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Utilitarianism: Founding Fathers, Strengths And Weaknesses Of Act Utilitarianism And Rule Utilitarianism, Other Forms Of Utilitarianism, And Recent Philosophers

1528 words - 6 pages

"Create all the happiness you are able to create; remove all the misery you are able to remove." - Jeremy BenthamJeremy Bentham created the utilitarianism school of thought, which is an incredibly useful ethical position. It can be most effectively defined by Wikipedia, "Utilitarianism is the idea that the moral worth of an action is solely determined by its contribution to overall utility." Utilitarianism has many benefits, but those benefits are harmonized with some major flaws. I will discuss the founding fathers of utilitarianism, the strengths and weaknesses of act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism, other forms of utilitarianism, and recent philosophers of this school of thought.This idea of the greatest good for the greatest number was developed by Jeremy Bentham. Although the ides of utilitarianism is often traced back to and credited to Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill carried on his work and became well know for his development of the Utilitarianism theory. In Utilitarianism, Mill's famous short work, he argued that cultural, intellectual, and spiritual pleasures hold a higher value than physical pleasures. He believed that the cultural, intellectual, and spiritual values held more value in the eyes of someone who had experienced both the physical pleasures as well as the cultural, intellectual, and spiritual pleasures. In other words, the quality of pleasure was better than the quantity of pleasure. 'It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied' As stated by rsrevision.com. Utilitarianism says that if actions promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number, then actions are right. This is the basic principle of ethics, and the foundation of morality.Act utilitarianism states that, when faced with a choice, we must first consider the likely consequences of potential actions, and from that, choose to do what we believe will generate the most happiness. Act utilitarianism focuses more on the individual act in accordance with the situation. The text for this class states that an act-utilitarian's ethical problem may be framed in this way: "What effect w ill my doing this act in this situation have on the general balance of good over evil?" For example, can rules like, "don't lie" be used as more a guideline rather than a rule for a persons actions? There are several situations where lying can be absolutely acceptable, like when telling the truth will save an individual's life. Someone who lies to a killer about where their potential victim is hiding is lying for the greater good.The most important, and obvious, pro of act-utilitarianism is that it takes into consideration the specific situation. For Example, a mother steals food in order to feed her children because she has no other way to provide for them. Under normal circumstances stealing is wrong, but in this case it would also be wrong to let her children die of starvation. Act-utilitarianism...

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