1703705124079000 MSc Introduction to Ethics Spring Term 2018 Assignment What are the strengths
MSc Introduction to Ethics
Spring Term 2018
What are the strengths, and what are the weaknesses, of Bentham’s Utilitarianism?
Name: Karthik Venkata Prasanna KannepalliGroup B (16:15 – 17:45)
Matriculation number: 27035182
Class: Master in Management
Submitted to: Prof. Dr. Richard RaatzschSubmission deadline: 31/05/2018
According to Bentham, the Nature has placed mankind under the governance of pleasure and pain. They point out what we ought to do and determine what we shall do. One hand there is the standard of right and wrong and on the other hand lies the chain of causes and effects. This is called the Principle of Utility(PoU). The more consistently the PoU is pursued, the better it is for the mankind. PoU approves or disapproves of any action according to its ability to boost or diminish the happiness. Bentham says that Utility is that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce pleasure or pain to those interested in it.
Utilitarianism deals with situations and decision ethics, generally believed to be the view that the morally right action is the action that produces the most good. It is a theory exists that says if an action has to be right, the consequences produced must be good or desirable. Essentially, in simple terms, utilitarianism is about maximizing the good for the greatest number of people.
Utilitarianism as described by Bentham is “the greatest happiness or greatest felicity principle”. Mill believed that for an action to be deemed right it must promote or result in happiness. In the same way, a wrong action would be one that brings about sadness. But, this could result in a false thought that we are talking about personal happiness. No. what matters is the happiness of a majority. It seems that utilitarianism achieves its goals by promoting moral values of honor so that all individuals work to serve the interests of others. In this sense it could be regarded as a standard for moral behavior. Deontological ethics provide a powerful contrast to utilitarianism, which does not place utmost importance on the consequence of an action when determining the moral validity of an action.
Typically, Utilitarianism as a concept figures out the moral worth of any action by its usefulness. If the action maximizes utility or usefulness to a large group of people, utilitarianism deems it to be a good action. It is thus a form of consequentialism, (the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome.)
Many utilitarians argue that utilitarianism, although it is consequentalist, is not so simply restricted. While the end product of a negatively motivated action may result in good (such as the collective vigilante action to kill a paedophile) this does not mean utilitarians promote negative or hateful actions to produce a greater good. In this sense, intentions are important to utilitarians, in as much as they tend to lead to certain actions, which themselves lead to certain outcomes.
Utilitarianism can be as convoluted. In any given situation, one needs to choose the action that results in the greatest utility. But, finding out the act that will have the greatest benefit will be difficult. Our perceptions regarding the usefulness of things will definitely differ, as no one thinks similarly. Also, Utilitarianism does not care for the opinion of minority. There a lot of questions. Can we justify if an action has greatest utility for a greater amount of people but causes pain and suffering to a smaller group of people? Does the number or ratio of people pleased to dissatisfied have an effect? Can we make the value of a human life, rights, or opinion quantifiable? In quantifying them, are we killing the voice or the rights of the minorities? It is not always feasible to accurately judge who and how an action will affect people. Judging an action by the outcome is therefore hard to do before the consequences are clear; surely it seems better to judge an action by its intention, even though there are also problems with this. Furthermore the calculations required to adequately make an informed judgement based upon utilitarian ethics are tedious. In some instances, the people making decisions based upon utilitarian ethics may have no emotional interest. This gets us to a question that Is it really a humane thing to calculate issues pertaining to humans without emotion? Many individuals faced with decisions of importance may not have the ethical or moral intelligence to adequately navigate a complex issue. Utilitarianism would be dangerous in the hands of policy makers or people of power who have limited capacity to think carefully. It can simply offer too easy a solution to a much more complex issue. This idealogy has been debated for many years because so much of it is left up to speculation. How do you determine what is right for some and what is right for others? While the general mindset and belief system itself is well intentioned, there are certainly some foggy areas. In order to better understand the theory of utilitarianism, it is best to understand what its strong points and weak points.
The theory or its followers want everyone to be happy. They think about a broader audience. This method of decision making is very beneficial as it makes people think of their actions and consequences.
Utilitarianism believes that harming people or giving pain to people is intrinsically wrong.
Utilitarianism does not rely on God or specific beliefs about God.
The fairest way of running a country is to balance everyone’s interests. We see this happening in most democratic countries. Government uses the principles of Utilitarianism to determine what is right
It believes that an action is to be taken only when the greatest good happens to the large number of people
Easy to use
Anyone can use this or apply this principle. Weighing up the good and bad actions should not be of any problem.
The consequences of our actions would give us a way to identify what is wrong or right
Since the idealogy does not believe in God or specific beliefs, it can be applied anywhere in the world irrespective of the religion followed by any person.
In this world, there are many things such as freedom, love, human life etc that are of intrinsic worth apart from ‘Happiness’. But, Utilitarianism seems like it does not give much importance to other things
Balance of Happiness
Consider the two examples, A man killing a hen and serving chicken to three people and filling their stomachs and a man killing another person and donating his organs to five other people. In the second example, the balance of happiness over harm supports doing this. But we know that its wrong. Whereas in the first example, it is justified.
We cannot judge the actions depending on their outcome as it is nearly impossible to measure or predict their impact or exact consequences. Hence, a judgement made on these criteria is usually wrong.
Happiness or pleasure cannot be quantified or measured. Also, pleasure could be of many types. For example, a happiness of reading a book, or playing a sport, or riding a bike, or driving s car, or having sex. They cannot be compared.
People cannot be trusted in various situations. If they are given more freedom and allowed according to their wish or abilities, they can very well try to justify their actions by claiming that they intended more good.
In many cases, the actions do not cause bad consequences. The intentions behind it cause bad consequences. For example, a group of female lawyers passed around photos of an abused man for their enjoyment. When it was exposed, the consequences were very bad. Now the possible question that could strike to the mind is would it have been right if no one else found out? This is a case of where the bad consequences did not made it wrong. It was the act itself that made it wrong.
Dictatorship of the majority
In the assembly halls of Government of India, if most of the political leaders oppose to some make some law by showing or representing the voices of the people in their constituencies, then a decision against the law would justify. Not implementing or making the law is justified. But, at the same time it confuses what is popular with what is right as the majority need not always be right.
Some situations demand quick decision making. As a utilitarian, this is difficult as a calculation has to be made on the consequences or after effects. Often times, the opportunity is lost.
It is nearly impossible to not think about their loved ones in taking a decision. Imagine a decision against them. It is impossible or very difficult to take a utilitarian decision at the expense of loved ones. So, naturally there is some favoritism.
This essay discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Bentham’s Utilitarianism. In details, some of the strengths of are that it is very clear that even a child can understand, it aims to give more humans happiness. Nevertheless, it has several drawbacks such as the problem the Tyranny of the majority because Utilitarianism does not consider the feelings of the minority and also how we can measure pleasure. With respect to these strengths and weaknesses, utilitarianism still provides a valid way of thought process for people to apply in everyday life situations.