'Evaluating Utilitarianism' - What are the main features of Utilitarianism as an ethical theory? Examine and consider criticisms that have been made against Utilitarianism.

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What are the main features of Utilitarianism as an ethical theory? (10 marks)

Examine and consider criticisms that have been made against Utilitarianism. (10 marks)

Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that pivots around the belief that morality should be judged by consequence and the way in which an action can be deemed moral or immoral, depends upon the number to which it brings the greatest happiness. A decision can be defined as ethically correct under the theory of Utilitarianism if the moral choice provides the 'greatest good for the greatest number of people', proving that at the core of Utilitarianism are the ideals of pleasure and consequence. Although Utilitarianism provides a useful, simplistic way for making moral decisions,
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The most recognised example of this is of the 'Sadistic Guards' scenario, where a group of prison guards enjoy torturing a prisoner. Due to the egalitarian nature of Utilitarianism, certain forms of pleasure can be justified by the theory if they were carried out on the majority by the minority. Bentham's version of Utilitarianism would morally accept this situation, as the result would still be the greatest good for the greatest number, where sadism would be defined as pleasurable, as the guards are gaining pleasure from torturing the single man.

Contrary to Bentham's original principle of Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill believed that pleasure should be qualitative and not quantitative and also that pleasures could be split into higher and lower order pleasures. Mill saw higher order pleasure as that gained when reading literature or going to the opera, whereas he viewed the lower orderly pleasures as bodily, for example, eating, drinking and sex. Mill therefore felt that if one had to chose, that the pleasures of the mind were to be preferred, "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied." Although this version pressed out the creases of Bentham's original account, it caused Utilitarianism to become elitist, where choosing to listen to classical music over drum and bass would be considered morally

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