Compare and Contrast Utilitarianism with Christian Ethics
The ethical teachings and values of utilitarianism and Christian ethics are similar in some aspects, yet however are diverse in others. Utilitarianism is a generally teleological ethical system, where the outcome is said to justify the act. The act is considered ‘good’ if it brings about the greatest good for the greatest number. Christian Ethics, however, can be quite different. Many aspects of its ethics are deontological, for example, the Decalogue and Natural Law. There are other differences and indeed some similarities which will be considered throughout this essay.
Christian ethics has many aspects which do not agree with the fundamental doctrine of Utilitarianism. Firstly, the 10 Commandments in the Old Testament are deontological, as it is law based and the action is considered good or bad intrinsically. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism, states that an action cannot be right or wrong in itself, and it can only be evaluated when the consequences are taken into account. The Bible implies that none of these laws should be broken, yet Bentham thought that any rules can be rejected should the person determine that the means can justify the ends. Bentham held that no one should take actions as right or wrong as a given, but should use empirical evidence to work out their effect and subsequently conclude on its appropriateness. Bentham’s empirical method of finding out whether the action is worthwhile was to use the Hedonic Calculus, a process of assessment which gauges the act’s outcome in several categories, such as its certainty, purity or extent. Natural Law is another example of the diversity between Utilitarian and Christian ethical attitudes. Although it teaches that humans should use reason to realise morality (which is similar to Bentham’s attitude), it fundamentally states that there are God given laws of the universe which eternally and constantly exist in nature.