The problems and importance of utilitarianism

Utilitarianism appears to be a simple theory because it consists of only one evaluative principle: A law that is good at one point in time may be a bad law at some other point in time.

The contrast between act and rule utilitarianism, though previously noted by some philosophers, was not sharply drawn until the late s when Richard Brandt introduced this terminology. There are some pleasures that are more fitting than others. Typically, when our body suffers so do we.

Problems with Utilitarianism

Whichever way we choose to measure the condition of 'completeness' within each of the parameters of well-being, the outcomes are counter intuitive. If we could control people's diet and the amount and form of exercise they take, we might be able to reduce the incidence of many common diseases currently besetting affluent populations.

For example, physics was called natural philosophy. Thirteen essays on utilitarianism, many focused on issues concerning rule utilitarianism.

A Series Of Unprincipled Exceptions

Our knowledge of his ideas and methods comes mainly from dialogues written by his pupil Plato. In The Subjection of WomenMill wrote that the legal subordination of women to men ought to be replaced by "a principle of perfect equality. We arrive at a priori knowledge by thinking, without independent appeal to experience.

If individuals do not or cannot form mens rea i. Conclusion The debate between act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism highlights many important issues about how we should make moral judgments. In — bce, the Law of Twelve Tables was drafted by a committee of Roman judges.


Courtesy of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh Every economic system must determine not only what goods will be produced but also how those goods are to be apportioned, or distributed see distribution of wealth and income. This aspect of liberalism became particularly prominent in 20th-century projects aimed at eliminating war and resolving disagreements between states through organizations such as the League of Nationsthe United Nationsand the International Court of Justice World Court.

Like Bentham, Mill sought to use utilitarianism to inform law and social policy. To understand this criticism, it is worth focusing on a distinction between rule utilitarianism and other non-utilitarian theories.

He tried to show that people should live by the principles of toleration, liberty, and natural rights. However, this approach highlights the move away from egoistic views of human nature — a trend picked up by Hutcheson and Hume, and later adopted by Mill in criticism of Bentham's version of utilitarianism.

For writers like Shaftesbury and Hutcheson the main contrast was with egoism rather than rationalism. Who would rather be a happy oyster, living an enormously long life, than a person living a normal life?

Using this information, Bentham thought, would allow for making correct judgments both in individual cases and in choices about government actions and policies. Scholars called humanists stressed the importance of human beings and the study of classical literature as a guide to understanding life.

This seems to have been an innate sense of right and wrong, or moral beauty and deformity. Rationalism was a philosophic outlook that arose in the 's.Utilitarianism is one of the most powerful and persuasive approaches to normative ethics in the history of philosophy. Though not fully articulated until the 19 th century, proto-utilitarian positions can be discerned throughout the history of ethical theory.

Another problem with utilitarianism is the impracticality of calculating the utility of actions in real time. The calculation of utility is said to be self-defeating as by the time the best utilitarian course of action has been calculated and decided, the opportunity to take this action may well have passed.

A Framework for Making Ethical Decisions

Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that states that the best action is the one that maximizes utility. "Utility" is defined in various ways, usually in terms of the well-being of sentient entities. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, described utility as the sum of all pleasure that results from an action, minus the suffering of anyone involved in the action.

Problems With Utilitarianism While utilitarianism is currently a very popular ethical theory, there are some difficulties in relying on it as a sole method for moral decision-making.

First, the utilitarian calculation requires that we assign values to the benefits and harms resulting from our actions and compare them with the benefits and harms.


John Stuart Mill (–) was the most famous and influential British philosopher of the nineteenth century. He was one of the last systematic philosophers, making significant contributions in logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, and social theory.

Act and Rule Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is one of the best known and most influential moral theories. Like other forms of consequentialism, its core idea is that whether actions are morally right or wrong depends on their specifically, the only effects of actions that are relevant are the good and bad results that they produce.

Utilitarianism Download
The problems and importance of utilitarianism
Rated 0/5 based on 71 review