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UTILITARIANISM. Introduction This is a viewpoint independent of religious belief (though religious people can use it). It is focussed on the consequences.

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Presentation on theme: "UTILITARIANISM. Introduction This is a viewpoint independent of religious belief (though religious people can use it). It is focussed on the consequences."— Presentation transcript:

1 UTILITARIANISM

2 Introduction This is a viewpoint independent of religious belief (though religious people can use it). It is focussed on the consequences of the action. There are different types of Utilitarianism: Act, Rule and Preference. Utilitarianism is based on the Principle of Utility or the greatest good.

3 Is it wrong to kill a baby? You have invented a time machine! You press the button and find yourself alone in a room with baby Hitler. What are some of the possible consequences if he chose to kill the baby… If it stopped WW2 would it make it right ?

4 Making Ethical Judgments in Utilitarianism Utilitarianism says that the Result or the Consequence of an Act is the real measure of whether it is good or bad. This theory emphasizes Ends over Means. It is therefore, a consequentialist ethical theory.

5 A naval warship is in a battle. It receives a severe hit to the engineering section and a fire breaks out. If the fire continues, the ship’s munitions could explode, killing the whole crew. The captain can use a fast-acting fire extinguisher that would result in the blasts of steam putting out the fire, but this will kill the 5 men trapped in engineering… A naval warship is in a battle. It receives a severe hit to the engineering section and a fire breaks out. If the fire continues, the ship’s munitions could explode, killing the whole crew. The captain can use a fast-acting fire extinguisher that would result in the blasts of steam putting out the fire, but this will kill the 5 men trapped in engineering…

6 For the greater good……..  Utilitarianism is an ethical theory behind the justification ‘for the greater good’  Theory focuses on the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number’

7 Utilitarianism  Utilitarianism was devised by Jeremy Bentham. (1758 – 1832)  He was born in London at a time of great scientific and social change.  With revolutions in France and America demands were being made for human rights and greater democracy.  Bentham worked on legal reform and wrote The principles of Morals and Legislation 1789

8 Jeremy Bentham Was a child, received his degree at 15 years old. Concerned with social conditions of his time and was a political philosopher and a political radical. Wrote ‘The Principles of morals and legislation’ in 1789 in which he proposed his ethical theory of utilitarianism. His drive and belief in equality was the inspiration for the opening of UCL in London His preserved body is sill there in a wooden cabinet.

9 Utilitarianism  We can divide his theory into three parts: 1.Motivation - His view on what drove human beings and what goodness and badness was about 2.The principle of utility - (usefulness) which is his moral rule. 3.The hedonic calculus - which is his system for measuring how good or bad a consequence is.

10 Issue: School Uniform In many schools, uniform is a rule. What are the beneficial consequences of school uniform? Who for? Could school uniform be seen as leading to the greatest good for the greatest number? Would a Utilitarian support the wearing of school uniform? In many schools, uniform is a rule. What are the beneficial consequences of school uniform? Who for? Could school uniform be seen as leading to the greatest good for the greatest number? Would a Utilitarian support the wearing of school uniform?

11 Bentham’s theory of motivation  Human beings are motivated by pleasure and pain.  He is thus a Hedonist. He believes that pleasure is the ultimate motivation.

12 Bentham’s theory of motivation  All humans pursue pleasure and seek to avoid pain.  This is a moral fact because pleasure and pain identify what is a good or a bad action  For humans the sole good is pleasure and the sole evil is pain.  For this reason Bentham’s Utilitarianism is called ‘Hedonic Utilitarianism’.

13 The principle of utility  Once Bentham identified pleasure and pain as the important qualities for identifying what is moral he developed the ‘Utility Principle’  The rightness or wrongness of an action is judged by its utility or usefulness to produce pleasure.  because pleasure produces a feeling of happiness it is used interchangeably in the utility principle.  The action that produces the most happiness is the most moral.

14 Hedonic Calculus

15 The greatest good We can shorten this to: “an action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number’ good is the maximization of pleasure. The more pleasure that an action produces the better it is. the larger the number of people that an action produces pleasure for, the better than action is.

16 The greatest number  This theory is democratic because pleasure cant be for one person alone.  When facing a moral dilemma, Bentham argued that one should choose to act in such a way that brings about the maximum possible happiness for the most people.  However, the possible consequences of different possible actions must be measured clearly to establish which option generates the most pleasure and the least pain.

17 The car accident  a Doctor witnesses a car accident.  In the car are three people. 1.A pregnant woman 2.The young woman’s husband 3.The woman’s father.  All have an equal chance of survival but he can only save two person in time. One person is bound to die.  Who does he save and why?

18 He saves …  The doctor if he was a utilitarian would save…  The pregnant woman first – this is because she and the baby would have the happiness/pleasure of two people.  The husband would be next because the happiness of a new family would outweigh the happiness of one man.  The old man would be left because he has had his portion of happiness.

19 Equal circumstances What if the circumstances are equal. Two men are in the car. Both are doctors Both are GP’s with the same number of patients in their surgery. Who does he save then ? What if the circumstances are equal. Two men are in the car. Both are doctors Both are GP’s with the same number of patients in their surgery. Who does he save then ?

20 Thinking Points- Debate 1.Are all actions only good because they have good results? 2.Suppose a surgeon could use the organs of one healthy patient to save the lives of several others. Would the surgeon be justified in killing the healthy patient for the sake of the others? 1.Are all actions only good because they have good results? 2.Suppose a surgeon could use the organs of one healthy patient to save the lives of several others. Would the surgeon be justified in killing the healthy patient for the sake of the others?

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22 Sadistic guards torture a wrongly imprisoned innocent man. What difficulty does this example pose for Bentham’s theory? Sadistic guards torture a wrongly imprisoned innocent man. What difficulty does this example pose for Bentham’s theory?

23 The Hedonistic Calculus  In the hedonic calculus Bentham considers 1.How strong the pain or pleasure is 2.Whether it is short-lived or life-long 3.How likely is there to be pain or pleasure 4.If it is immediate 5.Likely to lead to more 6.Extent of combinations 7.The number of people affected  The balance of pleasures and pains is compared with those of other options and the best results determined.  The action that leads to this consequence is the MORALLY correct one to pursue.  In the hedonic calculus Bentham considers 1.How strong the pain or pleasure is 2.Whether it is short-lived or life-long 3.How likely is there to be pain or pleasure 4.If it is immediate 5.Likely to lead to more 6.Extent of combinations 7.The number of people affected  The balance of pleasures and pains is compared with those of other options and the best results determined.  The action that leads to this consequence is the MORALLY correct one to pursue.

24 Application of Utilitarian Theory A) You attempt to help an elderly lady across the street. She gets across safely. Conclusion: the Act was a good act. B) You attempt to help an elderly lady across the street. You stumble as you go, she is knocked into the path of a car, and is hurt. Conclusion: The Act was a bad act.

25 Application of Utilitarianism Actual Cases The decision at Coventry during WWII. The decision was made not to inform the town that they would be bombed. The Ford Pinto case: A defective vehicle model was not recalled and repaired by Ford because they felt it was cheaper to pay the liability suits than to repairs all the defective cars.

26 JS Mill ( ) 1.Mill was a child prodigy able to read several languages from an early age. He learnt Greek at 3 so he could read his fathers philosophy books. 2.His father was a follower of Bentham and the young Mill was heavily influenced by Bentham’s social reform policy. 3.Mill has been linked to the beginnings of modern feminism and could be considered the greatest British philosopher of the 19 th century. He has certainly been one of the most influencial.

27 Mills adjustments  While mill accepted the utility principle he was concerned about the difficulty raised in the example of the sadistic guard.  If the greatest good for the greatest number is purely quantitative (based on quantity) what would stop one person from being extinguished by the majority.  Mill was aware that utilitarianism was being criticized for promoting desire and that it lowered human nature to the level of swine.

28 John Stuart Mill Some pleasures are ‘higher’ than others. “It is better to be a human being satisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates satisfied than a fool satisfied” The pleasures of the mind are higher than those of the body.

29 Arrange the following pleasures in qualitative order: Drinking alcohol Listening to music Hearing poetry Spending time with friends Eating chocolate Playing sport Achieving fame Viewing beautiful artwork Spending time with your partner Watching a good movie Attending family gatherings Reading a novel

30 Quality over quantity  Pleasures of the mind are higher than those of the body.  To pursue purely bodily pleasures – food, drink, sex, was not as high an objective as those that are intellectually demanding.  The background of this view lies in Mills classical philosophical education.  For Plato philosophical thinking is the highest activity for humans.

31 Examples 1.A woman is gang raped by 10 men. The greatest pleasure implies that this action is A- OK. 2.A mother of four has an abortion because her other children did not want to share their room. 3.The sadistic guard ?

32 Review 1.Some pleasures are better than others. 2.Higher and lower pleasures. 3.The greatest good should be those actions which maximise higher pleasures. 4.This is how we can overcome the weaknesses of Bentham’s Utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill


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