Utilitarians believe that every decision they make should be made objectively to benefit the most people in the most positive way. Utilitarians also believe that there are some objective moral truths, for example, it is always immoral to kill people. This philosophical belief system can best be summed up by a quote from Rachels and Rachels’ The Right Thing to Do; “Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure” (29). There are two main camps of ...view middle of the document...
The utilitarian seeks to promote both types. Using this moral theory, actions like killing someone are clearly wrong because one would be causing severe unhappiness not only to the victim, but also to the victim’s family. The situation gets more complicated when you are given the chance to kill Hitler when he was an art student, before he became the infamous Nazi leader. As a student, Hitler hadn’t yet committed any of the atrocities he is now infamous for, so it would seem wrong to kill him. However, the modern-day utilitarian would know what art student Hitler would do in his future, and choose to kill him to prevent all of the unhappiness of World War II and the Holocaust.
Whether or not one chooses to kill art student Hitler is a perfect example of one objection to utilitarianism; it sometimes justifies immoral acts. Killing anyone in cold blood seems morally wrong, but the utilitarian could argue that it is right in some cases. So, the argument goes that:
If a moral theory justifies acts that we intuitively consider wrong, then that theory should be rejected.
Utilitarianism justifies acts we intuitively consider wrong.
So, utilitarianism should be rejected.
Premise one says that a moral theory that excuses acts people naturally see as wrong (ex: lying, murder) shouldn’t be followed. As shown in the Hitler example, utilitarianism sometimes excuses murder, so it...