Ask a passer-by to depict his personal morality. and you’ll likely acquire a complicated account filled with ifs. ands. and buts. Ask a useful. and he can give a six-word response: greatest good for the greatest figure. Of class. utilitarianism is non that simple. Like any philosophical system. it is the topic of eternal argument. Still. for the mean reader who is unfamiliar with the slang that characterizes most doctrine. utilitarianism can be a utile tool in make up one’s minding before an action whether or non to transport it out or. after an action. whether or non a moral pick was made.
Most recognition the economic expert Jeremy Bentham ( 1748-1832 ) as utilitarianism’s chief writer. Bentham described his thought as the “greatest felicity rule. ” and his thought was elaborated upon in the 19th century by John Stuart Mill in his authoritative work. Utilitarianism ( 1863 ) . In that book. Mill develops three critical constituents of utilitarianism: an accent on consequences. single felicity. and entire felicity ( by which he means the felicity of everyone affected by an action ) .
Consequences: Mill expanded Bentham’s definition of utilitarianism to reason that “actions are right in proportion as they tend to advance felicity ; wrong as they tend to bring forth the contrary of felicity. ” [ 1 ] This means that utilitarians care merely about the consequences of an action. Other factors that we typically consider when doing moral judgements about an action. including a person’s motivation or his outlooks about the consequences. do non count in utilitarianism. A useful would state that a adult male who shoots another by accident is guilty of slaying. whether or non the shot was an accident.
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Conversely. the adult male with “murder in his heart” who tries to hit another but girls can non be held morally accountable for the act. In utilitarianism. merely the consequences affair. Individual felicity: The 2nd constituent of utilitarianism is Mill’s thought of felicity. by which he means pleasance. As persons doing moral picks. we should seek to move in ways that maximize felicity and minimise hurting ( which Mill defines as “the contrary of happiness” ) .
In advancing the maximal felicity. Mill is non recommending a life of nutrient. sex and slumber. He specifically states that non all pleasances are created equal: “Few human animals would accept to be changed into any of the lower animate beings. ” he writes. “for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast’s pleasures ; no intelligent homo being would accept to be a sap. no instructed individual would be an know nothing. ” [ 2 ] For Mill. a hierarchy of pleasances exists. with human pleasances such as love lifting to the top of the list.
Falling in love or being moved by a vocal or verse form are greater goods to a useful than eating a delightful sandwich. non because love and music and poesy are different in sort than the physical pleasance of feeding. but because these are particularly profound pleasances. Entire felicity: The 3rd specifying facet of utilitarianism is its accent on the entire felicity. by which Mill means the felicity of all people affected by an action. To make up one’s mind if an action is moral. a useful will carry on an accounting of the pleasance and hurting associated with that act.
If the sum sum of pleasance outweighs the sum sum of hurting. the action is considered moral ; if non. immoral. Take as an illustration the instance of price-fixing. the government’s scene of minimal monetary values for goods such as milk to protect husbandmans from ruin. Is price-fixing moral? Utilitarians would believe through this inquiry as follows: When the authorities ( as opposed to the free market ) sets the bottom-line monetary value for milk. every consumer suffers moderate hurting since the authorities unnaturally raises the cost of milk above what the market place. runing harmonizing to the Torahs of supply and demand. would otherwise bear down.
Large consumers who depend on milk ( for illustration. ice pick makers ) may endure badly if the monetary value is kept unnaturally high. And that increased cost would no uncertainty be passed on to 1000000s of consumers in the signifier of increased costs for ice pick. But if the dairy husbandmans don’t acquire monetary value protection. they may travel bankrupt—in which instance a far greater cost would be paid: no 1 would be able to purchase milk or milk merchandises. Price repairing. so. helps husbandmans stay in concern at the disbursal of ice pick makers and consumers. Is that disbursal justified?
Utilitarians would reply on a individual footing after a careful reconciliation of benefits to a few with the increased ( though little ) cost to the many. [ 3 ] Persons every bit good as authoritiess can be guided by useful thought. Take the inquiry of organ contribution. Is it moral for the household member of a late ( and possibly tragically ) deceased individual to allow physicians permission to reap their loved one’s variety meats? Utilitarianism’s “greatest happiness” rule demands any personal forfeit in which the sum sum of pleasance produced outweighs the costs in hurting. even if the individual doing the pick receives none of the benefits.
Other philosophers place a precedence on single autonomy and object to utilizing one individual ( even a dead individual or dead person’s organic structure parts ) for another’s benefit. Utilitarians. by contrast. conclude that such actions are morally necessary. The emotional hurting of a household that has lost a loved one is really existent. But to utilitarians. the excess hurting caused by organ contribution is a step of hurting on top of the hurting of holding already lost a household member.
That excess step of hurting must be less than the felicity that consequences when a life is saved through a transplanted organ. Therefore. if the household uses the rule of greatest felicity to steer its determination. so they will hold to the harvest home of variety meats. A more controversial illustration of utilizing utilitarianism to do moral determinations involves the moralss of anguish. It is sometimes argued that utilitarianism would let the anguish of a captive if the anguish induced a confession that could salvage lives. a pattern that is purely outlawed in international jurisprudence.
In a society where this reading of utilitarianism was widely accepted. constabularies would be able to bring down any sum of hurting on an person in order to salvage even one life. This concluding illustration high spots one facet of utilitarianism that is frequently criticized. Although the greatest felicity rule is easy to understand. its application can take to some unsettling consequences. One can conceive of a society’s involvement in accomplishing the “greatest happiness” warranting all sorts of maltreatments in the name of morality. Utilitarians. in fact. can non easy explicate why anguish is morally incorrect.
Still. in steering people through more ordinary determinations. utilitarianism has remained popular among both philosophers and non-philosophers. All of us need assist sometimes in make up one’s minding on the right class of action. Utilitarianism has provided that aid for philosophers and common common people likewise for two hundred old ages. ———————– [ 1 ] John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism ( Indianapolis. Inch: Hackett Publishing Company. 2001 ) 7. [ 2 ] Mill. 9. [ 3 ] Robert W. McGee. “Some Thoughts on Anti-dumping Laws: Utilitarianism. Human Rights and the Case for Appeal. ” European Business Review 96 ( 1996 ) : 30.
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