u03lecture - Utilitarianism In the previous unit we...

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Utilitarianism In the previous unit we discussed both Psychological Egoism and Ethical Egoism, with only the latter having the possibility of being a moral theory of any prescriptive consideration. We also held that the primary objection to Ethical Egoism as a moral theory was that it not only divided the world up into two arbitrary sets of persons, myself and everybody else, and preferring the interests of the first over the second for arbitrary reasons. A more rational approach towards Ethics would be to consider the interests, both of oneself and others equally; such an approach is taken by Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism was given its first definitive expression first by English Philosophers Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). As a theory of Ethics, it shares a few points in common with Subjectivism and Ethical Egoism, namely that individual moral agents when faced with alternative choices and paths, must use their own judgments (and sometimes feelings) to determine the best course of action to take for the best results for all concerned. Jeremy Bentham identified this as ‘The Principle of Utility’ In this sense, Utilitarianism is a teleological theory of Ethics, for it holds that what makes an action right or wrong is the particular consequences that come about because of the action undertaken. The consequence that is of utmost value for the Utilitarian is that of happiness; what his predecessor Jeremy Bentham called the ‘Principle of Utility’, John Stuart Mill came to identify as ‘The Greatest Happiness Principle’. According to Mill, “the ultimate end, with reference to and for the sake of which all other things are desirable (whether we are considering our own good or that of other people), is an existence as free as possible from pain, and as rich as possible in enjoyments)”. Thus, the degree to which an action brings about the greatest amount of happiness over a choice of other actions is the correct course of action to take. But the reverse is also true, the action that brings about the greatest degree of unhappiness over other actions is correspondingly the wrong action to take. While Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill agreed that beneficial results and consequences were the most important factors in determiningmorality, Mill ultimately came to disagree with his predecessor as to the nature of the happiness that we should strive to bring about. It is fair to say that while Bentham emphasized quantity of pleasure
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or happiness as being the most important determining factor in determining a choice of actions, Mill emphasized the importance of
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u03lecture - Utilitarianism In the previous unit we...

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