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What is Utilitarianism?

It is a teleological theory which looks at the consequences rather than the action. It is also a consequential theory.


Who began with the theory of utilitarianism?

Jeremy Bentham


What was the words that he came across in Joseph Priestley's An essay on the first principles of the government (1768)?

' the greatest happiness of the greatest number'


What is the principle of utility?

The theory of usefulness- the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Pain vs pleasure (happiness= pleasure minus pain)


In the view of Bentham what is good defined as?

Pleasure or happiness


Is utilitarianism an hedonistic theory?



According to Bentham which are the most moral acts?

Those that maximise pleasure and minimise pain


What is the hedonic calculus?

Bentham's method for measuring the good and bad effects of the action


What are the seven elements of the hedonic calculus?

1. the intensity of the pleasure
2. the duration of the pleasure
3. the certainty of the pleasure
4. the remoteness of the pleasure
5. the chance of succession of the pleasure
6. the purity of the pleasure
7. the extent of the pleasure


What is Act Utilitarianism?

A teleological theory that uses the outcome of an action to determine whether it is good or bad


Who is John Stuart Mil?

He is a utilitarian who accepted that happiness is the greatest importance. However he rejected Bentham's view on act utilitarianism.


What were the ideas of John Mill?

- Higher and lower pleasure
- Quality vs Quantity of pleasures
- Liberty and the harm principle
- Strong and weak utilitarians


What is the quote that Mill says for higher and lower pleasures?

It is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied


What are high pleasures for Mill?

Reading poetry or listening to music


What are lower pleasures for Mill?

Eating, drinking or having sex


What does Mill argue about happiness?

Happiness, he argues, is something that people desire for its own sake, but we need to look at human life as a whole - happiness is not just adding up the units of pleasure but rather the fulfilment of higher ideals


What is the means of quantity and quality of pleasure?

Mill says that the quality counts than the quantity


What does the harm principle state?

The harm principle states that the only reason to restrict the action of another individual is to prevent harm


What does Mill say about Liberty?

Liberty is good but too much liberty can have harm to oneself


What is strong rule utilitarianism?

Believe thatches derived rules should never be disobeyed e.g. telling the truth, keeping promises


What is weak rule utilitarianism?

Believe that some situations it's better to disobey the rules because the better consequence might be achieved by disregarding the rule. Example when its better to tell a lie than the truth


What are the key features of act utilitarianism?

Eudaimonistic/ consequentialist/ measurable and quantitative


What are the key features of rule utilitarianism?

consequentialist/ universalistic/ qualitative


What are the key strengths on act utilitarianism?

- Rooted in empiricism; relates to actions which can be observed in the real world.
- Focuses on bringing the majority happy
- Utilitarianism's acceptance of the universal principle is essential
- Practical- makes us think about the impact
- Its consequential is also a strength as when we act it is only natural to weigh up the consequences.


What are the key weaknesses on act utilitarianism?

- Not valuing the personal individual
- Difficult to predict the consequences
- Pleasure is subjective
- Pleasure is difficult to quantify or measure
- Can advocate injustice
- Ethical egoism; if i seek my own happiness is it possible for me to seek general happiness


What are the key strengths on rule utilitarianism?

- Relates to actions observed in the real world
- Natural to weigh up the consequences
- Better for the humanity


What are the key weaknesses on rule utilitarianism?

- Difficult to predict the consequences
- Difficult to define what constitutes happiness
- No defence for the minorities
- To invoke rules it becomes deontological not teleological
- Weak rule utilitarians can end up no different from Act Utilitarians
- Strict rule utilitarians can be irrational because sometimes wen disobeying the rule can give more happiness


What are natural rights?

Are rights we humans have deemed to be naturally or been given e.g. equality


How does Utilitarianism treats the question of rights?

Bentham and Mill reject natural rights because they are not self-evident and rights should only enshrined into laws as legal rights, only if the right leads to greatest happiness


What is preference Utilitarianism?

Moral actions are rights and wrong according to how they fit in with the preferences of those involved