Utiliatrianism essay

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1) Outline the important concepts of Utilitarianism. (21) Utilitarianism is a teleological theory in which guides people to make moral decisions. The key principle of utilitarianism is to bring about the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number’ of people. This means that the most amounts of people should be satisfied and the most amount of pleasure should be gained, therefore making the act moral. However, because of this the minority are always forgotten, therefore meaning sometimes an immoral act is committed to make the majority of people happy. There are different forms of utilitarianism; act, rule and preference. The theory was developed by Jeremy Bentham who worked on a legal reform and wrote the principles and morals of legislation. During the time that he wrote these there were many social change for example the French and American revolutions, however this only helped to strengthen the theory as many people were now more concerned with the issues of human rights and democracy. Bentham divided the theory into three parts; motivation, the principle of utility, and the hedonic calculus. These parts were set in order to make it easy to calculate whether the result of an act would bring about the most amount of happiness. Bentham believed that the main thing that motivated human beings were the idea of pleasure and pain and that we are ‘under the governance of two sovereign masters; pain and pleasure.’ This hedonist view showed that people only did certain acts in order to maximise their pleasure and minimise their pain. He also believed that pleasure and pain could be used in order to measure whether and act was good or bad. The principle of utility is the main moral rule of utilitarianism. It is based on the idea that happiness can be measured by the results of the actions. The results in this case would be how much pleasure can be gained from the action. This principle brings into question whether a moral world would be one where most people have the most amount of happiness as many people may be happy because of an immoral action or consequence.
The hedonic calculus can also be used to calculate which action will bring about the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people possible. It is a quantitative idea and uses seven different criteria in order to assess whether the action is the most moral action. It assesses the pleasure of an action by many factors; intensity, duration, certainty, propinquity, fecundity, purity and extent. The balance of these is then compared to the hedonic calculus of another action which is to decide which option will bring about the most amount of pleasure. However, many people believed that calculating pleasure in quantitative terms was impractical and was not the right way to measure happiness, as the hedonic calculus could not be used in the spur of the moment. However, it was still difficult to measure the pleasure of an action as lower pleasures first need to be satisfied in order to complete a higher pleasure. For example, you cannot produce a piece of artwork without first eating and drinking until your body is satisfied that the artwork is finished. A counter argument to this is that Mill came up with the greatest happiness principle, meaning that an action was morally right if it produced the most amount of happiness at the time according to the ranking of higher and lower pleasures, an action becomes seemingly impossible. However, Mill was perceived to be a weak rule utilitarian. Rule utilitarianism assesses moral rules’ consequences against the rules of utility and then each individual act is assessed by the moral rules of that action. This in principle borders on a deontological theory as it instead concentrates on following moral rules instead of assessing an action on the consequence it creates. However, this theory can be seen as more efficient than act utilitarianism as it uses the guidance of past rules to predict the consequence of the particular…