at Lincoln
The Utilitarian Approach
What is morally right, and what is morally wrong? Different ethical theorists have a wide variety of definitions to this question. Although it wasn't until the ethical revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries that utilitarianism took center stage defying all other theories. David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart set this revolution into progress stating that utilitarianism explains that morality is only correct when in pursuit of happiness, human or animal. At first this seems a little "far out," meaning if everyone did what made them happy some things we think are morally wrong would then be right. Not only does utilitarianism relate to animals and their pursuit of happiness, it also contradicts sacred religious views of morality how God decides what is morally right and wrong.
A morally divided example was given in James Rachel's book "The elements of Moral Philosophy," the story of a brother in pain with the will to die, which was carried out by his little brother. Religious morality would say that this action was morally wrong due to mere fact that a precious human was murdered and not taking by God. Therefore the act of the little brother was viewed as a crime where he was arrested and prosecuted. Then utilitarian morality has severely different view on the case, stating that the little brother was acting his brothers wish to stop his suffering and put him to rest. No one else was directly harmed by the act besides the brother who died, and in a sense a greater happiness was achieved, therefore meaning the act was not morally wrong.
Speaking on behalf of nonhumans or animals, utilitarianism applies just as much. Even though animals can't speak and experience certain aspects humans can, they still have the right for the pursuit of happiness. The way some animals have been used in the past and even the present would be considered morally...
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