Precursors to the Classical Approach Though the first systematic account of utilitarianism was developed by Jeremy Bentham —the core insight motivating the theory occurred much earlier. Of these, Francis Hutcheson — is explicitly utilitarian when it comes to action choice.
Moral Theology in Catholic Perspective, ed.
David Matzko McCarthy and M. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Two of the most popular approaches to ethics in modern philosophy are utilitarianism and deontological ethics, both of which are normative theories.
Normative theories of ethics are those that offer a principle as the key criterion by which actions are determined to be good or bad. The more common of these two approaches today is probably utilitarianism. The strength of this view can be seen, for example, in the influence of ethicist Peter Singerprofessor of bioethics at Princeton University.
As one of the leading ethicists of our day, his paradigm for ethics is thoroughly utilitarian. It leads him to some very counter-intuitive opinions about what is right and what is wrong. Cambridge University Press, How does he come to such a conclusion?
In order to understand this, you would have to have a basic understanding of the utilitarian philosophy of ethics.
By this criterion, actions considered by themselves are morally neutral—it all depends on their consequences as to whether they are good or bad. Apart from consideration of such consequences, actions are neither blameworthy nor praiseworthy.
Thus, we come to think of them as good or bad actions, when in reality, the actions are not good or bad, but are widely believed to have good or bad consequences.
In a previous postI showed how one utilitarian took on the ambitious task of convincing his readers that the desire to torture other human beings is not wrong. At this point, I need to make a qualification. Many people myself included would probably incorporate some degree of utilitarianism in their criterion for ethics.
For example, although I personally believe that certain actions are inherently wrong apart from evaluation of their consequencesI would still allow for the degree of wickedness to increase or decrease depending on its consequences.
This makes the crime much, much worse. I also believe that consequences are built into the very logic of why we label actions as inherently right or wrong in the first place. Adultery is always an injustice, and it is wrong in itself.
Yet, at least a great part of the reason that it is always wrong regardless of context is due to its destructive consequences. I happen to think the dichotomy between actions as inherently right or wrong verses their being right or wrong based on consequences is a bit overdone. While some might consider it a good thing to keep consequences in mind when making moral choices, utilitarianism has the burden of claiming that such criterion be the exclusive grounds for judging the merit of all ethical action.
On the basis of this distinction, then, I will sometimes refer to utilitarianism as exclusive utilitarianism.
McCarthy and Lysaught rehearse some of the standard criticisms of utilitarianism, for which I have given my own articulation and creative names. They run as follows: To put it another way: What consequences count most? Failure to give coherent and rational criterion for answering such questions spells decisive defeat for the whole theory of exclusive utilitarianism.
It seems to need something else to help it out. That is why I personally think that the utilitarian factor is legitimate when considered as part of the picture, but exclusive utilitarianism always leads to arbitrary judgment of consequences, and therefore arbitrary ethics.
My gut tells me: Sometimes what looks to us to be a disaster turns out to be a blessing in disguise. We get fired only to later realize that the new job we attain as a consequence pays better and is more enjoyable.
On the flip side, sometimes we think something is going to turn out great, but in the end is a big let down.
If these small scale experiences in the lives of ordinary people demonstrate how difficult it is to know the consequences of certain actions—how much more difficult must it be for people whose decisions effect an entire nation e.Utilitarianism is a fairly complex philosophy with lots of misconceptions.
I intend to clear up those misconceptions as this blog goes on and establish utilitarianism as a philosophy and lifestyle that can be commonsense and lived out in everyday life. "In his new book, Ethics in the Real World, Mr.
Singer picks up the topics of animal rights and poverty amelioration and runs quite far with themThis book is interesting because it offers a chance to witness this influential thinker grapple with more offbeat questions."--Dwight Garner, New York Times.
Ethics. The field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Philosophers today usually divide ethical theories into three general subject areas: .
Deontological Ethics There are two major ethics theories that attempt to specify and justify moral rules and principles: utilitarianism and deontological ethics. Utilitarianism (also called consequentialism) is a moral theory developed and refined in the modern world in the writings of Jeremy Bentham () and John Stuart Mill ().
Ethics in the Real World is a collection of Singer's writings on a wide range of topics, ranging from vegetarianism and charitable giving to parenting and artificial lifeforms.
The essays can be interesting and thought provoking/5. Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that states that the best action is the one that maximizes utility. "Utility" is defined in various ways, usually in terms of the well-being of sentient entities. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, described utility as the sum of all pleasure that results from an action, minus the suffering of anyone involved in the action.