Define act utilitarianism
the right action is the one that aims to produce the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number’
What is happiness defined as?
Defined as pleasure and the absence of pain
What type of theory is act utilitarianism?
It is an egalitarian theory - treats each persons happiness as of equal value
A consequentialist theory - judges actions based on their result
What is act utilitarianism concerned with?
Judging each acts in isolation.
E.g. In a specific situation it would be better to lie if it produced more happiness, despite on a whole lying not producing more happiness
How does a utilitarian judge acts?
By its consequences (consequentialist)
Relate utilitarianism to animals?
It allows moral mistreatment of animals as they are sentient beings capable of suffering.
According to singer this should be considered in moral calculations.
Animals are used for food, sport and experiments consequences in organising society should consider the debate.
What is rule utilitarianism?
Rather than judging each act on its particular circumstances, it seeks to formulate rules for behaviour to lead to the greatest happiness.
Less demanding than act utilitarianism.
Deals with the problem of minority persecution through producing rules.
E.G. The innocent should not be sacrificed for the greater good OR torture should not be allowed
Outline preference utilitarianism
It states that actions should be judged by the extent to which it is in line with the preferences of the person carrying out the action and those affected by it with the qualification that it should no inhibit others from pursuing their happiness.
Changes good from happiness to the satisfaction of preferences
Why is preference utilitarianism good for overcoming objections?
The shift from happiness to satisfaction of preferences helps avoid classical criticisms
- Huxley’s Brave New World: we all plug into a false reality which makes us happy, but does not satisfy our preference to be in touch with true reality
What is Peter Singer’s argument for preference utilitarianism?
Principle of equal consideration of interests:
1. We must take into account when arguing ethics, all beings capable of suffering
- We see humans who do not possess the capacity of reason of self consciousness (babies or terminally ill)
- Therefore, when making moral judgements we must consider animals to be equal as not all humans possess capacities over animals and both can suffer.
Explain positive utilitarianism
Positive u is the standard version aiming to maximise happiness
Explain negative utilitarianism
Aimed to minimise unhappiness on the basis that relieving pain is morally more compelling than producing happiness for people and it’s easier to achieve without using complicated calculations.
What is the first possible conclusion?
Utilitarianism is a sound moral theory as it egalitarian and focuses on the common sense idea that the best actions make us happy whilst giving us a concrete procedure to work out how to act
What is the second conclusion?
Utilitarianism is a deeply flawed theory as it allows for the mistreatment of minorities in for the pleasure of the majority, ignores fundamental moral concepts sub as rights and promises and puts forward and unworkable procedure for choosing the right actions.