Utilitariansim: Strengths and Limitations

Topics: Utilitarianism, Morality, Hedonism Pages: 4 (1228 words) Published: October 1, 2006
Utilitarianism- Journal Questions (Formative Assessment)
1a) What are the strengths of Utilitarianism?
1b) Utilitarianism has several limitations. Identify two limitations and suggest improvements to Utilitarianism that enable it to avoid these limitations.

Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory: it holds that we ought to act in whatever way has the best consequences (i.e. the greatest "utility"). For most utilitarians, this means maximising the good and minimising the bad. Utilitarianism works on the fundamental assumption that we should always try to make as many people as possible as happy as possible (The Greatest Happiness Principle). Despite sometimes being unable to account for such fundamental moral concept as justice, rights, or freedom, Utilitarianism does have its strengths.

Firstly, Utilitarianism is an objective theory: it is a practical method for calculating how one should act regardless of personal confusion. If one has a difficult decision to make, Utilitarianism is a simple principle that can be applied to make that decision, or solve conflicts of self-interest. Conveniently, utilitarianism uses a common denominator – pleasure or happiness – to which consequences of actions are reduced. This allows for a calculation, so to speak, to be performed, and one's moral duty to be determined, regardless of how complex and challenging the actual case is.

For example, an underage boy considers going to a party where he knows there will be alcohol and he will probably get drunk. The utilitarian would weigh the happiness of himself, his friends, his family members and relatives, and those who hear about the case. Also, he would consider the fact that he might get caught, and thus also calculate the relative pleasure garnered from his going to the party. Utilitarianism is quite straightforward to apply – with the exception of vagueness regarding calculation and ways of counting intensity and permanence of pleasures (a common argument being...
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