I figure that everyone wants help with their school work sometimes, as do I, so I decided to post some of my essays that I have written in the past for my philosophy and ethics course that I got full marks on.
PLEASE DO NOT coppy this word for word as that would be plagerism, but I have found that looking back over these past essays and summarising the main points was very useful when it came to revision of all the arguments.
The essay question you are working on will most likely not be this exact question so copying it exactly will not help in the slightest except to make you look like an idiot.
Hope this is useful to all you aspiring philosophers out there :)
Describe the main features of Bentham's version of Utilitarianism
Bentham's utilitarianism states that the morally right action in any circumstances is the one that will tend to maximise total happiness and Bentham's version of utilitarianism is widely known to be the theory of utilitarianism in its simplest state – act utilitarianism. Utilitarianism was hugely influenced by the Hedonistic ideas that date back to ancient Greek philosophers.
Bentham concedes that happiness is a blissful mental state – pleasure in the absence of pain his belief was that Pleasure is the only component of happiness, and pain/suffering is the only component of unhappiness therefore the greatest quality of life is the greatest balance of pleasure over pain. Similarly, the morally right outcome in any situation is the one which gives `the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest number of people' and restricts suffering to the minority. Thus the answer to what is morally right/wrong lies in the end result of a situation rather than the actions taken to achieve the outcome, and is therefore a teleological (or consequentialist) approach.
Act utilitarianists like Bentham believed that the principle of utility (happiness) should be applied anew to every moral situation, therefore basing the action on net happiness. This version does raise problems because this means working out what action would bring about the greatest happiness every time you make a moral decision which is particularly problematic when it comes to quick decisions like 'who do I save from a burning building given that I can only save one and there are three in there'
Bentham believed that all humans are motivated by pleasure and the avoidance of pain:
"Nature has placed mankind under the government of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure... they govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think: every effort we can make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it."
We, as humans, seek to gain pleasure and avoid possible pain naturally and this is what directs our moral actions. His belief was that any action which brings about the most amount of happiness and the least amount of pain is morally right. It does not matter how this pleasure is produced: Bentham famously declared that a pub game is as worthwhile as poetry as long as the amount of resultant pleasure is the same. Bentham's theory makes judgement regarding the majority in any situation rather than individuals; something that is done by the individual that causes themselves pain but others happiness is 'good', because it is done for the benefit of the masses rather than for the selfish desire of oneself to be happy.
Bentham stated that the possible consequences of different actions must be clearly measured; he then developed a way of measuring happiness through the `Hedonic Calculus' or 'Felicific Calculus'. This is a calculus designed to measure amounts of pleasure we get from activities, attach numbers to them then produce greatest good in this mathematical way, the action creating the most pleasure and least pain must therefore be the morally `right' action to take. Bentham calculates this under the rule that each individual's pleasure is counts equally, and the total of pleasurable states is summed to determine how we should act.
The Hedonic Calculus considers seven factors:
Intensity of the pleasure (or pain)
Duration of the experience (or pain)
Probability of pleasure/pain (certain or uncertain?)
Chances of the act bringing about further happiness
Purity of the act – how free it is from pain
How immediate the pleasure is
The number of people who will be affected by any pleasure or pain resulting from the action.
This approach seems simple, however, is not without its problems. Bentham was interested in the production of the most amount of this theory is quantitative (takes into consideration the amount of happiness generated) rather than qualitative(taking into account the quality of the happiness instead of simply the amount), in this way. Through this theory then, if a utilitarian (that followed Bentham) was dying and had a large fortune to bestow on either: one impoverished relative, or twenty financially comfortable friends, they would calculate how much happiness would be provided by each, therefore although the money would make the poor relative very happy, the total amount of happiness would still be less than making twenty reasonably well off friends moderately happy. If this were true, the woman should leave the money to the friends rather than the relative.
Utilitarianism is based on the principle of 'utility' which means 'usefulness'. The rightness of an action is measured on the basis of its utility, however, 'useful' in this context means happiness (not the way that it would be used in every-day life which means the quality of being of practical use) i.e. it is useful or good for you to be happy. A useful action is one that brings out the greatest happiness; therefore an action ought to be done if it brings out the absolute maximum amount of happiness for the people affected by the action. This is slightly varied from the imposition of pure hedonism which would mean that everyone should do things in order to create happiness for themselves – in this case, the theory is democratic since it could never be for the good of one person alone.