The Flaws of Act-Utilitarianism Essay

The Flaws of Act-Utilitarianism Essay

Length: 1551 words (4.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

In this paper I will argue that John Stuart Mill, the presenter of the most compelling theory of act-utilitarianism (AU), ultimately falls short in addressing the moral complexities which factor into man’s virtues and its effect on his motives for certain actions.
John Stuart Mill’s core arguments follow and contrast many theories established by Jeremy Bentham. Combining the idea of consequentialism, that consequences of actions are the sole factor in moral evaluation, and hedonism—which states that pleasure is the sole factor in considering the value of overall intrinsic good—AU argues that an action is right if its consequences yield the greatest amount of happiness for the general well-being. More precisely, Mill considers that the concept of morality consists of two main utilities in the Greatest Happiness Principle: mans’ pursuit of the intrinsic good of pleasure and his will to prevent or relieve himself of pain in achieving his ends. All other desires are derived from mans attempt to fulfill these goals which ultimately dictate his actions. He acknowledges the seemingly acute simplicity of the Happiness Principle may on the surface deduce human happiness as no more sophisticated than a pigs. However, he contends this by pointing out that “swine” can only experience simple pleasures whereas the human conscious allows a “higher”, more sophisticated mechanism for experiencing mental pleasures. Diverging from traditional AU theory, Mills gives much emphasis on the quality of particular individuals’ pleasure and happiness above their duties to have motives that serve the “quantity” of more people. One argument presented is that if a particular group of people were exposed to both of two pleasures A and B, if the general c...

... middle of paper ...

...stance on the complementary relationship between pleasure, happiness, and being virtuous seems to hold a level of credence. While it would be ideal that these three ideals hold synonymous meaning within all of society, the gaps found in examining the “humanitarians” and their justifications which fall within the accepted guidelines of Mill’s doctrine of AU are alarming. Therefore, while it is difficult to dismiss that some men are compelled by evil inherently evil intentions, from a moral theory standpoint AU should be seen as what was an essential stepping stone to the modern Rossian pluralism. Through its introduction of the idea that we must consider and balance specific moral duties, including the duty to obey laws and to not lie in coming to an all-things-considered moral judgment, it is undeniable that RP has plugged the holes in UA’s leaking ship of virtue.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Classical Utilitarianism : A Moral Theory Essay

- It’s only second nature to ask oneself, “What is the right thing to do?” simply for the reason that it is the foundation to making a moral decision. As a society we have to make these decisions because they are vital to living in an indefectible world. I will attest that classical utilitarianism is the most logical moral theory for the sake of the greater good being the only intrinsically valuable thing because it supplies us with the most opportunities to improve welfare. Classical utilitarianism belongs to the family of moral theories called consequentialism....   [tags: Utilitarianism, Morality, Ethics, Consequentialism]

Powerful Essays
959 words (2.7 pages)

Utilitarianism and Its Shortcomings Essay

- Utilitarianism is the argument that all actions must be made for the greatest happiness for the greater number of people (Bentham, 42). However, utilitarianism cannot always be the basis of one’s decisions due to the fact that people need to look out for their own pain and pleasure before consulting others’ wellbeing. I will first explain the arguments of the utilitarianism ideal. Then I willl explain why this argument is unconvincing. Ultimately, I will then prove why people consider their own happiness before considering others....   [tags: Happiness, utilitarianism, Bentham]

Powerful Essays
1268 words (3.6 pages)

Utilitarianism Is Best Implemented As A Tool For Leaders And Decision Makers

- Utilitarianism is best implemented as a tool for leaders and decision makers. It can provide simple, fast solutions when applied to a variety of problems. When used as a supplement to analyze issues and reactions, it can provide a clearer answer. However, when used alone, there are flaws that arise in certain circumstances. Other forms of moral judgment should be consulted in some serious cases. Examples of utilitarian ethics show that it is best applied in times of difficulty, where the amount of suffering, loss, or damage must be kept at minimum....   [tags: Utilitarianism, Ethics, Morality, Hedonism]

Powerful Essays
1093 words (3.1 pages)

Anti Utilitarianism : Making Choices By Yourself And For Yourself Essay

- Ryan Clark Word count: 1430 Anti- Utilitarianism: Making choices by Yourself and for Yourself The principle of utility influences people to act on the wrong terms and encourages its followers to make decisions solely based on what produces the best results. Consequentialists, Jeremy Bentham and John Stewart Mill believe that it doesn’t matter why a person does something or what motivates them to do so; but rather they think that the outcome is the most important factor in decision making. These two Utilitarian philosophers concluded that the greatest form of good in society was happiness, and that the absence of pain and the presence of pleasure should always be one’s number one priority and...   [tags: Ethics, Utilitarianism, Meaning of life]

Powerful Essays
1431 words (4.1 pages)

The Grounds Of Utilitarianism That Parents Have A Moral Duty Essay example

- Julian Savulescu tries to argue on the grounds of Utilitarianism that parents have a moral duty to improve their children’s genetic makeup in the same way that they would improve the child’s “environment” or prevent diseases (The Ethical Life, 443). Julian thinks this is a duty because it will yield the most positive outcomes or consequences. He believes that failure to use genetic enhancements, when a parent has an opportunity to benefit their child, is neglecting the child’s needs which is morally wrong (The Ethical Life, 443)....   [tags: Morality, Ethics, Immanuel Kant, Utilitarianism]

Powerful Essays
986 words (2.8 pages)

Utilitarianism Essay

- Utilitarianism There are many essays, papers and books written on the concept of right and wrong. Philosophers have theorized about moral actions for eons, one such philosopher is John Stuart Mill. In his book Utilitarianism he tries to improve on the theories of utilitarianism from previous philosophers, as he is a strong believer himself in the theory. In Mill's book he presents the ideology that there is another branch on the utilitarian tree. This branch being called rule-utilitarianism. Mill makes a distinction between two different types of utilitarianism; act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
1254 words (3.6 pages)

Ethics and Utilitarianism Essay

- Utilitarianism The field of ethics in philosophy is complex, vast, and very controversial. It involves systemising, defending and reviewing concepts of right or wrong. philosophers usually divide ethics into 3 main divisions, metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics. Applied ethics is the branch of ethics which consists of the analysis of specific, controversial moral issues such as abortion, animal rights, or euthanasia. Normative ethics is, in the simplest form, the search for ideal rules to test proper behaviour....   [tags: Morality, Happiness]

Powerful Essays
1181 words (3.4 pages)

Utilitarianism Vs. Kantian Ethics Essay

- Imagine being faced with an important decision that affects a group of people. In order to make this decision you would have to decide which choice is wrong and which choice is right. There are two notable theories that believe a single moral principle provides the best way to achieve the best outcome to a moral judgement. These theories are utilitarianism and Kantian ethics. Utilitarianism can be defined as: the right action is the one that produces the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people....   [tags: Immanuel Kant, Ethics, Animal rights]

Powerful Essays
843 words (2.4 pages)

Utilitarianism : Ethical Way Of Processing Thoughts Into Actions Essay

- Utilitarianism was first established as an ethical way of processing thoughts into actions. Utilitarianism’s method of process was to consider the greatest good for the greatest number of people. However, many individuals found flaws within the utilitarian system. Thus, why deontology was created. Deontology’s method of process was to follow the rules and your duties no matter what the cost. However, yet again, many people discovered flaws within the system. Therefore, since the members of society can never agree upon an ethical way of thinking there always has to be complications....   [tags: Immanuel Kant, Morality, Ethics]

Powerful Essays
1336 words (3.8 pages)

The Is The Right Decision? Essay example

- How does one decide what is the right decision. Philosophers, and most humans in general, have been debating these questions for centuries and still have not agreed upon any definite answers. In order to effectively debate this question, one must first understand the concept of utilitarianism. In the Fundamentals of Ethics, Russ Shafer-Landau explains this term by saying “utilitarians tell us to do what brings about the best overall situation, by choosing the act that creates the greatest net balance of happiness over unhappiness” (123)....   [tags: Utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham, Ethics]

Powerful Essays
1035 words (3 pages)