Topics: Morality, Utilitarianism, Ethics Pages: 4 (1415 words) Published: January 27, 2013
Utilitarianism as an ethical theory

Utilitarianism is the view that an act is right if it equals the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Utilitarians describe moral actions as actions that boost something good and lessen something that is bad. Virtue, knowledge, and goodwill are all good but they are only good if they give people a pleasurable existence. Pain is the only thing that is intrinsically bad. Utilitarians focus on the result of an act instead of the inherent nature of the act. An example would be an individual throwing their garbage into the ocean. Utilitarians would say throwing garbage into the ocean is not necessarily bad, but the effect it leaves will cause harm sooner or later and that is what is bad. I do not think that utilitarianism can be an ethical theory. It is simply too difficult to determine whether the utilitarian theory can be justified. The dilemma of trying to focus on a positive outcome or focusing on the actions that we take in order to accomplish the greatest good is too hard to measure.

Utilitarianism is a type of consequentialist theory. The consequentialist theory says moral rightness is determined solely by the consequence of your action. If an act maximizes the good then it is good. A utilitarian will support the decision of an action that will produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. However, this is misguided in principle. For example, say a terrorist has ten hostages he is going to execute. He says to you if you kill one hostage he will let the other nine go. What should you do? You could make the argument that killing an innocent man is wrong, but you could also argue that you are bringing more happiness because you are only killing one person. If you kill nobody though you have sentenced ten people to die so it is a double edged sword.

Another example is a murderer in a small town. The sheriff of the town is hard-pressed to find whoever...
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