Introduction to Ethics Phil 140 @ Binghamton University, Win '11


Writing Post 02 – Utilitarianism (Norman da Nubcaek)

Utilitarianism is based off the idea of utility.  Mill defines utility as pleasure and the absence of pain.  Furthermore, Mill states that Utilitarianism follows the Greatest Happiness Principle where actions are considered moral when they tend to promote happiness and deter its opposite, and immoral when the opposite occurs.  The ultimate goal is to maximize the overall utility of the world or universe.  Utilitarianism's main focus of judgment is the result of our actions, and not so much on the motives behind them (although acting in accordance with Utilitarianism without succeeding can provide its own form of happiness).  These actions are judged mainly based on the quality of the utility that it would provide, which is based off the preferences of the general populace, at least of those that are affected.  If the majority prefers one result over another, then it would be considered of higher quality, and our choices should always be aimed at the action that produces higher quality utility.

The main issue I find with Utilitarianism is the morality of those who act against it, but end up with a result that is in accordance with it.  According to Mill, if the result is the same, then the morality of the actions are the same no matter the motive behind it.  This also means that a man who acts with motives of equal strength in "goodness" as another, but produces a result of much lower quality utility, then the man would be considered much less moral.

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  1. I think you summed it up very well. My only suggestion is to make it a little more clear that the Greatest Happiness Principle’s goal is to promote happiness for the world or universe. The fourth sentence does not specify what that is the ultimate goal for.

    • I wouldn’t say that our ultimate goal is for something else, because then it wouldn’t be the ultimate goal. Also, utility = happiness/pleasure w/o pain (according to Mill) so the terms could be interchanged.

  2. Is it the majority who determines whether something is of higher quality, or rather just those who have had the opportunity to experience a greater variety of pleasures?

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