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 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.

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Presentation on theme: " 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."— Presentation transcript:


2  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 teleological or consequentialist ethical theory.

3 Jeremy Bentham

4  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

5  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.


7  Human beings are motivated by pleasure and pain.  He is thus a Hedonist. He believes that pleasure is the ultimate motivation.  Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters  pain and pleasure  “It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do as well as to determine what we shall do” Bentham

8  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’.


10  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.

11  This theory is teleological because it determines the goodness of an action by the end it produces.  Remember teleos in the greek means ends.  By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question: or, what is the same thing in other words, to promote or to oppose that happiness. I say of every action whatsoever, and therefore, not, only of every action of a private individual, but of every measure of government. Bentham

12  We can shorten this to: “an action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number’  good is the maximisation 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.

13  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.

14  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?

15  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.


17  In calculating the greatest happiness for the greatest number we must determining the quantity of happiness that might be produced by an action,  we evaluate the possible consequences by applying several values: 1. Intensity 2. Duration 3. Certainty or uncertainty 4. propinquity or remoteness 5. Fecundity – likelihood of repetition 6. Purity 7. and Extent.

18  The hedonic calculus is a quantitative assessment of a situation.  It is therefore, concerned with the quantity of pleasure it produces.  The greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest amount of people  The quantity of that pleasure is assessed against the Hedonic Calculus.  Quantitative is the opposite of qualitative which is concerned with quality rather than quantity.

19 Intensity The intensity of the pleasure caused by an act is reasonably self-explanatory. Mild pleasure is less valuable than intense pleasure, and so acts leading to the latter are to be preferred to acts leading to the former, other things being equal. Duration The duration of the pleasure caused by an act must also be taken into account when assessing the goodness of the act. Transient pleasure is less valuable than lasting pleasure, and so acts leading to the latter are to be preferred to acts leading to the former, other things being equal. rtainty The certainty criterion refers to the probability of the pleasure resulting from the act; how likely is it that the act will bring about the anticipated pleasure? If we must choose between an act that will definitely cause pleasure and an act that will only possibly bring about pleasure, then we do better to perform the former. Propinquity When deciding what to do, Bentham thought, we should bear in mind how distant are the anticipated benefits of each possible course of action. The more distant the benefits, in either space or time, the less weight we should give them in making our decision. Fecundity The fecundity of an act is the likelihood that the pleasures or pains that it causes will be followed by similar pleasures or pains. If the happiness that an act causes is likely to be followed by yet more happiness, then that act is better than a similar act that will cause only one isolated instance of happiness. Similarly, if the pain that an act causes is likely to be followed by still more pains, then that act is worse than it would otherwise be. Purity It is also important to be attentive to the purity of the pleasure and pain caused by an act. An act that causes only pleasure is better than one that causes the same amount of pleasure mixed with a little pain. When pleasure or pain are unmixed with their opposites, their purity is high; when they are so mixed, their purity is diminished. Extent The final criterion for quantifying the pleasure caused by an act is its extent: the more people enjoy the pleasure, the better. This criterion, unlike the previous six, was not among the original criteria described by Bentham, but was added by John Stuart Mill.

20  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.

21  If you can use eighty soldiers as a decoy in war, and thereby attack an enemy force and kill several hundred enemy soldiers, that is a morally good choice even though the eighty might be lost.  If lying or stealing will actually bring about more happiness and/or reduce pain, we should lie and steal in those cases.

22  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.



25 It is intuitive correct because common sense dictates that all situations are not identical and sometimes a different approach is needed.

26 It takes into account cultural diversity – each culture is allowed to operate equally and in parallel without one being considered more superior than the other.

27 It seeks to maximise a human goal its basis is therefore, grounded in humanity and does not seek authority from another source.

28 Bentham is not against moral rules rather he created the principle of utility as a method of social reform. It is a way of testing a law or legal maxim for its utility for human kind. If it does not meet the goals of a human then Bentham argued the law should be changed.



31 It has the potential to justify any action SCENARIO

32 Impractical to suggest that we have the time to deliberate and apply the calculus to every situation we come across especially as we may not have the full information.

33 It is quantitative rather than qualitative in nature.

34 It does not treat everyone equally in a true sense of equality. They are only equal in that their vote matters.

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