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Flashcards in utilitarianism Deck (26):

When was Utilitarianism taking place/first developed and by whom?

It took place during the industrial revolution (1760-1840) by Jeremy Bentham


Why did Bentham develop the theory/what was his inspiration?

Factory owners/factory workers. He did not like the idea of one person having so much power over a majority.


What is the idea behind Utilitarianism?

The greatest good for the greatest number.


What legal changes came from Utilitarianism/at the same time as Utilitarianism?

Development of the postal system
prison reform (rehabilitation over punishment)
abolition of slavery 1833
reform bill 1832 - meant more men could vote
factory act 1833 - children under 9 could no longer work in a factory + cut back children's hours
factory act 1847 - banned all children and women from working 10+ hours a day


what is the concept of consequentialist?

places ethical judgement on whether the action leads to the greatest happiness for the greatest number. it is concerned with the outcome, not the will or intention of the moral agent


what is the concept of relativist?

what is right will depend on the situation. sometimes an action will be right but at other times it will not be - it all depends on whether the action will produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number.


what is the concept of being instrumental?

no moral actions have intrinsic value, only instrumental value if they produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number. The ends always justifies the means.


what are two weaknesses of utilitarianism being a consequentialist theory?

1. no consideration of the attitude or intention of the moral agent. this causes a problem, for e.g. if someone intentionally commits an evil act but it accidentally produces a morally good outcome then it seems wrong to call them a good person
2. it is very hard to predict the outcome of actions, especially secondary or indirect consequences, because it is based on unknown future events. therefore a focus on intentions might be more reliable and practical.


what is one strength of utilitarianism being a consequentialist theory?

it is right to focus on outcomes and consequences as only they have an effect on the lives of others. we are naturally concerned with the effect our actions will have on others and are generally forward-looking.


in accordance with Bentham what is utility?

"nature have placed mankind under two sovereign masters, pleasure and pain. it is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as determine what we shall do"
we must seek pleasure and avoid pain


what is the principle of utility?

when faced with an ethical decision, we should choose the course of action which maximises pleasure and minimises pain for the greatest number of people.


how is utility calculated?

the hedonic calculus.


what is the hedonic calculus?

1 intensity
2 duration
3 certainty
4 remoteness
5 widespread
6 purity
7 extent


what is hedonism?

from the greek work for pleasure, it is a philosophical position which holds that pleasure is the ultimate good in life.


what is act utilitarianism?

the theory which holds that the right action is the one which maximises pleasure and minimises pain.


name some weaknesses of act utilitarianism?

1. happiness cannot be quantified
2 it is too simplistic
3 doesn't consider the intention of the individuals
4 different people have different ideas of what will be pleasurable
5 we cannot predict the outcome of our actions
6 it can justify any kind of action as long as it produces a balance of happiness of pain for the majority
7 no protection of justice for minority groups in society


name some strengths of act utilitarianism?

1 it's democratic
2 maximising pleasure and minimising pain is already how most people try to live their lives as it's seen most desirable
3 hedonic calculus provides clear, practical measure for working out which action should be pursued
4 it would only allow extreme actions in extreme situations


for mill what is a higher pleasure?

pleasures which help people to reach their full intellectual potential.


for mill what is a lower pleasure?

pleasures which help people fulfil their basic needs and urges.


what is mill concerned with in terms of pleasure?

mill is concerned more with the quality of pleasure rather than bentham who was concerned with the quantity of pleasure.


what did mill think about pleasure (in terms of bentham)?

that there are different kinds of pleasure (higher and lower) whereas bentham grouped all pleasure as the same.


what is mill's quote?

"it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; it is better to be socrates dissatisfied than a human satisfied"


what is rule utilitarianism?

mill rejected benthams former utility calculus and argued happiness was much too complex and indefinite to be calculated in every situation. he thought rules should be developed to guide moral agents as to what will result in happiness - these rules would be developed through trial and error. followed en mass by everyone in society, these rules will generate on the whole the most happiness and least pain for the greatest number of people.


both mill and bentham concerned themselves with happiness but what was their difference?

bentham - quantitative
mill - qualitative


what are strengths of rule utilitarianism?

1 recognises we have a strong internal conviction that an action cannot be right purely because it produces happiness
2 easier to apply to an ethical decision as there are clear rules
3 removes the need to work out how best apply principle of utility
4 allows some flexibility


what are the weaknesses of rule utilitarianism?

1 how do we distinguish between higher and lower pleasures
2 focus on rules removes the benefits of situationalism and consequentialism
3 difficulty in knowing when rules can be broken in order to achieve the greatest amount of happiness