An overview of the utilitarian theory

Either we can shut down the system and punish no one, or we can maintain the system even though we know that it will result in some innocent people being unjustly punished in ways that they do not deserve.

If the overall aim is to maximize the well-being of all people in all cities, for example, then we are likely to get better results by having individuals who know and understand particular cities focus on them while other people focus on other cities.

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.

If more good can be done by helping strangers than by purchasing things for oneself or people one personally cares about, then act utilitarianism requires us to use the money to help strangers in need. John Stuart Mill, In his second chapter, Mill discusses the definition of utilitarianism, and presents some misconceptions about the theory.

If, for example, I make the statement "abortion is morally wrong," am I making a rational assessment or only expressing my feelings? Utilitarians disagree about whether judgments of right and wrong should be based on the actual consequences of actions or their foreseeable consequences.

If An overview of the utilitarian theory act requires a longer period of time for its performance than another, one may ask whether they can be considered alternatives. In EthicsMoore rejected a purely hedonistic utilitarianism and argued that there is a range of values that might be maximized.

Baier focuses more broadly on the reasoning and argumentation process that takes place when making moral choices. Some philosophers in the utilitarian tradition have recognized certain wholly nonhedonistic values without losing their utilitarian credentials.

Unless critics can prove that common sense moral beliefs are correct the criticisms have no force. Once the rules are determined, compliance with these rules provides the standard for evaluating individual actions. If a theory has a false implication about something that could happen, then the theory is wrong on that point, at least.

The third chapter is a discussion about the ultimate sanctions or rewards that utilitarianism can offer.

Utilitarianism

If a given abortion produces greater benefit than disbenefit, then, according to act-utilitarianism, it would be morally acceptable to have the abortion.

There are four central duty theories. Hall [38] and Popkin [39] defend Mill against this accusation pointing out that he begins Chapter Four by asserting that "questions of ultimate ends do not admit of proof, in the ordinary acceptation of the term" and that this is "common to all first principles.

Their claim is that, if an experience is neither pleasurable nor painful, then it is a matter of indifference and has no intrinsic value. Bentham, who apparently believed that an individual in governing his own actions would always seek to maximize his own pleasure and minimize his own pain, found in pleasure and pain both the cause of human action and the basis for a normative criterion of action.

Those of the first order are the more immediate consequences; those of the second are when the consequences spread through the community causing "alarm" and "danger". Sometimes called voluntarism or divine command theorythis view was inspired by the notion of an all-powerful God who is in control of everything.

The key difference between act and rule utilitarianism is that act utilitarians apply the utilitarian principle directly to the evaluation of individual actions while rule utilitarians apply the utilitarian principle directly to the evaluation of rules and then evaluate individual actions by seeing if they obey or disobey those rules whose acceptance will produce the most utility.

Moreover, they say, rule utilitarianism can recognize justifiable partiality to some people without rejecting the commitment to impartiality that is central to the utilitarian tradition.

Critics claim that the argument for using our money to help impoverished strangers rather than benefiting ourselves and people we care about only proves one thing—that act utilitarianism is false.

He argues that pleasure can differ in quality and quantity, and that pleasures that are rooted in one's higher faculties should be weighted more heavily than baser pleasures. The Doctrine of Negative Responsibility 1. According to Aristotle, it is not an easy task to find the perfect mean between extreme character traits.

Using this information, Bentham thought, would allow for making correct judgments both in individual cases and in choices about government actions and policies. Foreseeable consequence utilitarians accept the distinction between evaluating actions and evaluating the people who carry them out, but they see no reason to make the moral rightness or wrongness of actions depend on facts that might be unknowable.

As a movement for the reform of social institutions, 19th-century utilitarianism was remarkably successful in the long run. Their method for determining the well-being of a group involved adding up the benefits and losses that members of the group would experience as a result of adopting one action or policy.

A woman was traveling through a developing country when she witnessed a car in front of her run off the road and roll over several times.

Instead, a moral utterance like this involves two things.

Act utilitarianism

Biomedical ethics focuses on a range of issues which arise in clinical settings. A revised version of utilitarianism called rule-utilitarianism addresses these problems.

Rule utilitarians will reply that they would reject the stop sign method a if people could be counted on to drive carefully and b if traffic accidents only caused limited amounts of harm. In Satisficing Consequentialism, Michael Slote argues for a form of utilitarianism where "an act might qualify as morally right through having good enough consequences, even though better consequences could have been produced.

Demandingness objection[ edit ] Act utilitarianism not only requires everyone to do what they can to maximize utility, but to do so without any favouritism. How could this be something that a utilitarian would support? This debate will not be further discussed in this article.

Ray Briggs writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Actual consequence utilitarians might agree that the option with the highest expected utility is the best thing to do but they claim that it could still turn out to be the wrong action.

His drive and belief in equality was the inspiration for the opening of UCL in London His preserved body is sill there in a wooden cabinet.Smart’s discussion combines an overview of moral theory and a defense of act utilitarianism. It is followed by Bernard Williams’, “A Critique of Utilitarianism,” a source of many important criticisms of utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism A summary of classical utilitarianism, and modern alternatives, with application to ethical issues and criticisms; Utilitarian Resources Collection of definitions, articles and links.

Primer on the Elements and Forms of Utilitarianism A convenient summary of the major points of utilitarianism. Aug 21,  · Utilitarianism as an ethics theory primarily values the good of the community over the good of the individual.

Act and Rule Utilitarianism

One might think of it as “the ends justify the means.” In other words, the metric for a good utilitarian action is the degree to which it benefits the. Lesson Summary. Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics, or the ethics that define the morality of actions, as proposed by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

It is defined by utility, the existence of pleasure and the absence of pain. Utilitarianism sees happiness as existing in low and high pleasures.

Act utilitarianism is based on the principle of utility, which is the basis of all utilitarian theories and is best summed up in Bentham's well-known phrase, "the greatest happiness for the greatest number". Summary. Utilitarianism, by John Stuart Mill, is an essay written to provide support for the value of utilitarianism as a moral theory, and to respond to misconceptions about it.

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.".

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An overview of the utilitarian theory
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