Act utilitarianism stresses the specific context and the many individual features of the situations that pose moral problems, and it presents a single method for dealing with these individual cases. Thus, activity done under physical, political, social or religious sanction cannot be ethical. John Stuart Mill: Utilitarianism, With Critical Essays. Bentham's insistence that the quality of pleasure in reading poetry is the same as the quality of pleasure in playing pushpin ignores the difference between higher and lower pleasures which wise people do identify and which is based on human nature. Mill: People do without happiness involuntarily or sometimes to bring about the happiness of others or occasionally due to selfishness or lack of mental cultivation. Thus, although Bentham was generally suspicious of the concept of rights, he does allow that the term is useful, and in such work as A General View of a Complete Code of Laws, he enumerates a large number of rights. The precise extent of Bentham's influence in British politics has been a matter of some debate.
The important issues that utilitarianism raises should be discussed in contexts more rewarding than that of utilitarianism itself. If there is no desire for the general happiness, then it cannot be and end nor a good. Their theory has had a major impact both on philosophical work in moral theory and on approaches to economic, political, and social policy. So, virtue-- just like eating donuts--has come to comprise the cluster of things that are contained in your concept of happiness. Argument 2: Fallacy of Equivocation The fallacy of equivocation is committed when a key term that has more than one meaning doesn't maintain a consistent meaning throughout the argument.
How Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism Differ Both act utilitarians and rule utilitarians agree that our overall aim in evaluating actions should be to create the best results possible, but they differ about how to do that. In addition to applying in different contexts, it can also be used for deliberations about the interests of different persons and groups. John Bowring , London, 1838-1843; Reprinted New York, 1962. They stress the difference between evaluating actions and evaluating the people who perform them. However, Mill argues that martyrs must sacrifice happiness for some greater end--and what else could this be but the happiness of other people? This may not be immediately evident. So, it follows that we can know that something is desirable if people desire it. There is, Bentham admits, no direct proof of such an analysis of human motivation—though he holds that it is clear that, in acting, all people implicitly refer to it.
Instead, utilitarians think that what makes a morality be true or justifiable is its positive contribution to human and perhaps non-human beings. Law, which is by its very nature a restriction of liberty and painful to those whose freedom is restricted, is a prima facie evil. Nor is it just their having knowledge, engaging in rational activity, being aware of true beauty, and the like. Utilitarianism, available in many editions and online, 1861. Bentham: Asceticism is not a real alternative to utilitarianism. In order to have a criminal justice system that protects people from being harmed by others, we authorize judges and other officials to impose serious punishments on people who are convicted of crimes. Among the things that can be evaluated are actions, laws, policies, character traits, and moral codes.
The Classical Utilitarians: Bentham and Mill. On his view, to consider any part or aspect of a thing in abstraction from that thing is to run the risk of confusion or to cause positive deceit. That which does not maximize the greatest happiness such as an act of pure ascetic sacrifice is, therefore, morally wrong. Just as nature is explained through reference to the laws of physics, so human behavior can be explained by reference to the two primary motives of pleasure and pain; this is the theory of psychological hedonism. Furthermore, he says that to maintain an attitude of such willingness is actually the best chance of gaining happiness, because it will lead a person to be tranquil about his life and prospects. But he still needs the second half of the proof--that happiness is the only thing desirable as an end, and that all other things are desirable only in so far as they are a means to happiness. In each case, act utilitarianism implies that a certain act is morally permissible or required.
In , the early utilitarians had tended to oppose governmental interference in trade and industry on the assumption that the economy would regulate itself for the greatest welfare if left alone; later utilitarians, however, lost confidence in the social of and were willing to see governmental power and administration used to correct its abuses. What use is this tiny amount of money? Other thinkers see desires or preferences as the basis of value; whatever a person desires is valuable to that person. If the difference in the consequences of acts is not great, some utilitarians do not regard the choice between them as a issue. In ordinary situations not necessary to calculate. It keeps pleasure as the sole standard of morality. Pleasure cannot be measured, so the idea of adding it all up doesn't work. This issue arises when the actual effects of actions differ from what we expected.
They argue that it is a mistake to treat whole classes of actions as right or wrong because the effects of actions differ when they are done in different contexts and morality must focus on the likely effects of individual actions. Be sure to vote on which you agree with most in the poll at the end. Your only flavor options are chocolate and vanilla, and some of the people attending like chocolate while others like vanilla. This page will contain a broad overview of criticisms of utilitarianism. It permits drivers to decide whether there is a need to stop.
References and Further Reading a. In his disappointment, he interprets a fine gift as an affront, and he would rather make things worse than better - but then he's only a child. That wouldn't make it not utilitarianism. The impact of Bentham's ideas goes further still. But that the distinction between higher pleasures re-introduces the idea of virtues which you may need to justify intuitively. Specifically, then, what is morally obligatory is that which produces the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people, happiness being determined by reference to the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain.
If one act requires a longer period of time for its performance than another, one may ask whether they can be considered alternatives. They claim that rule utilitarianism allows for partiality toward ourselves and others with whom we share personal relationships. The existence of law and rights, therefore, requires government. So there are cases in which utilitarianism seems to get it wrong in ways that fail to respect the moral rights of individuals. Fundamentally, in the cases of doctors, judges, and promise-keepers, it is trust that is at stake.
This would spiral since after the below average has been removed there will be a new average and therefore some people who were above average before would become below average and need to be removed. He admits this is true, and he admits that there are martyrs who give up their happiness. Just to say a bit more about the repugnant conclusion, here's some math that the utilitarian might do: let 0 be the value of a life not worth living. We might believe that if we had either of these, without the other, what we had would have little or no value. However, this does not mean that people's motives must only be to serve the greatest good; indeed, utilitarianism is not concerned with the motives behind an action; the morality of an action depends on the goodness of its result only. How can rule utilitarianism do this? It cannot be right to judge an action right or wrong based on outcomes that are down to chance. They see no reason to obey a rule when more well-being can be achieved by violating it.