Utilitarianism Essay

2349 WordsApr 3, 201310 Pages
Utilitarianism In ethics, normative theories propose some principle or principles for distinguishing right actions from wrong action. For convenience, these theories can be divided into two kinds: consequentialist and nonconsequentialist. Consequentialist moral theories see the moral rightness or wrongness of actions as a function of their results. The action is right when its consequences are good; the action is wrong when they are bad. Nonconsequentialist theories see other factor as also relevant to the determination of right or wrong. Utilitarianism is one of the most powerful and persuasive approaches to normative ethics in the history of philosophy. The idea of utilitarianism is tightly intertwined with the philosophy of consequentialism. Utilitarianism is the moral doctrine that we should always act to produce the greatest possible balance good over bad for everyone affected by our actions. Utilitarians understand “good” as happiness or pleasure. Therefore, the standard to determine whether an action is right or wrong is the greatest happiness of all constitutes. There are writings of many earlier thinkers about the basic theme of utilitarianism, but Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) were first to develop the theory clearly and in detail. Bentham considered a community is a fictitious body, composed of the individual persons who are its members. Then what is the interest of the community? It is the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it. It is in vain therefore to talk of the interest of the community without understanding the interest of the individual. A thing is said to be in the interest of an individual when it tends to add to the sum total of his pleasures and to diminish the sum total of his pains. For the community at large, then, an action may be said to be conformable to the principle of utility

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