Flashcardsby lj.willis, created over 5 years ago A Levels Philosophy & Ethics (Utilitarianism) Flashcards on Act Utilitarianism, created by lj.willis on 06/04/2014. Thus, the English philosopher G.E. But the utilitarian readily answers that the widespread practice of such acts would result in a loss of trustworthiness and security. Utilitarians also assume that it is possible to compare the intrinsic values produced by two alternative actions and to estimate which would have better consequences. Utilitarianism, in normative ethics, a tradition stemming from the late 18th- and 19th-century English philosophers and economists Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill according to which an action (or type of action) is right if it tends to promote happiness or pleasure and wrong if it tends to produce unhappiness or pain—not just for the performer of the action but also for everyone else affected by it. Utilitarians may, however, distinguish the aptness of praising or blaming an agent from whether the action was right. Disclaimer, Privacy Policy, and Comment Policy. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Please select which sections you would like to print: Corrections? Disclaimer, Privacy Policy, and Comment Policy, Criminology Jobs and Criminal Justice Careers, Jeremy Bentham and the Panopticon Prison », The Principle of Utility and of the Greatest Happiness, The Consequences of Behavior for the Whole Make It Right or Wrong. What Does This Mean for the Criminal Justice System? Moore, one of the founders of contemporary analytic philosophy, regarded many kinds of consciousness—including friendship, knowledge, and the experience of beauty—as intrinsically valuable independently of pleasure, a position labelled “ideal” utilitarianism. The theory of Utilitarianism was first developed by Jeremy Bentham who was a philosopher of the 18th century. In assessing the consequences of actions, utilitarianism relies upon some theory of intrinsic value: something is held to be good in itself, apart from further consequences, and all other values are believed to derive their worth from their relation to this intrinsic good as a means to an end. Another objection to utilitarianism is that the prevention or elimination of suffering should take precedence over any alternative act that would only increase the happiness of someone already happy. In Ethics (1912), Moore rejects a purely hedonistic utilitarianism and argues that there is a range of values that might be maximized. According to Mill, acts should be classified as morally right or wrong only if the consequences are of such significance that a person would wish to see the agent compelled, not merely persuaded and exhorted, to act in the preferred manner. Most opponents of utilitarianism have held that it has implications contrary to their moral intuitions—that considerations of utility, for example, might sometimes sanction the breaking of a promise. A key point in this article concerns the distinction between individual actions and types of actions. Mill has sometimes been interpreted as a “rule” utilitarian, whereas Bentham and Sidgwick were “act” utilitarians. Mill, in contrast to Bentham, discerned differences in the quality of pleasures that make some intrinsically preferable to others independently of intensity and duration (the quantitative dimensions recognized by Bentham). Much of the defense of utilitarian ethics has consisted in answering these objections, either by showing that utilitarianism does not have the implications that its opponents claim it has or by arguing against the opponents’ moral intuitions. As a normative system providing a standard by which an individual ought to act and by which the existing practices of society, including its moral code, ought to be evaluated and improved, utilitarianism cannot be verified or confirmed in the way in which a descriptive theory can, but it is not regarded by its exponents as simply arbitrary. If the difference in the consequences of alternative actions is not great, some utilitarians would not regard the choice between them as a moral issue. Even in limiting the recognition of intrinsic value and disvalue to happiness and unhappiness, some philosophers have argued that those feelings cannot adequately be further broken down into terms of pleasure and pain and have thus preferred to defend the theory in terms of maximizing happiness and minimizing unhappiness. Bentham developed this theory to create a modern and rational approach to morality which would suit the changing society. In addition, he reasoned that utilitarianism could solve the difficulties and perplexities that arise from the vagueness and inconsistencies of commonsense doctrines. Some modern utilitarians have modified their theory to require this focus or even to limit moral obligation to the prevention or elimination of suffering—a view labelled “negative” utilitarianism. Omissions? Bentham and Mill were hedonists; i.e, they analyzed happiness as a balance of pleasure over pain and believed that these feelings alone are of intrinsic value and disvalue. More specifically, the only effects of actions that are relevant are the good and bad results that they produce. Utilitarianism is one of the best known and most influential moral theories. Bentham believed that only in terms of a utilitarian interpretation do words such as “ought,” “right,” and “wrong” have meaning and that, whenever people attempt to combat the principle of utility, they do so with reasons drawn from the principle itself. Like other forms of consequentialism, its core idea is that whether actions are morally right or wrong depends on their effects. To meet the objection to not permitting an occasional lie or theft, some philosophers have defended a modification labelled “rule” utilitarianism. Premium Membership is now 50% off! He says that such an assumption: Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Although forms of utilitarianism have been put forward and debated since ancient times, the modern theory is most often associated with the British philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806- 1873) who developed the theory from a plain hedonistic version put forward by his mentor Jeremy Bentham (1748- 1832). Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. He was also quite an eccentric figure, who had relatively radical ideas for his time that have inspired many that came after him. His subject areas include philosophy, law, social science, politics, political theory, and religion. Earlyprecursors to the Classical Utilitarians include the British M… In the notion of consequences the utilitarian includes all of the good and bad produced by the action, whether arising after the action has been performed or during its performance.

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