Pleasure is good; pain is evil. Utilitarianism is the most common form of consequentialism, based on the pursuit of the greatest happiness of the greatest number in the long run. What leads to pleasure is good are actions that produce this pleasure. The Utilitarian’s set out to organize a simple and repeatable set of observations by simple laws, and to find quantifiable and measurable states of being that could be evaluated mathematically to show what was right and what was wrong. Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering. (SG, Page 36) One of the first Utilitarians, Epicurus, was a Greek who modified the platonic argument for the happiness of the just life to accord with his own acquisitive method. After Epicurus, Jeremy Bentham’s rekindles this argument. Bentham goes on to argue that in common experience, service to the community creates more pleasure then just helping you. The strength of Utilitarism is it vast realism. It promotes you to work immediately to do some good; find out what people need and obtain that pleasure from them; find out what’s hurting an individual and cease the pain to stop.(SG, Page 37) Utilitarianism's two most influential providers are Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. John Stuart Mill in his book Utilitarianism, stated, "In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility.(2) To do as one would be done by, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality." According to Bentham and Mill, utilitarianism is “only hedonistic” when the outcome of an act has no distinctly undesirable influence on someone. It is now usually taken to be a form of consequentialism, though after Anscombe first presented that term it was to distinguish between "old-fashioned utilitarianism" and consequentialism. In A Fragment on Government, Bentham says, "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong" and describes this as a fundamental axiom. In An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, he talks of "the principle of utility" but later prefers "the greatest happiness principle." (3) Taking a Moral Law approach to the scenario; the student should walk into the professor’s office and return the copy of the midterm exam to the professor. From a moral standpoint the student should return the midterm copy because academic dishonestly is not fair to the rest of his/her classmates if they have an upper hand on the exam. Its morally incorrect if the student does not return the exam because it causes mistrust to the professor and to the students in the class. It can also effect the future students enrolled this class because the professor will have a stricter approach when administering the exams. If the student returns the exam the professor could possibly reward the student with extra points on the exam or a way to help them improve their overall grade in the class. I believe this approach to the scenario is ethically just and morally responsible because cheating is self-degrading. You should believe in yourself that you can excel in a class if you put forth the effort. From having knowledge of the student’s scholarship, they have the brain functionality to pass the class. Having cheating tendencies can also follow the student pass academics and into their career path which can have devastating consequences. Taking a utilitarianism approach to the scenario; the student should keep the midterm exam and share it amongst his/her friends that are in the class. Doing this will potentially increase the score on the students exams, ergo, increase their overall happiness. From a utilitarian evaluation, there is not a distinct answer. It could cause the cheater implausible grief if reported while bearing the possible for sorrow to the reporter through reprisal. However, it could be good for the cheater, ultimately making them a better person, while benefiting the entire class by more fairly representing the grade distribution. When considered for universalizability, it still seems like it could go either way, with reporting, it seems like cheating would quickly become a much more secret activity or become eliminated, while deprived of reporting it seems like it would maintain the existing , which is generally working. Either way, it's difficult to say which is right, which may be what's leading to the disconnect between thought and action. (4).
(1)Johnson, Robert. "Kant's Moral Philosophy." Stanford University. Stanford University, 23 Feb. 2004. Web. 08 Mar. 2014. (2)Mill, John S. "Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill." Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill. BLTC, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. (3)Bentham, Jeremy. "An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation." Jeremy Bentham,. Econlib.org, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. (4)Kimble. "The Ethics of Everyday Life." The Ethics of Everyday Life. Http://olinethicist.blogspot.com/, 12 Apr. 2006. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.