1. Utilitarians believe that “one should so act as to promote the greatest happiness (pleasure) of the greatest number of people” (Angeles 326). However, within the utilitarian community there are major splits in how we are to determine which action brings us the greatest amounts of pleasure. Today I will be focusing on two ways to determine which actions bring the greatest amount of pleasure to a situation: act and rule utilitarianism. I will define both act and rule utilitarianism, give a situation where both can be applied, and respond to an objection of utilitarianism. I will also be discussing why I believe act utilitarianism helps more people than rule utilitarianism, in turn, becoming ‘superior’ to rule utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism is a practical doctrine that is widely accepted in modern society’s economics, politic, and ethics. Utilitarian is driven by the pursuit of happiness. For a utilitarian, everything that will be helpful in the pursuit is considered good. In utilitarianism, an action is good or evil based on its consequences on the happiness of an individual and the happiness of the community. Similar to other doctrine, utilitarianism is not without a flaw. Bernard Williams, in his paper Utilitarianism and Integrity, voices his primary concern in regard to utilitarianism by providing two concrete examples to demonstrate how utilitarianism is only concerned about the consequences of the action and not about the means used to get there. Williams argues that utilitarianism fails to acknowledge the integrity of a person because the ultimate goal of utilitarianism is to produce the greatest happiness overall.
In his essay, Utilitarianism Mill elaborates on Utilitarianism as a moral theory and responds to misconceptions about it. Utilitarianism, in Mill’s words, is the view that »actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.«1 In that way, Utilitarianism offers an answer to the fundamental question Ethics is concerned about: ‘How should one live?’ or ‘What is the good or right way to live?’.
Utilitarianism is the argument that all actions must be made for the greatest happiness for the greater number of people (Bentham, 42). However, utilitarianism cannot always be the basis of one’s decisions due to the fact that people need to look out for their own pain and pleasure before consulting others’ wellbeing. I will first explain the arguments of the utilitarianism ideal. Then I willl explain why this argument is unconvincing. Ultimately, I will then prove why people consider their own happiness before considering others. Thus showing the utilitarianism view is implausible due to the need for people to consider their own happiness when making decisions or else they themselves will be experiencing the most pain and unhappiness.
Utilitarianism, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, states that the morality of an action should be judged based on the extent to which it produces happiness, or the opposite of happiness—an action is good as long as the result is happiness, and deemed bad if it results in pain. A clearer understanding of what Utilitarianism is can be gained by John Stuart Mill’s characterization of what it is not. He states, “I believe that the very imperfect notion ordinarily formed of its meaning, is the chief obstacle which impedes its reception; and that could it be cleared, even from only the grosser misconceptions, the question would be greatly simplified, and a large proportion of its difficulties removed” (Mill, 2007, p. 4). In defining Utilitarianism, Mill dispels common misconceptions that are held about Utilitarianism in order to give the reader a clearer understanding of the doctrine and the rationales that support it.
John Stuart Mill introduces his assessment of Utilitarianism by stating how a standardized system in which people’s actions may be judged to differentiate between right and wrong has been minimal in progress. He expresses the misconception with the way utility is understood by the general populous and other philosophers. The struggle to lay the foundations in what constitutes as right and wrong dates longer back than 2000 years ago.
Classical utilitarianism is a normative ethical theory which holds that an action can only be considered as morally right where its consequences bring about the greatest amount of good to the greatest number (where 'good' is equal to pleasure minus pain). Likewise, an action is morally wrong where it fails to maximise good. Since it was first articulated in the late 19th Century by the likes of Jeremy Bentham and later John Stewart Mill, the classical approach to utilitarianism has since become the basis for many other consequentialist theories such as rule-utilitarianism and act-utilitarianism upon which this essay will focus (Driver, 2009). Though birthed from the same
For utilitarian philosophers, happiness is the supreme value of life. John Stuart Mill defines Utilitarianism as a theory based on the principle that “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and privation of pleasure” (Mill, Utilitarianism). This meaning that utilitarianism is determined by the calculation of happiness, in which actions are deemed to be good if they tend to produce pleasure, a form of happiness. On the contrary, they are evil if they tend to promote pain. Not only does Mill regard to the end product of happiness in actions, but also considers the motives of such actions. In his argument, Mill defends the idea that happiness as the underlying basis of morality, and that people desire nothing but happiness.
This work has probably received more analysis than any other work on utilitarianism available. However, I seek to do here what many others have been unable to accomplish so far. I hope to, in five paragraphs, cover each of the chapters of Utilitarianism in enough depth to allow any reader to decide whether or not they subscribe to Mill's doctrine, and if so, which part or parts they subscribe to. I do this with the realization that much of Mill's deliberation in the text will be completely gone. I suggest that anyone who seeks to fully understand Mill's work should read it at length.
In this paper I will present and critically assess the concept of the principle of utility as given by John Stuart Mill. In the essay “What Utilitarianism Is” #, Mill presents the theory of Utilitarianism, which he summarizes in his “utility” or “greatest happiness principle” # (Mill 89). Mill’s focus is based on an action’s resulting “happiness,” # pleasure and absences of pain, or “unhappiness,” # discomfort and the nonexistence of contentment, rather than the intentions involved (Mill 89). After evaluating Mill’s principle, I will then end this essay by discussing my personal opinion about the doctrine and how I believe it can be altered to better suit real-life situations.
Opponents of Act Utilitarianism attempt to argue that Act Utilitarianism (henceforth AU) does not account for justice when applied to ethical dilemmas. It is the authors opinion that these claims are factually incorrect and this essay shall attempt to prove this through analysis of common arguments against AU, and modifying AU to allow for justice to be more readily accounted for.
Utilitarianism is a normative ethical theory that holds the morally right course of action in any given situation is the course of which yields the greatest balance of benefits over harms. More specifically, utilitarianism’s core idea is that the effects of an action determine whether actions are morally right or wrong. Created with the philosophies of Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), Utilitarianism began in England in the 19th Century. Bentham and Mill built their system of Utilitarianism on ancient hedonism (pursuing physical pleasure and avoiding physical pain). Although both of these philosophers agreed on the basic principals of Utilitarianism they disagreed on what exactly hedonism is.
Utilitarianism can be generally defined as a way of thinking where one chooses an action based on the amount of happiness that it would produce. In the book Ethics: Theory and Contemporary Issues, by Barbara MacKinnon and Andrew Fiala, the authors state “Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism,” and that “John Stuart Mill explained it as ‘actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.’” (MacKinnon 95). This means that utilitarianism focuses on result of an action based on happiness and that decisions can be taken made by looking at possible outcomes of that decision. What Mill stated would be defined as “ the principle of utility or the greatest happiness principle.”( MacKinnon, 95). This principle is one in which could be
Utilitarianism is the ethical belief that the happiness of the greatest number of people is the greatest good. Jeremy Betham and John Stuart Mill are two philosophers that were leading advocates for the utilitarianism that we study today. In order to understand the basis of utilitarianism, one must know what happiness is. John Stuart Mill defines happiness as the intended pleasure and absence of pain while unhappiness is pain and the privation of pleasure. Utilitarians feel the moral obligation to maximize pleasure for not only themselves, but for as many people as possible. All actions can be determined as right or wrong based on if they produce the maximum amount of happiness. The utilitarian belief that all actions can be determined as right or wrong based only on their repercussions connects utilitarianism to consequentialism. Consequentialism is the belief that an action can be determined morally right or wrong based on its consequences. Just like any other belief system, utilitarianism faces immense amount of praise and criticism.