Ethical Criticism Of Utilitarianism

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According to Williams (94), most traditional codes of conduct consist of sets of rules about preferred types of actions. For example, the Ten Commandments focus on particular types of actions, prohibiting people from committing them. These forms of ethical codes are absolute, telling people to do or not to do rather than addressing exceptional circumstances. In fact, a majority of philosophical and customary moral codes consists mainly of absolute rules. In contrast, utilitarianism rejects the absolute, rigid based moral codes that categorize whole classes of actions as wrong or right. Utilitarianism espouses the idea that it is improper to treat whole classes of actions (such as stealing) as right or wrong because they can result in different…show more content…
Critics of utilitarianism often attack the theory’s equal consideration of varying interests and commitment to impartiality. A common argument on commitment to impartiality is that whenever people want to buy gifts for friends, they should first determine whether they can create more wellbeing by donating that money to a charitable organization to help unknown strangers suffering in a far away country. If more utility can be obtained by helping the suffering strangers than by purchasing gifts for friends, then utilitarianism requires that the money be used to help the strangers. This is because utilitarianism requires equal consideration of all people’s needs and impartiality. However, most people believe that human beings have a moral obligation to do good to people who are dear to them and not unknown strangers (Hare, 15).
Essentially, the above argument reinforces the utilitarianism principle that we should treat the people we love and care about no differently than the people we don’t know about. Critics argue that the utilitarian argument for using our resources to help strangers than benefiting ourselves and the people we care about is absurd. According to critics, the utilitarian argument fails to recognize the moral legitimacy of treating ourselves and the people we know with special preference (Ben,
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