1(a) Explain the general principles of utilitarianism, including reference to both act and rule utilitarianism
The theory of utilitarianism was devised by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), an English philosopher, who gave us the general principle which is used in Bentham and Mill’s theory of utilitarianism and act and rule utilitarianism. The general principle which utilitarianism is based around is the idea of maximising pleasure and minimising pain.
Bentham put forward his hedonistic theory in the book ‘The principles of morals and legislation’. His theory is put it to three parts, the first being what motivated human beings. Bentham believed humans were motivated by two things pleasure and pain which was a moral fact with pleasure being the sole good and pain the sole bad.
Secondly there was the principle of utility which is the idea that an act is right or wrong based on its usefulness. Bentham said “an act is right if it causes the greatest good for the greatest number”. This is a teleological theory.
Finally there is the hedonic calculus. This is the method Bentham used to measure the amount of pleasure or pain an action caused. It considers seven factors which are intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, propinquity or remoteness, fecundity, purity and extent.
Bentham’s theory is like act utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism is based around the principle of utility which is a main part of Bentham’s theory. It also uses the general principle of trying to maximise the amount of pleasure. So when faced with moral decisions act utilitarian’s will decide which action will lead to the greatest good in that situation even if that means you have to tell a lie. Act utilitarianism is flexible and accounts for individual situations. However it could potentially justify anything
John Stuart Mill (1806-1871) decided to refine Bentham’s theory of utilitarianism. However when he refined the theory he kept the same general principle as Bentham which is maximising...