Scientists create situations in laboratories in order to test their theories. They want to find out what would happen when certain conditions hold—if what actually happens under those conditions agrees with what their theory predicts will happen, then the theory is confirmed. Otherwise, the theory is falsified. A thought experiment is a hypothetical situation that we create in our minds in order to test a philosophical theory.
The best known version of consequentialism is utilitarianism. This theory defines morality in terms of the maximization of net expectable utility for all parties affected by a decision or action.
Although forms of utilitarianism have been put forward and debated since ancient times, the modern theory is most often associated with the British philosopher John Stuart Mill who developed the theory from a plain hedonistic version put forward by his mentor Jeremy Bentham As most clearly stated by Mill, the basic principle of utilitarianism is: Actions are right to the degree that they tend to promote the greatest good for the greatest number.
Of course, we are still unclear about what constitutes "the greatest good. For Mill, however, not all pleasures were equally worthy. In either case, the principle defines the moral right in terms of an objective, material good. Both men insisted that "the greatest number" included all who were affected by the action in question with "each to count as one, and no one as more than one.
Another goal-directed theory is egoism, which promotes the greatest good for the self alone.
Utilitarianism is a simple theory and its results are easy to apply. It also allows for degrees of right and wrong, and for every situation the choice between actions is clear-cut: There are several objections, however— 1.
It is not always clear what the outcome of an action will be, nor is it always possible to determine who will be affected by it. Judging an action by the outcome is therefore hard to do beforehand. The calculation required to determine the right is both complicated and time consuming.
Many occasions will not permit the time and many individuals may not even be capable of the calculations. Since the greatest good for the greatest number is described in aggregate terms, that good may be achieved under conditions that are harmful to some, so long as that harm is balanced by a greater good.
The theory fails to acknowledge any individual rights that could not be violated for the sake of the greatest good. Indeed, even the murder of an innocent person would seem to be condoned if it served the greater number. In response to objections such as these, some proponents of utilitarianism have proposed a modification of the theory.
Let us call the original form: Act Utilitarianism— each individual action is to be evaluated directly in terms of the utility principle. The proposed improvement is: Rule Utilitarianism— behavior is evaluated by rules that, if universally followed would lead to the greatest good for the greatest number.
Thus, rule utilitarianism could address the fourth and fifth objections mentioned above by using the utility principle to justify rules establishing human rights and the universal prohibition of certain harms.
But it may not be so simple. If the justification of the rule is found in the utility principle, what about the case where violating the rule leads to the achievement of the greatest good for the greatest number?
If the theory is to be truly utilitarian, it must maintain the utility principle as its ultimate standard, and no intermediate rules or rights could stand against it. A system of rules would help with the other objections, however, even if they only serve as convenient advice.
They would codify the wisdom of past experience, and preclude the need for constant calculation. Indeed, some writers propose that the theory of utilitarianism, although it correctly describes the ultimate sanction of moral principles, is best preserved for the minority that are capable of applying it.
The greatest good is best served by the masses when they follow rules out of duty and leave the difficult and subtle calculations to those in authority. It is a curious fact that his own theory of ethics fails to serve those ideals any better than it does.The purpose of this handout is to clarify our discussion of Utilitarianism.
Utilitarian Ethical Theory (UET), it should be noted, is not a single theory. Rather, it is a collection of theories which share a common theme. In utilitarianism, the means is not important, as long as it produces the beneficial result (consequentialism) for the majority, then it is ethically and morally justifiable.
It does not matter if you bomb the enemy’s innocent women and children, so long as it maims the enemy’s capability to retaliate, then your act is defensible for the. RS religious studies A-Level (AS and A2) revision section on ethics covering Utilitarianism, Bentham's Utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham, Hedonic Calculus, Felicific Calculus, Advantages of Bentham's Utilitarianism, Criticisms of Bentham's Utilitarianism, Mill's Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill, Act versus Rule Utilitarianism, Act Utilitarian, Rule .
Mill’s Utilitarianism is one of the most significant contributions to the development of this philosophy.
Although it received heavy criticism when it was published, it was also extremely influential and played a central role in making utilitarianism a key concern of Anglophone moral and political philosophy. 1 Ethics – Handout 10 My Notes on Mill’s Utilitarianism (1) General concerns: • Are interpersonal comparisons of utility even possible?
• What are we talking about – . Notes on Utilitarianism Consequentialist moral theories are teleological: they aim at some goal state and evaluate the morality of actions in terms of progress toward that state. The best known version of consequentialism is utilitarianism.