Flashcards in Utilitarianism Deck (29)
Define 'principle of utility' / greatest happiness
The idea that the choice that brings about the greatest good for the greatest number is the right choice
Ethics focused on the intrinsic rightness or wrongness of an action
Define 'hedonic calculus'
The system for calculating the amount of pain or pleasure generated by an action
Ethical theories which see morality as driven by the consequences rather than actions or people concerned
Define 'act utilitarian'
Weighs up what to do at each individual occasion
Define 'rule utilitarian'
Weighs up what to do in principle in all occasions of a certain kind
Who was the first utilitarian? Describe their approach
Jeremy Bentham (B. 18th Century)
Different approach to decision making other than Biblical obedience he was concerned about the effect of social reform on the masses
Give a quote from Jeremy Bentham
"Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure"
Why does Bentham believe pain and pleasure are our two masters?
Not divine authority because people will act to emphasise pleasure and minimise pain through observations of human life
What does Bentham believe is NOT the motivator for human action?
God or human reason
Why is Bentham sceptical of holy claims?
The don't act in accordance to divine rule but instead to gain intrinsic pleasure e.g. Feeling generous or impressive
Why did Bentham create the principle of utility?
To approve or reject every private and governmental action
What does Bentham mean by utility?
The extent to which the action pursues happiness and avoids pain, utility is what moral behaviour should look to maximise
What did Bentham believe should be the only affecting factor in decision making?
Balance between happiness and sadness cause not any idealised view
What is used by the principle of utility?
Human instinct to seek pleasure but also a democratic prince and so the sum of the community must be considered not just the individual
Give a quote from Bentham describing the measure of right and wrong
"It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong... The business of government is to promote happiness of the society"
How does utilitarianism compare to natural law?
Relativist and teleological like natural law but it assess the situation but the happiness or pain of the end result and so is democratic
Name the seven factors of the hedonic calculus
- Propinquinquity/ remoteness
- Fecundity = the likelihood of the consequences which follow to be pleasure or pain
- Purity = chance of no secondary consequences
- Number of people affected (extent)
What controversial implications and criticisms are there of the hedonic calculus?
- Concern for quality of life if used to justify euthanasia/ abortion etc.
- How are pleasures and extent of measured when everyone has different desires
- Does anything change when individual wants are combined to communal
Give a quote from J. S. Mill
"Human beings have faculties more elevated than the animal appetite and when made conscious of them do not regard anything as happiness which does not include their gratification"
How did Mill distinguish pleasures?
Base: eating, drinking, sex, rest (inclusive of animals making humans no better than swine)
Higher: intellectual, aesthetic, social and spiritual
Give a quote from Mill after describing the two types of pleasures
"It is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied"
What does Mill believe utilitarian mortality does recognise?
The possibility for human beings to act good for others and to renounce our own interests
Describe the key features of act utilitarianism
Responsive to a particular situation
Case by case basis
No duty to adopt a particular approach
Traditional utilitarianism also sets aside rules
Maximises utility in every situation
Give a disadvantage of act utilitarianism
Justifies lying which undermines the democratic intention of utilitarianism
Describe the key features of rule utilitarianism
Establishing common good
Series of rules
Trust, justice and equality
Long term happiness by generic rules despite occasional short term pain
Guide for people to live by
Why does Bernard Williams support utilitarianism?
- not religious
- reasonable and basic
- common currency of moral thought