Outline important concepts of Utilitarianism. (21)
Utilitarianism is a theory which denotes actions that are right and wrong from there consequences. There are three types of Utilitarianism, act, rule and preference.
Act Utilitarianism was initially developed by the theorist and psychological hedonist, Jeremy Bentham who believed that our main aim in life was to achieve 'happiness' and avoid 'pain'. He wanted to produce a different approach to moral decision making to suit the advancing society of the industrial age and argued that "natural rights is simple nonsense".This principle focuses on the individual action and the consequences that come with it. His moral rule was the ...view middle of the document...
But this is still murder? It's a moral absolute that murder is wrong, so why is it acceptable under these circumstances? This relativism has allowed the soldier to go against the religious teaching 'thou shalt not kill' and therefore Bentham's theory undermines the 10 commandments and rejects religious beliefs. Likewise, relativism makes way for any conceivable action to be considered acceptable as people may get pleasure from doing bad things such as rape, therefore this pleasure would make the rapists actions correct. As Bentham regarded all pleasure as equal there is no difference between eating cake because it makes you happy and torturing a child because it makes you happy.
John Stuart Mill recognised these key criticisms and attempted to advance act utilitarianism to avoid these issues. Instead of the quantity happiness created by an action, he focused on the quality by distinguishing between higher and lower pleasures. He showed this idea of quality over quantity when saying "It is better to a be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied." Lower pleasures were bodily pleasures, such as eating and sex whereas higher pleasures were often intellectually stimulating and challenging; determining between the two prevented the evil pleasures stated before, being classed as acceptable.
Next Mill developed rule utilitarianism, this focuses on rules that every one should follow in order to bring the greatest good for the community; the rules are absolute and you have to follow them even if your action creates happiness for yourself. Therefore, torture would be seen as wrong no matter how much happiness it created for torturer. A strength is that, these rules can change and develop as society advances, it creates a flexible way of making moral decisions with out becoming out dated. In contrast, many people would it is inflexible due to the fact that these rules have to be followed with out any consideration of the situation, to give an example, if an armed man broke into your house and was about to kill your family, under rule utilitarianism you couldn't kill this man to protect your family as murder is classed a wrong in all accounts.
Mill was known as a 'child prodigy' and was brought up with a classical philosophical education, meaning that his views on what were classed as 'higher pleasures' may be biased an untrue for the majority and suggests that it may be an egotistical approach to moral decision making. He was born in 1806, a time when not many people had access to a good education, his principle was catered for those higher in society and left out the people at the bottom. In addition, Mill was Bentham's god son and had grown up around his influences. This could imply that he could have been indoctrinated to see the way Bentham saw moral decision making and therefore missed important changes to his theory when advancing utilitarianism as he had been brought up to believe...