Essay about Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is a theory of morality that focuses on the principle of happiness for others. The primary focus is to bring happiness and pleasure to the greater number. The founder of utilitarianism known as Jeremy Bentham stated, “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”. In other words, an action that results in happiness for the majority number of people is morally good and the action that results in unhappiness for the majority number of people is morally wrong. Bentham’s statement can be problematic by stating the “greatest number” would imply that utilitarians should please the majority. But, “the greatest happiness” may imply that the happiness for the minority could overweigh the power of the majority. Despite the happiness it may bring to others, utilitarianism is wrong and some of the actions that apply can cause arguments, in which challenge utilitarianism.
Jeremy Bentham also mentioned that “Nature has placed mankind under two sovereign masters”. Known as “pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.” In this case, a utilitarian would act to bring the greatest amount of pleasure and the least amount of pain to the majority, in order to follow the principle of happiness. Bentham’s quote also suggests that pain and pleasure play a role in the decision or explanation of someone’s actions. When Utilitarianism is used, others work together to create happiness for the majority while trying to reduce suffering in society. But at times deciding to please others can cause pain, which is why utilitarianism should be applied with general rules.
Although it may sound great to please others, it can also lead to actions that hurt people. In other words, utilitarians wouldn’t judge whether someone’s actions were right or wrong, but rather on what has resulted from the actions. This means they believe it is right to fulfill actions that are wrong as long as it results in happiness for the greater good. For example, a man may be wrongfully committed for murder, but society may believe he is guilty and protest to keep him incarcerated. Therefore, if the judge or police officers are utilitarian’s, they would think it is right to keep the innocent man in jail to keep the greater number of society happy. This proves that even though it is morally wrong to convict an innocent man, utilitarianists don’t care about their actions, only the outcome. Furthermore, these actions of the higher authority would cause others not to trust them, resulting in people not going to the police for help in fear that their attacker may not be incarcerated but rather an innocent man.
Another flaw of utilitarianism would be the degree to which someone is willing to take to save someone’s life. As mentioned before, the greater good is more important than an individual in the rule of utilitarianism. But there are times when an individual’s interest should be more valued. For instance, if a hospital could save five lives by killing one person, a utilitarian would believe this is right in order to help save the majority. But what if that one person wanted to experience more life or stay with their family longer? shouldn’t they have a say in their own life? If this continues to happen, society will then refuse to go to the hospital in spite that they could be killed to save others’, later leading to diminished hospital treatment. Although a utilitarian may believe it is right to kill one person to save others, it is still against the law and morally wrong to kill a person.
One of the most popular philosophical theories is utilitarianism and many utilitarians believe that stealing isn’t necessarily bad or good, it is only bad or good based on the outcome it produces. For example, Chris knows a man down his street who is very wealthy, who he can steal from to help his mom buy dinner for the night. From his point of view, he only has two choices to choose from, he can either steal money from his neighbor or eat a little portion for dinner. He decides that he would like to have a big dinner for the night and make the whole family happy, so he steals $100 from his neighbor. Now a utilitarian may see this as right because he has taken money from a man who doesn’t need it as much as his family. They also may say that it has caused more good than bad because his family is now happy, but morally speaking stealing is against the law, so therefore Chris’ actions are wrong.
In conclusion, utilitarianism diminishes the act of justice in society. Utilitarians don’t believe that going against the law is bad, they will only believe it is bad if the outcome doesn’t make the greater number happy. They will not care for the pain they cause others as long as the pleasure is greater. This then can put others in danger just because someone may want to please others. In this case, our sole principles for making decisions should not be based on utilitarianism. This is a bad principle to go by because some of the actions can be seen as good to utilitarian’s, even though they go against the law, harm others, and fail to consider justice.