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Utilitarianism: Greatest Happiness Principle Essay

2263 words - 9 pages

Utilitarianism, originally introduced by Jeremy Bentham and extended by John Stuart
Mill, (Mark Timmons, 2006) is an ethical theory which states that to be good is to deliver the
greatest amount of happiness to most of the people based on the consequences of the action.
Utilitarianism considers the good for the majority is the final solution rather than everyone
severing only their own interests. Utilitarianism mainly focuses on the possible consequences of
a decision. When facing more than one option, utilitarianism allows you to judge what is right
and wrong by weighing the outcomes of the actions according to the “Greatest Happiness
Principle” (John Stuart Mill, 1861) that is to achieve the greatest amount of happiness for most
people. (Michael Vlach, 2012) In utilitarianism, there is only one right solution. A utilitarian
would consider only the action which generates the most possible net happiness to be right and
the others to be wrong even there is more than one way of benefitting the majority. (Stephen O
Sullivan and Philip A. Pecorino, 2002)
Utilitarianism is based upon the mechanism of consequentialism. It is one of the subfield
of consequentialism and it coexists with perfectionism. Under utilitarianism, there are two
branches, which are act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. (Mark Timmons, 2006) Each of
them has a different guideline to follow. Act utilitarianism pays more attention to the
consequences of a single action. Nevertheless, rule utilitarianism looks in the long-term
aftermath from the result of following a rule of conduct under certain circumstances whenever it
happens. (Sullivan & Pecorino, 2002) When dealing with a dilemma, act and rule utilitarianism
may produce us different results. For instance, if lying to someone could protect the feeling of
them, is it morally right to lie? An act utilitarian might say lying is good because it protects the
feeling of that person and greatest happiness is generated by the action. However, a rule
utilitarian would believe lying causes more harm. (Sullivan & Pecorino, 2002)
The theory of utilitarianism prefects the moral guideline and relieves the distinct defects
of Egoism. Utilitarianism brings the largest quantity of net happiness to our society as it
considers whatever action maximize happiness to most people is good. (John Stuart Mill, 1861)
Since utilitarianism takes the consequences into consideration of decision making, it allows us to
foresee the outcomes and decide what we really want and what steps we take would best satisfy
our extrinsic or intrinsic values. In this way, the decision and the action severs better for us
because it corresponds directly with our needs. This offers us moral criteria for telling what is
right or wrong to do. (Sullivan & Pecorino, 2002)...

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