Utilitarianism, Autonomy And Benficence

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Utilitarianism is an ethical theory of morality that follows the “Greatest Happiness Principle” for judging whether an action is morally right or wrong. This principle states that an action should bring the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest number of people. Here, happiness is the primary good that is intrinsically good in itself. A utilitarian would describe happiness as the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain. Therefore, a morally right action would be one that provides more pleasure than pain to the greatest number of people. Accountability for behavior, based on the utilitarian theory, is viewed in terms of consequences; a person becomes morally responsible for their behavior if the consequences of their actions conflict with the greatest happiness principle by replacing the presence of pleasure with pain. Thus, a utilitarian would justify punishment, such as imprisonment for example, by saying that it is for the greater good to imprison a criminal because harm to a large number of people will be prevented if criminal behavior is absent. As with any case, the end would justify the means; a happier, more productive society would accomplished by punishing a criminal. Utilitarians would agree that if action seems morally unacceptable on the surface but is performed to reach an end that will provide for the greater good, then said action is justified. Take the Boston Tea Party for example, it would seem that throwing tea into the harbor would not be morally acceptable, because although it may be bringing pleasure to the ones performing the deed, a greater number of people would be hurt by not having tea to buy, sell or trade. However, this action can be justified by the fact that in the end the Boston Tea Party started numerous protests that eventually lead to Britain ending taxation on the colonies; the end of taxation brought a greater amount
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