Is Utilitarianism Too Demanding?

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Is utilitarianism too demanding? Utilitarianism in its most basic form directs moral agents to maximise the aggregate welfare and to do what produces the greatest benefit for all moral agents. The utilitarian theory is susceptible to various objections; this essay will focus on the issue of unrealistic demands. I will argue that utilitarianism is too demanding as it implies that we must always act in order to maximize happiness. This is a strict requirement, as it demands too much from individuals to always be motivated to promote the general happiness. I will first analyse Singer’s argument, which defends utilitarianisms demandingness and then go onto Williams’ argument, which attacks utilitarianism for being too demanding. Towards the end of this paper it should be evident that consequentialist moral theories such as utilitarianism demand too much from moral agents and are only useful to look at as a utopia where utility is maximized. The following example demonstrates the basic idea of utilitarianism. If my £100 could maximize utility more efficiently when I donate it to famine relief rather than spending it on new shoes utilitarianism would argue that it is morally wrong to do anything other than what maximizes utility, therefore it is morally wrong for me to buy the shoes (Stanford Encyclopaedia, 2003). The objection thus states that giving to famine relief is probably better than buying new shoes, however the act is supererogatory. It seems to go beyond “the call of duty” to make it obligatory for people to give to charity instead of spending 2 Student ID: 1103832 PH212 Formative Essay – 27/02/2013 their money as they please. Individuality and choice is taken away from people if they are always required to maximize utility. We will go into further detail when considering Williams’ argument of integrity. Mill, a leading

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