Arguments on Utilitarianism
Which is more valuable: a game of push-pin or the study of Latin? Which has greater worth: the life of a single young girl or the lives of an entire community? These are the sorts of questions raised when dealing with the matter of utilitarianism. According to Jeremy Bentham, the father of the theory, the ultimate moral goal of human beings should be to increase pleasure and to decrease pain. To maximize the amount of time spent in content, and minimize the times of depression. And he has a point. Simply stated like that, everyone can agree that that is definitely something they want to achieve. But when his theory is applied to real-life conditions, the varying answers and resulting situations aren't always applicable with such a cut-and-dry cure-all. Contrary to Bentham's theory, just because doing something may seem to create an overall better situation than not doing something, it doesn't necessarily mean that it should be done.
When he states his place, Bentham seems to have taken into account all of the variables. He affirms that the standards of right and wrong, and the chains of cause and effect, will influence what exactly promotes pleasure and prevents pain (306). He also recognizes that the quantity of people being affected is a contributing factor as to whether something is ultimately beneficial or detrimental (311). Drawing upon these recognized facts, Bentham goes so far as to create a virtual mathematical equation for determining utility; Including intensity, duration, certainty, propinquity, fecundity, and purity as factors of what qualifies as happiness, and thereby, righteousness (311). But this in itself is absurd, as it is impossible to gauge the properties he proposes. He does not, and can not, provide a scale with which to measure how certain, how intense, or how pure the "goodness" level of something is. Nor is he able to quantify the overall amount of utility one law or reason offers to an entire...
Cited: Bentham, Jeremy. "Push-Pin and Poetry." Ethics. Ed. Peter Singer. Oxford University Press: New York, 1994. 199-200.
Bentham, Jeremy. "The Principle of Utility." Ethics. Ed. Peter Singer. Oxford University Press: New York, 1994. 306-312.
Mill, John Stuart. "Higher and Lower Pleasures." Ethics. Ed. Peter Singer. Oxford University Press: New York, 1994. 201-205.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. "Ivan 's Challenge." Ethics. Ed. Peter Singer. Oxford University Press: New York, 1994. 332.
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