Utilitarianism vs Libertarianism: Examples and Facts Essay
Libertarianism and utilitarianism are contrary to each other. In utilitarianism, people believe that an action that produces happiness is what one should go. Utilitarian’s do not care whether what they are doing distracts another person’s rights. Conversely, in libertarianism, a person’s action for happiness should not violate another person’s rights. Libertarians values actions that promote fairness and justice in the society unlike, the utilitarian actions that in some cases violates fairness and justice.
Libertarianism and the Government
In libertarianism, the libertarians’ perceives the government as the one that threatens peoples’ rights. They rank the government as the greatest threat to human rights. Also, the libertarians do not agree with the idea of governments to pass moral laws.
It is not suitable for the government to dictate the life of an individual. They also disagree with the governments’ tax process meant for re-distributing purposes. According to the libertarians, taxing an individual to help another person is a way of forcing a person to work for another person.
Libertarians advocate for individuals to stand alone in society. However, they require the government to develop rules that protect individual property, protect an individual from theft, fraud, coercion, and breaching of contracts. A person who breaks societal rules is against his or her right to standing alone and is subject to face charges.
In implementing these rules, the government would be playing an essential role in protecting the rights of a peaceful person from criminals, and foreign aggression. When the government violates these rights, it is playing a criminal role, and therefore, there is no need for a government.
The libertarians advocate for the society to be at liberty in which individuals do not operate under rules that force them to do specific actions. In conclusion, libertarians advocate for a society that the government has limited control or a society where the government does not exist.
Libertarianism promotes workers participation in various activities that are of their concern at workplaces. Workers can enhance their engagement when they have freedom in the workplace. Freedom allows the managers and workers to make decisions at the workplace together. It is also by allowing freedom at the workplace that the employers can provide safe working environments.
Socialism and capitalism
Employers promote socialism by involving workers in the decision-making process. In libertarian socialism, the factors of production gain control of the public, but respects private property. It also advocates for social organizations not to use coercive forms while handling workers, thus promoting workers relation. Socialism also extends to the market by promoting the owning of economic systems by the public in a market. When the public owns the economic systems, society can control unfair competitions amongst the producers.
Libertarianism is against state capitalism since in state capitalism the government has control over different states economic activities. They view it as a way that the state uses to get profit from citizens. State capitalism is a monopoly in nature denying citizens a free market.
A free market allows people to practice their freedom of consulting prices where supply and demand determine the price. Conversely, state capitalism does not give suppliers and buyers the freedom to choose the price. Free market reduces coercion forms in the market. In conclusion, unlike utilitarianism, libertarianism ensures that there is respect for individuals’ rights and the promotion of freedom of choice.
The Utilitarianism Theory in Society Essay
A good action in the society is more purposeful when it produces the best results. The consequences of an action should be beneficial to a society. Utilitarianism prefers actions that have beneficial results ignoring their rules. A beneficial action should not destroy moral development in the society. This morality of an action is determined by the consequences of the action.
Societies require actions that will produce benefits and at the same time they should not be actions that go against the morals of the society. It is important for societies to define the nature of activities that are of benefit to the society. This is possible by developing rules that regulate actions that are developed by people in the society. These rules should increase benefits and control bad actions. Therefore, utilitarianism should lead to an increase in happiness of the society.
Utilitarianism can be described to belong to Chameleon philosophy. Like a chameleon, utilitarian action has to go for what is beneficial and protective. Changing with the environment and adopting the available actions to create happiness is valued in utilitarianism. Any approach that can increase happiness works for utilitarianism.
In utilitarianism, rules are necessary in the governing of the actions. One has to come up with the rules for the intended action. The rules are categorized to be either bad or good. In applying utilitarianism, a person has to choose the best rule whether it is good or bad. Utilitarianism only considers the results of an action. The best rule has to yield best results even when it is a rule that interferes with peoples’ rights.
Utilitarianism on calculating goods
Utilitarianism applies in the calculation of goods. This is because the concentration is normally on the consequences of the action. The good that comes with the action determines the utility of the action.
Utilitarianism on rights
Utilitarianism has an impact on rights. Rights refer to the benefits that one should enjoy without discrimination. When one denies another person his or her rights such cases normally leads to injustices. Utilitarianism only focuses on the happiness. When an action makes one person happy and denies another person his or her rights, it becomes a way of promoting injustices in the society. In utilitarianism, rights become less important.
The rules in utilitarian action are only designed to promote the benefits of that particular action. The rules do not consider the abuse of the rights by the action as long as the action remains beneficial to the society. The idea of utilitarianism rules ignoring rights normally puts the application of utilitarianism in people’s daily lives. Therefore, utilitarianism only values the consequences.
Utilitarianism Theory Essay
What is utilitarianism?
Utilitarianism is a theory used to explain consequentialism. The consequentialism theory states that one has to determine what is “intrinsically valuable” in an action.
The good in the action is what is focused on and not what it leads to. In regards to this theory, founded by Jeremy Bentham (18th century), and further developed by his protégé, John Stuart Mill (19th century), the morality of an action is determinant with the benefit of hindsight. Bentham argues that the outcomes of an action are what determine whether it is good/bad or right/wrong. Bentham strongly believes that the “ends justify the means”. However, to this perception a question is posed, what is the end?
Both Bentham and Mill agree that there is one intrinsic good (pleasure according to Bentham or happiness according to Mill) and one intrinsic bad (pain) according to Bentham or misery/unhappiness according to Mill. However, their agreeing on principle ends there as Bentham states that terming or referring to an action as good, has to have arisen from receiving pleasure from that action, and is mostly experienced in the physical sense.
This is just an echo of Socrates’ sentiments in Plato’s “Protagoras”. Mill disagrees with this perception that it turns utilitarianism into a “pig philosophy” and argues that quality of the action matters a lot. This is in disregard of Bentham’s thought that pleasure is the same qualitatively and the only thing that matters or is vital is quantity.
Utilitarianism tends to assume that happiness or pleasures found in humanity are equal across all people, for example: that one person’s well-being is not more important than any other one person’s. Consequently, its quest is to creating “the greatest good for the greatest number”. The theory thrives and succeeds on the actions that are able to create a balance between happiness and misery and this is therefore taken as the morally correct action.
Strengths and weaknesses
Utilitarianism gets its strength from its perception of actions and their impact on an individual. The ‘expected’ result of a specific action is the principle of measure and not the actual result itself. Utilitarianism has other strengths which include: impartiality- the theory asserts that everyone is equal and their happiness counts equally, it does not allow room for egoism and provides insight into Bentham’s notion. The theory also justifies most of our moral conventions. It is flexible, and offers for a larger moral community.
This theory falls short along the way, as questions come up to try and find an answer to the issue on morality. According to the theory of utilitarianism, if the morality of an action depends on its results, how do we know when the “results” are done? How can we thus know the answer? This ends up being a weakness in the whole theory and perception of utilitarians.
It could be simply explained that “expected” result of a particular action is the criteria, and not the “actual” result, but the followers of this theory are not in agreement with this. For that reason, this brings out a weakness where its own believers do not agree with it fully. It does not answer the question on morality, and as it is known, morality is a very vital aspect of the society and an individual.
A notable weakness of this theory is its assumption that the happiness or pleasure of each human being is equal to every other individual’s. Utilitarianism does not really address the issue of morality and what determines actions as good or bad. The ease at which Kantianism opposed Utilitarianism thinking in ethics and morality issues shows a huge weakness and lack of faith in this theory. Both this two theories form the two major “rules-based” approaches to ethical theory in the modern era.
In spite of this, Kant emphasizes on the form of an individual’s ethical reasoning, and argues that it must follow a certain rationality to ensure its rightness. On the other hand, according to utilitarians, the measure of the rightness or wrongness of an action could only be determined by the consequences of the action (greatest good for greatest number).
This greatly shows where the Utilitarianism theory falls short of adequately addressing ethics and morality within an individual. The theory leaves the determining of good or bad to the majority and the outcome of an action. Therefore the individual has no control of reasoning out what is good or bad.
Bentham/Mill debate: what/why
The theory of utilitarianism founded by Jeremy Bentham and further developed by his protégé, John Stuart Mill comes across as the morality of an action is determinant with the benefit of hindsight and that reaction to an action determines whether it is good/bad or right/wrong. Although they both agree on the contextual basis of it, they have come out in disagreement on principle of what really is utilitarianism.
According to Bentham, the ends justify the means. On the other hand, Mill disagrees with Bentham and terms his philosophy on utilitarianism as a “pig philosophy”, according to him he prefers a state where an individual is “better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied”. His argument on this matter is driven by the fact that the level and intensity of happiness (referred to as pleasure by Bentham) is wholly driven by quality.
A disagreement occurs in this as Bentham is utterly convinced that what matters to an individual’s pleasure is only quantity and these pleasures are the same qualitatively in all individuals. The degree of measuring extent of pain or pleasure, happiness or misery and so forth is still indefinite and Bentham’s answer to this whether plausible or not does not shed any more light to the issue.
The disagreement between the two proponents of this theory leaves a question in our minds, is utilitarianism even practically feasible? Does the amount of deliberation on its impact, the problem of egoism and self-sacrifice and so forth answer the question on morality?
How then do we know that “happiness” or “pleasure” is the ultimate good? Mill tries to give insight to this by attesting that when an individual is asked what he/she wants in/out of life, it constantly comes down to happiness/pleasure, for that reason since every individual says that is what they want then they ought to get exactly that.
This puts into disrepute Bentham’s notion that happiness/pleasure is equal across all human beings and that the outcome of the action determines whether it is good/bad or right/wrong. Mill’s position on the theory of utilitarianism comes more superior to Bentham’s as he provides more explanation on what the intrinsic good is and morality within an individual.
Gene Hackman’s challenge: response
Is it justifiable killing one person to save others from suffering from cancer/find a cure?
Gene Hackman’s challenge on whether killing one person to save others from suffering from cancer and find a cure for them plays with what is right and what is bad. Bentham’s assertion that the outcome determines the right of deciding good or bad can be used to try and justify this. It is a question that tries to find a balance between ethics and morality within an individual, in the society.
Killing is out rightly wrong within the society and is not morally accepted. But the question is, does saving the lives of many justify sacrificing the life of one? Kant tries to offer insight into this debate by saying that the actions of an individual should be left to the individual’s own reasoning. Utilitarianism argues that the “ends justify the means”. But is it right?
The question of taking another person’s life is not justifiable in any way or form even if it is to save others. Laws have been put in place to put a check on the taking of life (killing), but there are instances where it is acceptable but still under very cautious circumstances. Hackman is faced with a question on his professionalism. Do professionalism and the oath sworn to uphold the ethical conduct of an individual have a play in reasoning and determining what is good or bad?
This leaves us asking ourselves whether the good of the many gives an individual the right to make choices on behalf of the group. In my opinion killing one to save many is not justifiable and goes against ethical and morality aspect in the society. But yet again all this is left to the reasoning of the individual to decide what is good and what is bad.
Many people argue that saving the lives of many innocent people justifies the act of taking life, but yet again the life being taken is innocent and they have a choice of whether to give into the cause or hold onto their life.
The choice of taking a life should not be given to someone to decide for an individual but rather to the individual it belongs to. In this way the good and feeling of pleasure is obtained by an individual as he/she has been left to reason on the impact of their worth to the society. Consequentialism tries to justify the taking of life but Kantianism argues against this and puts the decision solely in the hands of an individual.
Utilitarianism Theory Application in Duelling Dilemma Report
The case considered below involves two principles; the right to know and the need to protect the public from accessing material considered harmful or offensive. This case involves the government of the People’s Republic China (PRC) internet censorship and the people’s right to be informed or share information through the internet.
The ethical issue under consideration revolves around whether the government of PRC should censure the internet despite the existence of media freedom which guarantees the right to access, share and broadcast information. Should censorship be based on the fact that the government is out to protect the public from accessing offensive or unwanted materials?
The claimants in this scenario consist of the government of the PRC, those protesting against the censorship and the general public who might not be aware of such attempts by the government.
The government stands to benefit from internet censorship since protests propagated through the internet will be curbed. The general public is a factor since internet censorship by the government may limit their access to information. The protesting groups are also a factor since any censorship laws will see them arrested and imprisoned for violating censorship laws.
Each of these parties would like to have the issue handled differently. The government would like to have internet censorship in place so as to curb protests propagated through the internet. The government is however stuck between the people’s right to be informed and the need to protect the public from unwanted or offensive material.
The protesting groups mainly journalist and internet users would like to see a censorship free internet where they will be able to inform the public and also put the government in check. The protesting groups on their part are stuck between fighting for a censorship free internet and the risk of being arrested and jailed. The general public although they might not be aware would like to have access to information.
This scenario presents at least three possible modes of action. The government may disregard the people’s protests and continue implementing the internet censorship laws. This can be justified by the fact that the government wants to regulate access to unwanted or offensive material. Second, the protestors may defy the censorship laws and continue pushing for a censorship free internet.
Justification for this could be that the freedom of speech and expression is a fundamentally universal human right that no citizen should be denied. Lastly, the government may decide to dialogue with the protesting groups over penitent issues under contention. This can be justified by the fact that both parties are not willing to cede their grounds over what they believe is right.
The last mode of action where the government dialogues with the protesting groups appears to be the most appropriate and effective thing to do. If the government of PRC continue implementing internet censorship laws, then the peoples’ right to be informed and share information freely might be infringed.
The decision which requires the government of PRC and the protesting groups to dialogue over contentious issues can be evaluated using John Stuart’s Utilitarianism theory. This theory considers whether the decision or judgment made provides for the greatest good for greatest number of people (Quinn).
Under this theory, the decision yields the greatest good for the greatest number of claimants. The step is good for the protesting groups and the general public since besides guaranteeing free access to information, also ensures that the government is put in check thus greater transparency and accountability in governance.
The decision will also be good for the government of the PRC since it will ensure that media freedom is upheld besides protecting the public from unwanted or offensive materials. Therefore, under this Utilitarianism theory, the decision requiring the government to consult with protesting groups is ethical.
Quinn, Michael J. Ethics for the Information Age 4th Edition. Boston: Pearson/Addison-Wesley, 2006.
Animal Experimentation/ Testing on a Utilitarianism View Essay (Critical Writing)
Animal experimentation is the process by which live animals are put through various tests. They are introduced to certain conditions that cannot be exposed to human beings for fear of the complications that are unknown and may result to death in the end. The experiments are run on various animals such as guinea pigs, rats and even monkeys.
They are used in the place of human beings because they display genomes almost similar to that of the human beings. There is still another reason why animal experiment is carried out and this is to find out about various characteristics of the animals themselves and how they may react to various circumstances (Smart &William 19).
Some people may find the procedure of animal experimentation as being right and fine and others may be wholly against it. There are indeed advantages that may come along with trying out animal experimentation in the end to the human beings. Taking a quick reference from the act utilitarianism, an act or activity is judged morally right depending on the number of individuals it will benefit in the end. What this theory leaves out is that there is a party that may suffer especially the weaker or the minority group.
The act utilitarianism looks better in theory than in practice because in many instances, we cannot carefully analyze a situation and even have the ability to predict the future of that particular act. However, this theory is considered superior since its main goal is acquiring the multitude happiness of the highest number of people.
Using the act utilitarianism animal experimentation is necessary since it can be used to reduce human suffering in the medical field. It is more important to sacrifice the suffering of several animals to carry out investigations and tests that may result into the breakthrough of a certain cure or vaccine that may help thousands of people or even the humanity at large for many generations.
In such a situation, it is not noble to let people continue dying just because some researchers were discontinued from using animals for their experiment. In the long run if a cure is found or a vaccine there are more people who will benefit and this translates to a higher number of people who are happy.
The suffering of animals is what may be the reason why some people oppose the act utilitarianism in this context. However, it can be seen that the suffering of the animals can be reduced to a minimum with the use of anesthesia when carrying out procedures that may be uncomfortable or even painful. The conditions in the laboratory can be brought to suit the animal under experiment so that they may not undergo the suffering and can hence continue with the tests without raising much alarm for the activists (Fox 36).
In most countries such as the United States of America or even in the United Kingdom, most prescription drugs before they are exposed or released to the human beings for consumption have to be tested on the animals to ensure that they have negligible or no toxicity at all. This is indeed important since it seeks to protect very many people from harm or suffering if they consume toxic medication. Sample animals for the experiment are used to test in this case to ensure the safety of thousands or even millions of people.
Act utilitarianism point out that some animals such as the chimpanzees share about ninety-nine percent of the genes with the human beings and the latter shares slightly less with other animals. It can be immoral to carry out a test of a medicine or a chemical on a human being for the first time, exposing them to all sorts of complications or even death. This could have been tried out on a non-human animal that is not greatly dependable by other animals.
For example, if a child is used and they die or are incapacitated for life they run the loss of not being helpful around the house or even growing up to bring up a family and taking care of their aging parents. Animals on the other hand are greatly prolific and learn to take care of themselves the moment they are born and hence are not dependable on one another (Ellen and Jeffery 43).
As mentioned before the act utilitarianism is theoretical, carrying out the actual procedure may be rather tasking, and so many other parties may be compromised in the process. For instance, some animals may be exposed to various types of bacteria and virus and if the researches are done, carrying out experiments on them may release them to the wild, having not carefully gone through the prognosis of the previous treatment.
The animal may hence transmit the condition they developed from the laboratory and may end up in a pandemic in the forest or jungle and this may even make a particular species extinct. The animal experiment in this case had started to serve the larger good to a highest number of people but it ended up destroying generations’ ecological set-up and animal history.
The actual analysis of the facts shows that very few medical breakthroughs have been made through human experimentation. Almost half of the prescription drugs approved in the United States of America and the United Kingdom for human consumption through the animal experiments have been withdrawn because they manifested into the side effects that were harmful to human beings. This also results into millions of animals dying in experimentation leading to a niche in the ecological balance of the animal kingdom (Francione 24).
With the wake of technology animal experiment have advanced to the cloning of the animals that has seen the value of life discarded. This does not lead to the happiness of a greater number as the scientists will have the attitude of creating and destroying animal lives at their disposal. The animal experiments give human beings the mentality that animals are objects and this raises moral questions; is there a degree of morality when it comes to handling different living beings. The chimpanzee with one percent less of genes as the human is exposed to the animal testing and yet human beings are not. To test a certain drug on a human being, their consent is necessary but in the case of animals, they are just forced to go ahead with the procedure. There are alternatives in testing drugs such as tissue culture of human cells and hence this is bound to be more accurate in the findings. However, this does not cross out animal testing as in the case of veterinary medicine, which requires only animals to be used for the accurate findings.
Ellen, Paul and Jeffery, Paul. Why Animal Experimentation Matters: The Use of Animals in Medical Research. Chicago: Transaction Publishers, 2001. Print
Fox, Michael. The Case for Animal Experimentation: An Evolutionary and Ethical Perspective. London: University of California Press, 1986. Print
Francione, Gary. Animals, Property and the Law. New York: Temple University, 1995. Print
Smart, John and William, Bernard. Utilitarianism: For and Against. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973. Print
Analyzing the Differences between Utilitarianism and Libertarianism: Ethical Issues and Moral Judgments Research Paper
1. “Although there is no complete list of adequacy criteria for moral judgments, moral judgments have certain requirements that should be followed”. Explain the three requirements for moral judgments.
Taking account of every single element which the moral judgments are based on is practically impossible; indeed, if embracing the entire amount of these criteria, one must consider not only every possible factor that can impact a moral judgment, but also the system of moral judgments of every single individual. However, according to Luntley, it is possible to distill three key requirements which define moral judgment.
As Luntley says, t6he first and the foremost is the ability to make sure that the truth is independent from judgment (Luntley 199). Indeed, in search for the objective evaluation of certain situation, one must make certain that the assessment is carried out without any subjective ideas intervening. The second premise for moral judgment, as Luntley explains, is the condition according to which moral judgments must have a systematic structure (Luntley 199).
Taking a closer look at the given requirement, one can see distinctively that it demands following a certain established standard. As for the third one, Luntley claims that it is more complicated. Supposing that there is a “state of affairs that makes the judgment true” (Luntley 1999), the given state of affairs will be the justification for someone to pass the judgment in a corresponding situation.
2. “Before evaluating utilitarianism, one should understand some points that might lead to confusion and misapplication”. Explain and comments on three points only.
A for the principles of utilitarianism, like any other theoretical set of concepts, they imply a number of specifics which are to be taken into consideration before the evaluation of the actual theory, since one can possibly come up with a wrong idea.
The first and the foremost objection towards the utilitarianism rules to be mentioned is the fact that its principles are by far too demanding. To be more precise, the idea that happiness is evaluated not according to the demands of the person in question, but the demands of the majority (Sampford and Ransome) might seem unfair.
As Sampford and Ransome put it, “in one way, it is morally over-demanding” (71). Thus, one can confuse utilitarianism for altruism. However, it must be mentioned that utilitarianism strives for the needs of the majority when these needs do not conflict with the ones of an individual (Sampford and Ransome).
Another confusion that can possibly arise is the emphasis on happiness as the ultimate goal. On the one hand, happiness is the goal worth striving for; yet on the other hand, ultimate content presupposes that there is nothing else to strive for and that there is no more major goal to pursue.
As Sampford and Ransome explain, “The problem here is that, because utilitarianism reduces all morality to the service of happiness, any other values that people hold dear are overwhelmed by the utilitarian view” (Sampford and Ransome 71)
3. Explain the differences between the two approaches: Utilitarian and Libertarian?
Unlike Utilitarianism, which presupposes striving for common happiness (Sheng and Sheng 68), Libertarianism claims that no action should be prohibited as long as it does not affect common state of happiness (Miron 3). Thus, while Utilitarianism focuses on altruistic ideas, Libertarianism concerns personal freedom.
Luntley, Michael. Reason, Truth and the Self: Getting to Know the Truth about Postmodernism. New York, NY: Routledge, 1995. Print.
Miron, Jeffery A. Libertarianism, from A to Z. New York City, NY: Basic Books, 2010. Print.
Sampford, Charles and W. Ransome. Ethics and Socially Responsible Investment: A Philosophical Approach. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2010. Print.
Sheng, Quinglai, and C. L. Sheng. A Defense of Utilitarianism. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2004. Print.
Concept of Utilitarianism Theory Essay
Utilitarianism represents a standard ethical theory, which determines right and wrong based on the results of selecting one action or policy over others. The theory operates outside an individual’s own interest to consider the concerns of others. The theory suggests that morally right action generates the most good. Furthermore, comprehending the right action normally takes place through the results. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill developed the theory.
They advise that people should maximize on the good and ensure that the highest quantity of it benefits the maximum number of people. The theory also promotes agent neutrality and objectivity. This works on the idea that everyone is an agent in promoting the maximization of the good. Therefore, one person cannot be concerned with the activities of their counterparts so long as they are also working for the maximization of the good.
The good aspect of the theory
The good thing about the utilitarianism theory relates to the notion that it is the simplest form of any applicable ethical system. The theory assists in easy decision making because people are guided by the consequences. Therefore, at individual level people can determine the morality of their actions through a simple strategy. People can calculate the goodness or the badness of their actions to determine the morality of their decisions.
Therefore, when the calculation results of the consequences presents more good than bad then the action or decision is taken as moral. The theory is also good in the sense that it is simple to apply in the daily decision making processes. People can evaluate their decisions to determine their goodness. For example, an individual considering spending money on entertainment can evaluate the decision for its goodness or badness. Therefore, when the negative consequences of spending money are higher, then the decision becomes immoral.
The bad aspect of the theory
The bad aspect of the theory also relates to the notion that it escalates the “end justifies the means” approach. The theory is more concerned with the goodness of the consequence. It is concerned with the consequence that maximizes the good. On the contrary, is not concerned about the means people use to achieve the good consequences.
Therefore, the theory can promote actions that present severe impacts in order to achieve good consequences. It is notable that the end can never justify the means. On the contrary, the means validate themselves. Therefore, the means used to implement actions that generate good consequences must be judged objectively using consistent standard of ethics.
How to improve the theory
The aspect of the theory that requires improvement entails its proposal that good consequences generates pleasure for people. People should promote the good. However, the good entails several things that cannot diminish into pleasure. There are diverse decisions on actions and policies that promote the good at an individual and society level. An evaluation of such decisions to determine their goodness or badness might indicate that they are moral.
However, not all the good can give pleasure. Other things have intrinsic values that might not lead to pleasure. Therefore, assuming that the good must also give pleasure might be misleading. Improving the aspect of pleasure connotation in the theory is crucial to ensuring that people can appreciate other components of decision outcomes that present the good but fails to give pleasure.
Limitations of Utilitarianism Essay (Critical Writing)
People’s highest moral actions are reflected in their deeds, and utilitarianism is one division of philosophy that tries to explain why people select certain actions over other and what should be done for the best outcome for all. Utilitarianism states that people must focus on the greater good for all people and maximize happiness in the process.
The most basic aspect is the utilization of the situation in such a way that everyone does not suffer and get the most out of actions of actors. The end results or consequences of actions is what matters, so people should make their selections very carefully. One of the most important criteria of utilitarianism is the balance between happiness and unhappiness.
If a certain action will bring less happiness, especially to the greater amount of people, then such action should be avoided at all costs. Utilitarianism bases itself on ethics and moral principles of highest order and even takes into consideration animals and the way people act towards them. There are many individuals who support this division of philosophy because it does not base itself on religion or any other power except a person, humanity and the greater good for people and other animals.
This is an important division because there are many instances where people are unnecessarily cruel to people and animals and so, utilitarians believe that it is wrong to bring pain to any living creature that can feel pain and suffer in the process. The highest ethical criteria define people’s actions and even though the situation matters and different conditions can be present, the end result stays the same and bases itself on most happiness.
In a moral dilemma of a trolley coming down the tracks without breaks, a person is presented with the choice to flip the switch and kill either five people or one. Most, would choose to flip the switch, so that one person is killed.
The reasoning is that the greater good would be to kill one person, as opposed to five because the happiness of five people is much greater than that of one. But at the same time, it is possible to speculate that one person might have a number of relatives or children that depend on them, so the greater happiness would be to kill five people because they are all single.
In case morality is taken into question, it can be asked whether one person has greater morality than that of other five. Maybe, it is the kindest person in the world and the good deeds that they have done and will do are going to be much greater than of the other five individuals. This situation presents a clear difficulty in making the right decision and the consequences are unknown, as there is no real way to predict and utilize knowledge, to figure out which choice is best.
This is one of the limitations of utilitarianism, as some situations are much harder to decide on. A far out possibility, would be for a person to rely on chance and start flipping the switch chaotically, so that the decision is made in a random order. But, this would not be according to the principle of the greater good, as the person does not make a conscious selection. Either way, it is better to strive towards more happiness than less.
Principles of Utilitarianism Essay (Critical Writing)
The main principle of utility consists in achieving pleasure from life and avoiding pain and suffering. Pain and pleasure are the only instruments that allow a people to define what they should do, as well as govern their actions.
These two principles serve as the measurement of right and wrong, as well as the identifiers of cause-and-effect chain (Bentham 457). At this point, the utilitarian theory is also associated with the tools that can provide individuals and community with happiness through recognition of felicity as the foundation of all human actions.
The main purpose of utilitarian theory also lies in either increasing or reducing the happiness of an individual at issue. In the majority of cases, the theory acknowledges the community’s interest as the major purpose. Pleasure can be presented to greater or lesser degree in terms of its intensity, duration, remoteness, and happiness.
According to Mill, “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong they tend to produce the reverse of happiness” (461). The theorist identifies happiness with pleasure and freedom from pain. Pleasures can originate from broader contexts in terms of both quality and quantity. Additionally, it is suggested that utilitarianism correlates with the natural sense deriving from people’s social nature.
Consequently, in case society embraces the principles of utility from an ethical perspective, people can internalize these rules as a foundation for morale. The only thing that people desire is happiness and, therefore, it should build the basis of morale and ethics. All objects and processes in which people are involved serve as means for achieving happiness and pleasure. Finally, utility also focuses on sense of justice that endows people with the right to happiness.
To attain happiness and pleasure, a human should cultivate only noble character traits that will contribute to his/her intellectual and cultural growth.
The theorists insist that utilitarianism imposes sanctions similar to other moral systems. The sanctions can imply both internal and external dimensions. External sanctions are availably to the human agent from beyond, such as the divine pleasure, or the society’s approval or disapproval. Internal sanctions are composed of feelings creating discomfort when human’s actions oppose the internal duty.
At this point, both sanctions control the development of right standards for achieving pleasure and happiness. Finally, it is also argued that the morality and ethics of actions should be justified as soon as they are directed at achieving happiness. However, to prove that happiness is morally justified, it is necessary to demonstrate that individuals never strive to achieve anything except for happiness. Additionally, people indeed desire such things as virtue that is closely associated with happiness.
The articles expand on the discussion and evaluation of pleasure and happiness. Specifically, the theorists argue that happiness premises on higher faculties and, therefore, should be highly appraised. The meaning of happiness should be expanded to various forms of pleasure. In this respect, a possible objection to the principle of utility arises in terms of the major components of happiness. Utilitarianism also insists that happiness is composed of many experiences and virtues that people appraise.
From an individual perspective, the main controversy concerns the idea that human desire constitutes the only motivation for actions. Nevertheless, the rightfulness of action is often measured by subjective evaluation of an individual and the surrounding people. However, such a perspective contradicts the theory of justice that refers directly to the discussion of rights.
According to the principle of utility, the right implies that a person has a reason for the community to protect him/her against violations. The centre of debates relies on the criticism of considering the concept of right and justice in the context of utilitarianism. Nevertheless, the rights should be an integral component of utility because violating the rights of other individuals in the community will not contribute to its happiness.
From a social perspective, justice constitutes the basis of utilize because the sense of justice is rooted in human’s actions. A person desire to punish another person for the harmful action he/she committed. Such a decisions stems from the feeling of self-defense, which is also considered as a moral one because lack of protection does not imply happiness and freedom from pain.
Despite the fact that human rights are conceptualized in the principle of utility, there is a big controversy on this issue. Specifically, the rights are not grounded in human nature; rather, they are premised on utility because they are important for sustaining human culture and well-being. At this point, rights are crucial for achieving the greatest happiness, and people must introduce laws and restrictions that can make people observe these rights.
In this respect, the proposed readings provide a profound account and analysis of the main aspects of utilitarianism, as well as how it describes human actions. Additionally, pursuing happiness as the major purpose of human existence is also justified in terms of ethics and morale because they are needed to respect other people’s rights to happiness and pleasure.
Bentham, Jeremy. “Principle of Utility”. Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Eds. John Perry and Michael Bratman. UK: Oxford University Press. 1998. 457-460. Print.
Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism”. Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Eds. John Perry and Michael Bratman. UK: Oxford University Press. 1998. 460-467. Print.
Utilitarianism Theory Essay
Utilitarianism theory argues that the consequence of an action determines whether that particular action is morally right or wrong. Philosophers behind this theory include Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, R.M. Hare and Peter Singer. All these philosophers evaluate morality of actions depending on overall happiness or well-being. Thus, they see utilitarianism as a consequentialist ethic.
Consequentialist ethics holds that in determining whether an act, policy, rule or motive is morally right, we should check whether it has good consequences for all affected persons. Rather than asking if an action has good consequences for a person, we should just inquire whether that action adds to the person’s happiness.
Therefore, utilitarianism is an ethical theory that centers on happiness, not just the happiness of one person, but happiness of many people. Thus, the greatest happiness principle is synonymous with the principle of utility. The principle of greatest happiness states that a person should do things that will have the most happiness for all involved persons.
Critics of utilitarian ethics argue that because utilitarianism emphasizes on results, utilitarian theorists should agree that the theory of ethical relativism solves the problem of relativism. These critics claim that since utilitarian theorists argue that morality of an action depends on what the product of the action will take to all affected persons, then almost every action is moral. That is to say, utilitarianism is a consequentialistic ethic and thus, we cannot know whether an action is immoral until we see its bad consequences.
Given that, utilitarian ethics in some ways holds morality of an action hostage to the result, morality of the action appears relative. However, we refute ethical relativism since utilitarian ethics is a type of universalism, given its grounds in trust in universal human nature. Utilitarian theorists say that all people have altruistic and egoistic elements, and all people seek to evade pain and augment pleasure. Then, instead of ethical relativism, they support a liberal ethics that acknowledges there are universal principles and values.
The utilitarian perspective that ethics is more inclined to our feelings and not our rationality may seem to give evidence that utilitarianism is a type of relativism. Obviously, people have different outlooks about different matters. However, description of ethics may not always be from this perspective. Think about a cruel act such as premeditated murder.
How comes that this act immoral? Is it due to societal, divine, or natural laws? The truth is that human beings cannot make the moral judgment that premeditated murder is immoral until they experience negative sentiments about such acts. If there are human beings who do not get negative sentiments after reflecting on the idea of premeditated murder, or other monstrous acts, it is because those persons have something wrong with them and thus, cannot feel others pain.
Desensitization is the contemporary psychological word that describes why some people may not have feeling for the pain of others. People become desensitized making them not feel others pain. This psychological thought matches perfectly well with the utilitarian idea of sentience. However, human nature is universal and a universal ethics rests upon nothing more than human sentiments.
At the center of the utilitarian argument that shifts from the concern we physically have for our personal feelings of pain and pleasure, to others feelings of pain and pleasure, is the belief that this is the nature of human beings. When we hear about calamities happening to others, we may find ourselves flinching or grimacing. However, to go from a claim about our human nature to a moral claim that we ought to do this, and it is correct that we do this, and wrong when we fail to do this, includes an extra step in the argument.
The crucial step is to ask ourselves whether there is actually a difference between our pains and joys and other peoples’ pains and joys. This, for instance, is a problem to any racist. If dissimilar races experience equal pleasures and pains, then how come one race sees itself as superior to another race? If there is actually no difference between our pains and pleasures with others pains and pleasures, then we ought to, just due to consistency, view their suffering as just as significant as ours.
This is the heart of the justification of the theory of utility; we should do what will have the best outcomes for all persons involved, not only for ourselves, since there actually is no significant difference involving our welfare and other people’s welfare.
It is clear that equality is a main concept involved in this reasoning. A different way to portray the central utilitarian concept is just to say humans are equal; your pain or happiness is equal to another person’s anguish or happiness. However, another person’s happiness, well-being, suffering, pleasure and pain are not more crucial than yours. Hence, considering ethics along utilitarian line takes us from egoism through altruism to equality.
Other critics of utilitarianism argue that it is difficult and impossible to apply its principles. Those that hold that it is difficult to apply utilitarian principles argue that calculating the outcomes for all persons is impractical due to uncertainty and the big number involved. The truth, however, is that utilitarianism offers a clear way of determining whether an action is moral or not, and this does not involve calculations.
As mentioned earlier, a morally right action should have pleasurable consequences. Therefore, a person who says that it is difficult to apply this theory should support his/her claims with examples of actions that produce pleasurable outcomes, but are wrong. Therefore, the argument that it is difficult to calculate what is right does not hold any water, since it has no harm to the principle of utility. Rather, this is a problem of the human condition.
Other critics that oppose the application of utilitarian principles argue that it is not possible to gauge or quantify happiness and there is no defined method of weighing happiness against suffering. However, the truth is that happiness is measurable and comparable through words like happier and happiest. If it were not measurable, then these words would have little meaning.
In conclusion, the theory of utilitarianism is sound, logical and consistent. Utilitarian ethics follow the law of greatest happiness. According to this law, human beings seek to decrease suffering and maximize happiness. Hence, an action that is correct morally must lead to the greatest possible pleasure. This also implies that actions that cause pain on human beings are morally wrong. As seen in the arguments above, this theory is beyond reproach, as it caters for all possible objections.