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Flashcards in Utilitarianism Deck (8)
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Utilitarianism - Introduction

>Greatest happiness for the greatest number
>Teleological - focuses on the results of an action
>Introduced by Jeremy Bentham


Utilitarianism - The principle of utility

>Bentham wanted to find a way of doing ethics that didn't rely on rules or the Church and that would help social reform
>Everyone desires pleasure and avoids pain
>The greatest action to take is the one that maximises happiness for the greatest number of people and minimises pain


Utilitarianism - Hedonic calculus

A way of measuring whether an action would bring about maximum pleasure and avoid pain
>Intensity - is the pleasure intense or just mild?
>Duration - how long will the pleasure last?
>Certainty or uncertainty - will it definitely = pleasure?
>Propinquity - how far off is the pleasure?
>Fecundity - will it lead to other pleasures too?
>Purity - will it bring pure pleasure?
>Extent - how far-reaching will the pleasure be?


Utilitarianism - John Stuart Mill

>JSM added to Bentham's ideas by creating a distinction between base and higher pleasures In his book 'Utilitarianism' (1863)
>Quality of pleasure should also be included - intellectual, aesthetic, social, and spiritual pleasures
>It is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied
>Art and culture should be seen as a higher pleasure than getting drunk or gluttony
>It could be right for someone to sacrifice their own pleasure for the sake of others


Utilitarianism - Act utilitarianism

>Each action is considered on its own
>Looks at the balance of pleasure and pain produced by that action in that circumstance
>No duty to adopt a particular approach because different situations might involve different people and different interests
>Avoids setting up rules


Utilitarianism - Rule utilitarianism

>Focus on the 'common good' rather than each individual action
>Looks to create the greatest happiness for the greatest number in the long run
>Considers what is best for society what would happen if everyone behaved that way as well as looking at individual circumstances
>Recognise general rules that exist for the benefit of everyone


Utilitarianism - Strengths

>Flexible and allows for changes in public opinion
>Involves reason and sensible consideration of different options
>Doesn't depend on external authority such as religion
>Based on practicality and observation that everyone wants to be happy
>Based on outcomes that are relatively straightforward to see and measure
>Every individual is considered regardless of social status


Utilitarianism - Weaknesses

>Hedonic calculus can be time-consuming and difficult to work out, and moral decisions often have to be made quickly
>Some people argue that happiness is not a sufficient goal for ethics - goodness and happiness are not the same
>Morality of an action should not be judged by its outcome but its motivation
>Does not make any reference to God
>Minorities lose out because of the 'greatest happiness for the greatest number'