Compare and Contrast Utilitarianism with Christian Ethics

810 Words Jan 11th, 2012 4 Pages
Compare and Contrast Utilitarianism with Christian Ethics

The ethical teachings and values of utilitarianism and Christian ethics are similar in some aspects, yet however are diverse in others. Utilitarianism is a generally teleological ethical system, where the outcome is said to justify the act. The act is considered ‘good’ if it brings about the greatest good for the greatest number. Christian Ethics, however, can be quite different. Many aspects of its ethics are deontological, for example, the Decalogue and Natural Law. There are other differences and indeed some similarities which will be considered throughout this essay.

Christian ethics has many aspects which do not agree with the fundamental doctrine of Utilitarianism.
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This however fundamentally goes against Utilitarianism, which states that humans are merely motivated by the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. This is how an action is considered good or bad in the Hedonic Calculus, if it brings pleasure for the most people or works to avoid pain. Furthermore, Christian ethics implies that one will find happiness by modelling themselves on Jesus and adhering to the teachings of the Bible. However, in Utilitarianism it is stated that one will find the most happiness when individuals are free to pursue their own ends.

The process of using the Hedonic Calculus aspect of Utilitarianism can also be likened to the Christian ethical principle of using one’s Conscience. For this point, it is important to note that this is not in reference to the specific detail in the Hedonic Calculus, but is about the underlying reason for its use. In the New Testament, Paul advocated that the Conscience should be used when one needs moral guidance, which is linked to the will of God. Even though in Utilitarianism the ‘God’ aspect is not included in terms of justifying an action, the principle of mentally judging a deed is similar.

John Stuart Mill developed his own approach to Utilitarianism called ‘Rule Utilitarianism’. There are some similarities with Christian ethics which lie in his doctrine. Firstly, Mill says that there should be general rules which people

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