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Outline the Main Principles of Utilitarianism Essay

Outline the main principles of utilitarianism Utilitarianism is a teleological theory. Three main philosophers have come up with different types of utilitarianism these being: Bentham, Mill and Singer. Bentham introducing the idea of Act Utilitarianism, Mill adapting the ideas of Bentham and trying improve the flaws he saw with his Rule utilitarianism and Singer with his preference utilitarianism theory. Bentham was hedonist, meaning he was a pleasure seeker. Bentham portrayed two main features of utilitarianism, one being the consequentialist principle.

The consequentialist principle states that the rightness or wrongness of an act is determined by the goodness or badness of the results that flow from it this shows the teleological side of the theory. The second feature portrayed is the Utility principle this is “the greatest good for the greatest number. ” But Bentham being a hedonist devised his own twist on this and stated that his principle would be “the greatest pleasure for the greatest number. ” As he believed “nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters’ pain and pleasure.

It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as what we shall do. ” Bentham said if an event brought more pleasure and avoided pain then it was seen as good. Bentham devised a way of measuring pleasure and this was known as the hedonic calculus it was based on a quantitative scale and the seven aspects to help you calculate whether something was painful or pleasurable were: Duration, Remoteness, Purity, Richness, Intensity, Certainty and Extent. These factors all made up the Hedonic calculus. Bentham’s utilitarian theories and ideas are usually linked with the idea of Act utilitarianism.

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Act Utilitarianism says that the principle of utility should be applied to every individual situation. It states that a person should act when the anticipated result brings the most pleasure. One of the main principles of Utilitarianism is Act utilitarianism and Bentham idealism of this. Mill was Bentham’s godson, Mill adopted he godfathers ideas of utilitarianism but he saw flaws in his definition of the utility principle as Bentham viewed pleasure as being the main point of utility instead of good. Mill challenged his theory by trying to distinguish happiness from mere pleasure.

Mill’s version of the theory is often referred to as “Eudaimonistic utilitarianism”. He defines happiness with his idea of higher and lower pleasures; higher pleasures usually linked with expanded your capacity for knowledge for example a higher pleasure would be reading Shakespeare as it’s increasing your knowledge. A lower pleasure would be seen as eating a McDonalds as it’s not seen to benefit your knowledge in any way. Mill’s utilitarian theory is linked with Rule-utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism being one of the two classical types of utilitarianism, the other being act seen in Bentham’s theory.

Act utilitarianism is the idea that an act is only right if it follows set rules to bring out the greater good for society. Act Utilitarianism is then broke down into “Weak rule” and “Strong rule”. Weak rule is the idea that you can actually break that rule if you believe it is going to bring the greater good. Strong Rule is the idea that once the rule has been agreed upon as being the best for society. You cannot break it, no matter what. It is believed that Mill is more a “Weak rule” utilitarian as the “strong rule” is moving towards a more absolutist approach.

The last well known theory of utilitarianism is the most recent which was devised by a man named Peter Singer. Singer came up with a type of utilitarianism known as “preference utilitarianism”. Preference utilitarianism promotes actions that fulfil the interests of those beings involved. Singer believes you should have your best interest at heart to minimise any sort of pain. An interesting point to Singer’s theory is that he believed everyone was equal. He believed in animal rights that every conscious creature should have equal rights and be taken into consideration.

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