Utilitarianism Essay

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Utilitarianism is an ethical theory which acts as a guideline on how people should act in certain situations and was first introduced by a hedonist (pursuer of pleasure) named Jeremy Bentham who put forward the ‘Principle of Utility’ which said “The greatest happiness for the greatest number”. Utilitarianism is a theory which bases on the end purpose (teleological) of achieving pleasure, our decisions should be based on consequences in pursuit of the principle of utility (consequentialist) and is a theory which judges each situation independently (relativistic). Jeremy Bentham was the first contributor and developer for Utilitarianism and was most famous for his version of ‘Act’ Utilitarianism which focused applying the Principle of utility to each individual act to each unique situation. Bentham believed that happiness was the first thing to consider when making a decision, and our pleasure helped us achieve the most happiness. Bentham said that ‘Nature has placed mankind under two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure and it is them that will determine what we ought to do’ meaning the right moral decision will come about through the considerations of pleasure and pain. He devised the ‘Hedonic calculus’ (hedonic meaning pleasure) which was a piece of apparatus which helped him quantify happiness. The Hedonic calculus holds seven aspects which need to be considered: Duration (How long the pleasure will last), Remoteness (How close is the happiness), Purity (How free from pain is the pleasure), Richness (How likely will the pleasure lead to more happiness), Intensity (How strong the pleasure is), Certainty (How sure the act will produce happiness) and Extent (Will other people be affected by the pleasure). It’s these factors which a person must consider and weigh up in terms of pain and pleasure in order to find the most moral and ethical decision to make, if the calculus totals up in more pain over pleasure then this defines it as the wrong choice...
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