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Actions And Their Labels Of Either Right Or Wrong

1826 words - 7 pages

Actions and Their Labels of Either Right or Wrong

In this academic essay there will be an in depth look at the words of
Mill, in terms of actions and their labels of either right and wrong,
and those connotations to happiness and, so to speak the reverse of
happiness. There will be an attempt through various different
channels, to illustrate the absurdity of utilitarianism, in the sense
of its mere provisional assessment of promoting happiness. Furthermore
this essay will also emphasize the fact that happiness is subjective
and the ripple effects this would have on the utilitarian theory.
Lastly this essay will deal with the complications utilitarianism
might have on an individual’s fundamental rights and the fact that
though it is sometimes our duty, in terms of moral ‘rights’ to act in
accordance to a utilitarian, this doesn’t mean that we need adopt the
principle or be forced to always adhere to its policies.

In chapter two, ‘What Utilitarianism is’, Mill makes the statement and
claim that morality is based on the foundations that the right thing
to do on any occasion is that which aims to give the maximum happiness
for all concerned:

“… Actions are right in proportion, as they tend to promote happiness,
wrong, as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness
is intended pleasure and the absence of pain, by unhappiness, pain and
the privation of pleasure.” (Mill, Utilitarianism, p.697)

This may also be expressed in the simpler phrase: “the greatest good
for the greatest number” (Teach yourself Philosophy, Mel Thompson,
p149) Mill takes it one step further, by saying that morality requires
impartial consideration of the interests of everyone involved,

“As between his own happiness and that of others, utilitarianism
requires [an agent] to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and
benevolent spectator” (Mill, Utilitarianism, p.702).

And it is thus that our own decisions and interests can only be
considered in contrast and similar weight to that of other people.

In grasping this crude and make shift overview, I would like you to
consider the following example which is at first believed to embrace
and support utilitarianism, but ultimately shakes its foundations:

“Imagine you are the doctor in charge of two seriously ill patients.
One has terminal cancer, and will die shortly. The other has a heart
condition that soon will become fatal if a replacement heart is not
found quickly. You discover that the heart of the cancer patient would
actually make a perfect donor heart for the heart patient. So you can
save one of these two lives by killing one patient and giving his
heart to the other. Or you can do nothing, with the result that both
lives will soon come to an end. What shall you do?” (The Philosophy
Gym, Stephen Law, p184)

The answer...

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