In this essay I will be outlining and discussing the ethical theory of Utilitarianism and use examples in order to back my points. I will be discussing the main concepts within Utilitarianism and explaining them fully. Ethics is a branch of philosophy concerned with the study of what is good and bad. Utilitarianism is an ethical study which deals with the usefulness of an action and deals with the outcome of an action. Utilitarianism is suggests to be a useful and increasingly popular ethical theory because of it's simplicity. It has many benefits as well as some flaws. The study of Ethics is beneficial to know as we face moral decisions everyday.
Utilitarianism is a theory in Normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing happiness and avoiding pain. Utility means usefulness which comes from Utilitarianism. It is the belief that an action is right if it is useful and it leads to the greatest happiness. Utilitarianism is generally held to be the view that the morally right action is the action that produces the most good. On the utilitarian view one ought to maximize the overall good — that is, consider the good of others as well as one's own good, therefore it promotes happiness and positivity. Utilitarianism also tells us that there is no God or he does not matter. So it is also considered to be an Atheist theory.
Utilitarianism was suggested to be a Teleological theory. This means that it focuses on the end result of an action. So it is therefore based on the consequences of an action because the end justifies the means. An action which results in a good end is most likely the correct one to pursue than the one that leads to an action that results in a bad end. For example lying would be right if it leads to a good and better circumstance, the individual lies to protect someone, therefore this is considered right. So some acts that are wrong but lead to good results are considered right. It is also suggested to be a consequential theory. The opposite of Teleological would be De-ontological. The De-ontological theory focuses on guidelines or absolutist laws which can't be broken. The theory also focuses on the action performed by an individual, if the action is wrong then you don't do it and if it is right you can, for example killing, rape, stealing, these acts are all wrong therefore should not be performed. It does not concentrate on the end actions. It therefore concentrates on the action itself and not on the end which Teleological thinkers would do.
The theory of Utilitarianism was developed by Jeremy Bentham. Jeremy Bentham was born in London (1748-1832). He was a British philosopher, economist and social reformer. He was concerned with social conditions and becoming involved with hospitals ans prisons. He believed that women should have the right to vote and he also believed in the decriminalisation if homosexuality. In 1798 Bentham worked on legal reform and wrote the book 'The Principles of Morals and Legalisation' in which he added his ethical theory which is divided into three parts. The first was about rightness and wrongness, the second was the Principle of Utility which is his main aim or goal that he introduced and the last was the Hedonic Calculus which was a system in which you measure pleasure and pain.
Benthams main principle is the Principle of Utility, Utility is another word for usefulness. This states that we should aim to achieve the 'Greatest Happiness for the Greatest Number'. This is one of his great quotes. He believed that the principle of Utility should be applied to any given situation, any act can be justified if it produces the greatest happiness for an individual as the quotes says greatest happiness for the greatest number. So the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by it's…