1. It is a consequentialist ethic. 2. Developed 18th 19th centuries as a tool for social reform 4. 3 distinguishable and essential elements Right or wrong action determined solely by it consequences - Assessment of the amount of happiness or well-being caused - no-one person's happiness has greater value than another person
Jeremy Bentham's exposition of the theory then questioned by John Stuart Mill
as to whether there could be an arithmetic calculus of pleasure?
Morality and religion link was challenged in 18th century 'enlightenment thinkers' and ? should we focus on the consequences of our actions rather than the actions themselves?
It may seem an obvious choice as utilitarianism is now the dominant theory used to make moral and policy decisions particularly about resource allocation
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory at the heart of all modern democracies
Classical Utilitarianism - Bentham was a lifelong advocate of legal, political, social and educational reform.
Interested in the principle of utility in providing a rationale for reform measures in the public arena
John Stuart Mill criticisms of JBs utilitarianism
JB's conception of human nature and human happiness was too narrow. His explanation of pain and pleasure does not take into account differences in qualities of pleasures.
Main features of utilitarianism - 3 major elements 1 Consequentialism - action is morally neutral and only has instrumental value
Action is morally neutral and only has instrumental value
Actions being morally neutral - This is an important criticism of utilitarianism
Denying the relevance of features of actions
Classical utilitarianism - act utilitarianism - is the original form of utilitarianism proposed by Bentham. Rule utilitarianism is a modern development of the theory. It relies on evidence from the consequences of past events to decide what an ethical rule should be.
Adds evidence of consequences of past events to decide what an ethical rule should be.
Evaluating the consequences - importance of preferences - restate the principle of utility to say that we should max the satisfaction of preferences.
This is preference utilitarianism - today's version and generally adopted. Giving more weight to those pleasures that are preferred. The issues surrounding preferences form the basis of many critiques of environmental valuation techniques.
Utility and equality - 'each is to count for one, and no-one for more than one'. This equality aspect therefore
1. rules out discrimination on race, colour, creed, social class 2. distance in time or place makes no difference 3. partiality to one's own nation or ethnic group ruled out 4. temporally remote people-future-generations must also be considered
Equality beyond human beings - Peter Singer
Singer book 'Animal Liberation' - the popular prejudice against taking the interests of animals seriously, he argues, is a prejudice that has no sounder foundation than had the prejudice of white slave owners against black people. Just as we now denounce racism, he argues that we should also denounce speciesism.
The principle of equality does not necessarily mean that benefits and burdens are to be distributed equally. Max overall allows trade offs losses to some can be compensated by gains to others.
Cause for dissatisfaction with utilitarianism.
Often use cost benefit analysis
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