Utilitarianism : A Moral Theory

1862 WordsAug 13, 20178 Pages
Research problem Utilitarianism is a moral theory that evaluates the rightness or wrongness of an action depending on its consequences. The criteria for this evaluation is how the action impacts the well-being of those involved. To put it simply, utilitarianism is concerned with whether the action brings the best outcome for those affected by it (Visak, 2013: 19). Whilst utilitarianism allows for different conceptions of well-being, depending on which value theory is used to measure it (giving place to different versions of utilitarianism, such as hedonistic or preference utilitarianism), the concept of well-being itself is inseparable of utilitarian ethics, as it is considered the ultimate value (Visak, 2013: 19). As a theory that is…show more content…
In the case of humans, the hedonistic utilitarian can also point to indirect reasons, such as the fear the killing may bring into the rest of society (if they find out about the killing, other members of society may fear they will be too), and the suffering the death may bring to the friends and relatives of the victim. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that none of these reasons refer to the loss of the victim herself. Typically, we do not condemn the killing of an innocent being due to the effects it may have on others (although it could be an aggravating factor), but due to the loss suffered by the victim herself. For these reasons, historically, utilitarianism has been accused of not having a strong enough stance against killing (see, for example, Henson, 1971). Relevantly for our discussion, note how this problem is more pressing when it comes to non-human animals. First, the preference utilitarian reasons against killing do not apply to the majority non-human animals, or only do so weakly. The majority of animals do not have plans or hopes or the future, and if they do, these attitudes are only projected into a near future. Furthermore, they do not appear to have the mental capacity to envision their life as a whole, an ability that is frequently considered a prerequisite to hold an explicit preference to continue your life (Cigman, 1981;
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