?Explain the main features of the theory of Utilitarianism Essay

The theory of Utilitarianism takes its name from the Latin word Utilis, intending ‘useful’ . It was foremost developed by Jeremy Bentham, a philosopher and legal theoretician of the eighteenth century. Bentham sought to bring forth a modern and rational attack to morality which would accommodate the altering society of the industrial age. This was besides the epoch of the Gallic and American Revolutions, and of the Enlightenment, so Orthodox morality was challenged on many foreparts.

Utilitarianism may be regarded as a relativist, consequentialist and teleological system of moralss, ordering no fixed moral regulations and judging an action by its effects or stop consequence ( Grecian: telos ) . Bentham argued that one should maximize felicity for the bulk ( ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ : Francis Hutcheson ) , a position which is known as the ‘Utility Principle’ . Happiness was therefore equated with moral goodness. This thought farther identifies Bentham as a ‘psychological hedonist’ , since he regarded worlds as being chiefly motivated by pleasance and the turning away of hurting.

A contented society would be a good society. To convey ground and grounds to the field of moralss, Bentham so put frontward what he regarded as a scientific or empirical procedure for doing moral determinations, known as the ‘hedonic calculus’ . This consisted of seven cardinal standards one must see when doing a moral pick: Intensity Duration Certainty Propinquity or farness ( how near at manus pleasance falls ) Fecundity ( how likely pleasance is to be followed by more pleasance ) Purity Extent ( how many people it affects ) .

Subsequently in the nineteenth century, Bentham’s God boy John Stuart Mill modified his theory. Mill was a prima politician and philosopher of his twenty-four hours, recommending extremist and broad causes such as the equality of adult females. He regarded Utilitarianism as an of import but flawed attack to moralss. While Bentham had regarded wholly pleasures as ‘commensurate’ ( they are all equal or equivalent ) , Mill distinguished between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ pleasances. Higher pleasances would be those which engaged the head ( e. g. music or poesy ) , but lower pleasances would be those which engaged simply the organic structure ( e. g.eating, sex ) .

Mill developed the thought of ‘competent judges’ : those who had experienced the full scope of pleasances could know apart between what is higher and lower. A good society would be refined and constructive in its pleasances, and so Mill avoided the charge that Utilitarianism is a system of base satisfaction. Another cardinal differentiation between Bentham and Mill lies in the difference between Act and Rule theories of Utilitarianism. Bentham proposed an Act Utilitarian attack, intending that he treated each single action individually, without any regulations to steer the person.

Mill meanwhile proposed that one should do regulations based upon the effects which tend to follow from certain actions ( e. g. stealing tends to do hurting, so we should hold a regulation against stealing ) . So, despite recommending the same implicit in thought ( the publicity of felicity ) , we can see that Mill and Bentham arrived at two really different attacks to morality, with Mill avoiding some of the more extremist and controversial thoughts put frontward by Bentham. Measure the chief strengths and failings of the theory The strengths and failings of Utilitarianism vary between different versions of the theory.

The advantages of Act Utilitarianism are non the same as those of Rule ; Mill’s mentality was really different from that of Bentham. Overall, nevertheless, the strengths of both signifiers are outweighed by their failings. They are non converting as ethical systems, and some other attack to moralss is required. An advantage of Bentham’s Act Utilitarianism is that it considers the effects and felicity which consequence from actions ; this seems a reasonable attack to moralss which would happen much support today. The theory is besides flexible and easy to use ; it does non order many difficult regulations and provides a simple method for determination devising.

The theory besides enables tough determination doing through its relativism ( i. e. it would let us to give persons if it is of great benefit to society ) . The job with Bentham’s theory nevertheless is that it is genuinely relativistic, so any imaginable action could be allowed ( killing for the interest of pleasance, or political orientation ) . It besides enables the agony of the guiltless under a bulk, despite obvious unfairness. It farther allows cruel or sadistic pleasance, since Bentham regarded all pleasance as commensurate ( equal ) , a point noted by the philosopher Bernard Williams.

Mill’s theory offers many advantages which get around the jobs of Bentham’s Act Utilitarianism. By separating between the quality of pleasances, Mill regulations out the possibility of sadism or evil pleasance ( e. g. prison guards basking tormenting an guiltless victim ) . Besides, by offering Rule Utilitarianism, Mill is saying that certain actions are explicitly prohibited because they tend to advance hurting. So, he would non let anguish, no affair how much it was enjoyed. However, Mill’s theory lacks the flexibleness of Bentham’s, which means that reasonable regulation breakage is no longer possible ( an expostulation pointed out by R. M. Hare ) .

One could non state white prevarications, even to protect others. There is a farther failing in Mill’s thought of different qualities of pleasance: how can we judge what makes pleasance higher or lower? Surely this is a subjective affair, as gustatory sensation varies from individual to individual. It might besides be argued that the construct of a competent justice is obscure, since it is non clear whether we can truly place such people in today’s society. Overall, the theories put frontward by Bentham and Mill fail to supply a convincing or utile attack to moralss. On the one manus, Bentham’s positions are strikingly relativistic, leting any pleasance ( even sadism ) .

On the other manus, Mill’s Rule system lacks the flexibleness to do reasonable picks in hard state of affairss. It may be that some other and more modern version of the theory can get the better of these jobs, such as Welfare Utilitarianism ( as supported by Peter Singer ) or Two Rule Utilitarianism ( as suggested by R. M. Hare ) . We could strike a balance between favoring steadfast moral rules and paying attending to important effects or the all-around well-being of society. Such a via media offers a more promising attack to moralss than the classical signifiers of Utilitarianism.


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