This essay will present the key features of Utilitarianism and identify the problems of Utilitarianism to the extent to which they make Utilitarianism unacceptable.
Jeremy Bentham founded Utilitarianism. He lived at a time of great
change. With revolutions in France and America, demands were being
made for human rights and greater democracy. Bentham worked on legal
reform. Utilitarianism is associated with the principle of utility.
Utility means the amount of satisfaction or pleasure that somebody
gains from consuming a commodity, product, or service, .; useful.
The hedonic calculus, which is his system for measuring how good or
bad a consequence is:
At the time Bentham put forward the theory it was instrumental. It
changed the way society was run and the way society now thinks for the
better. It dramatically made changes to the poverty in Britain
Theories that are interested in the ends are known as teleological.
Telos is Greek for the end. Therefore teleological means that the ends
justify the means, utilitarianism follows this rule. Utilitarianism is
the greatest goodness for the greatest number of people. The rightness
of actions depends on their utility, and the utility is measured by
the consequences, simply meaning the greatest good by moral actions.
If the consequences are good, then the moral actions are not as
A positive example is “Lucy wins the lottery. Instead of keeping it
all to herself, Lucy decides to share it out with some of her friends,
because she thinks it will make them happy.”
Lucy is doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people and
is doing it using goodness ...
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...people’s common agreement about what is pleasure and what is pain.
There are problems concerning what some people would consider
pleasurable and what others would consider not pleasurable. Problems
arise such as taste in music, hobbies and beliefs.
In conclusion Utilitarianism has its political benefits, but is not
clear enough with some aspects. It doesn’t show what is unacceptable
in utilitarianism. Utilitarianism doesn’t have the flexibility of
considering individual circumstances and moral values have no
consideration in this theory. Utilitarianism is focused on quantity
rather than quality. It seems rather a simple theory ‘the greatest
good, for the greatest number of people’, however when you delve into
the theory it becomes rather too complicated. For people to live by a
theory it needs to be simple and clear.
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The above problem can (as well as most criticisms of FPTP) lead to a lack of people actually voting (Only 59% and 60% of people voted in the 2001 and 2005 elections) In 1997, in Great Britain, million voters cast ineffective votes - that is % of those who voted. This is not a great figure to encourage the public to vote. Knowing that if they vote for any party other than either Labour or Conservative their vote will be wasted, people cannot be bothered to vote at all. This makes it harder for parties like Lib Dems because it is easier for bigger parties to