Bentham 's Utilitarian Moral Theory Essay

Bentham 's Utilitarian Moral Theory Essay

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Bentham’s utilitarian moral theory states that pleasure and pain should guide one’s moral behavior. “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 to determine what we shall do” (Bentham). He also claims that we should not base our moral behavior on pleasure and pain, but we do anyway. The principle of utility recognizes this and it either approves or disapproves of one’s actions by having an effect on one’s happiness. “By utility is meant that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness, (all this in the present case comes to the same thing) or (what comes again to the same thing) to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness to the party whose interest is considered (Bentham).
Some people oppose utilitarianism, but there are two different ways of being against it. One can be either completely opposed to utilitarianism or partially opposed to it. “A principle may be different from that of utility in two ways: 1. By being constantly opposed to it: this is the case with a principle which may be termed the principle of asceticism. 2. By being sometimes opposed to it, and sometimes not, as it may happen: this is the case with another, which may be termed the principle of sympathy and antipathy” (Bentham). Asceticism can approve of any action that causes unhappiness and can disapprove of any action that causes happiness (Bentham). Sympathy and antipathy are the occasional support and the occasional opposition, respectively, for utilitarianism. The concept of sympathy and antipathy only refer to those who create moral arguments without the need for ev...


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...sures. “Now it is an unquestionable fact that those who are equally acquainted with, and equally capable of appreciating and enjoying, both, do give a most marked preference to the manner of existence which employs their higher faculties” (Mill). These people would never choose a lower valued pleasure in order to maintain their dignity.
Mill’s version of utilitarianism is preferable to Bentham’s version. Bentham’s version focuses on the individual, and each individual event must be evaluated for pleasures and pains. This version of utilitarianism also does not take into account the decisions that one makes on others. On the other hand, Mill’s version modified Bentham’s version and focuses on the effects of one’s decisions on other people. This version states that individuals should follow the laws that have been created to bring about the overall good for everybody.

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