The Ethical Theory Of Utilitarianism

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It has been shown that the topic is and still remains to be controversial. In one instance, and from the view of the retributivists, the death penalty is seen as the appropriate course of action. In another it is seen as immorally wrong and a complete disregard for human life and human rights, with the latter forming the key basis of this argument, which will now be further discussed and analysed using the ethical theory of utilitarianism.
‘’Utilitarianism is a normative ethical theory that places the focus of right and wrong solely on the outcomes (consequences) of choosing one action and or policy over others (Cavalier, 1996)’’. It is a morally demanding position and asks one to do the
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In the most extreme of situations, it demands the weaker person to be scarified for the greater good. Its principles, therefore, are characterized by two elements, happiness and consequentialism (Utilitarianphilosophy, 2010). These principles of utilitarianism can be applied to either particular actions or general rules, with the latter being referred to rule utilitarianism, and the former act utilitarianism (Cavalier, 1996). Harsanyi (1985, 115) states that ‘’act utilitarianism is the theory that a morally right action is one that in the existing situations will produce the highest expected social utility’’, thus it is about determining what actions brings the best results or the least amount of bad results. An example of such an act would be the assassination of a political figure, i.e. John Fitzgerald Kennedy or Martin Luther King. Rule utilitarianism, on the other hand, is ‘’the theory that a morally right action is simply an action conforming to the correct moral rule applicable to the existing situation’’ (Harsanyi 1985, 115). Thus rule utilitarianism looks at the…show more content…
However, some may argue that this suffering and pain is justifiable, as they too caused immense pain and suffering and therefore it is only fair that they too experience it. Secondly many may argue that capital punishment succeeds in protecting society, it removes the bad from the world and thus ‘’in this way there will be less unhappiness’’ (Maalouf, 2008, 4). Therefore some utilitarians may argue that the death penalty does more than take the criminal out of the society, ‘’that it serves as a deterrent for would-be killers, preventing future murders, therefore protecting society in a significant way, unlike life imprisonment’’ (Tzovarras, 2002, 5). This claim, however, is difficult to support, with little evidence available to support the deterrent argument. ‘’Social science and statistical studies tend to show no correlation between capital punishment and crimes of a serious and violent nature’’ (Tzovarras, 2002, 5), with Chiricos, Waldo, 1970, 200) concluding that there is ‘’little-consisted support is found’’. Furthermore in using a utilitarian argument to argue that countries such as Australia should adopt the death penalty, two ethical objections are raised. Tzovarras, (2002, 5) argues that by using ‘’any utilitarian argument to justify
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