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outline the important concept of utilitarianism

By safae96 Dec 03, 2013 645 Words
Outline the important concept of utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism was a theory developed by Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century. Bentham’s theory was motivated by his desire to find universal theory that could be applies to every ethical situation. Due to industrial revolution people fled to the city where they endured urban oppression. Bentham’s theory helped improve social situations. This theory is also a teleological theory; telos meaning end or purpose. This means that the theory bases the decisions on the consequences of the action making it a consequentialist theory too. As well as that it is also relativist. This means it’s based on unfixed moral truths and that the morality of an act depends upon the circumstances. A key feature of utilitarianism is that it is a democratic theory this means that it does not favour one person but decides on things that’s for the majority. Bentham came up with the “principle of utility” which was renown as the “greatest good for the greatest number”, this means that that if the action if going to create the greatest good; good meaning that this is the minimization of pain and the maximisation of pleasure then the action is acceptable. For example in a situation where a scientist that could cure cancer was drowning and your relative on the other side id drowning as well, from a utilitarianism point of view it would be right to save the scientist as they would have a major impact on all the people that have cancer. Bentham believed that us humans naturally strive for pleasure and avoid pain. He wanted an egalitarian society. Another key aspect of utilitarianism is that Bentham was a hedonist. This meant that he believed that we set astir by pleasure and avoid pain. He said that “nature has placed mankind under the governance to two sovereign masters; pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to one point out what we ought to do and determine what we shall do”. He believed that pain and pleasure are the main masters and that we gain more from pleasure than pain. As well as that, a key element of utilitarianism is the hedonic calculus. Bentham introduced the hedonic calculus as a way to measure the pleasure and pain. This consisted of 7 key factors. Intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, propinquity, fecundity, purity and extent. These factors helped make a decision on the pain or pleasure. For example, Amy has booked a ski trip but she find out that she is 2 months pregnant. Using the 7 factors it would come to show that she should not go on the ski trip and the duration of the pregnancy outweighs the duration of the ski trip. Furthermore even though there pain involved the everlasting pleasure after the birth is very long lasting. A fundamental element of utilitarianism is John Stewart Mills’ qualitative theory. He tried to address the issue of the sadistic guard by distinguishing higher and lower pleasures. A higher pleasure being something such as reading and a lower pleasure would be shopping as he believes that reading is more intelligent than shopping making it more of a pleasure. John Stewart Mill introduced the concept of act and rule utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism is an absolutist theory which focuses on general rules for the greatest good for the community. It takes priority over the situation. Act utilitarianism is a relativist theory and is the principle of utility must be directly applied to individual situations. The decisions on the morality of the act are based upon the value of the consequences. For example a law could be broken for the greatest happiness. Jeremy Bentham was act utilitarianism. He believed that the consequences of an action were separate calculations. Overall I think that the most significant element of utilitarianism is the principle of utilitarianism as it highlights the importance of utilitarianism.

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