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Utilitarianism. Essay

1459 words - 6 pages

UtilitarianismAccording to J.J.C. Smart, utilitarianism is a theory that all actions are judged by their consequences. The following paper will deal with two forms of utilitarianism: 1) extreme utilitarianism, and 2) restricted utilitarianism. J.J.C. Smart outlines the various aspects of each of these forms of utilitarianism in his paper, Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism. These aspects will be discussed in the current paper. The differences between the two forms of utilitarianism will also be discussed. Within his paper, J.J.C. Smart poses some very valid challenges towards utilitarianism. This paper will outline these challenges and propose some possible rebuttals from John Stuart Mill.Extreme UtilitarianismAccording to Smart, an extreme utilitarian believes that general rules are simply rules of thumb that we use in order to avoid having to figure out the possible consequences of our actions at every step. Smart also states that an extreme utilitarian will direct his behaviour according to the rules of morality. The examples Smart provides are "do not lie", and "do not break promises". Use religion as an example. Most religions follow fairly strict rules and/or commandments. These rules are followed because the consequences of not following them would not benefit the majority of people. It is the current author's belief that most religions follow extreme utilitarianism. In Smart's paper on utilitarianism, he discusses the frequency of actions and decisions being made in a hurry. Smart used the example of a person drowning; however for the sake of change, imagine a different example.You are driving down a fairly deserted road. You see a stranded motorist on the shoulder of the road. There is no time to make a decision, after all if you wait to long, you'll have passed the motorist. Trusting his instincts, according to Smart, the extreme utilitarian would stop to assist the motorist. But now consider that the stranded motorist is an escapee of the local prison. According to Smart, that same extreme utilitarian would, in most cases, leave the motorist to fend for himself.Smart provides the example taken from A.K. Stout's work. This example regards whether or not one should water their garden, when an edict has been imposed against it. When the justification to water the flowers was because by doing so the flowers would produce happiness to various people, Smart stated that an extreme utilitarian would feel that this decision was wrong because of the weakening respect for law and order.Although lack of reasoning time is a factor why an extreme utilitarian may trust the rules of common sense, it is not the only one. Smart discusses the likelihood of bias. If someone has their own interests at stake, Smart states that his calculations are bound to be bias in his favour. Assume for example, that he is miserable in his job, and he is deciding whether or not to quit or not. According to Smart, he will in all probability exaggerate his own...

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