The Is The Right Decision? Essay example

The Is The Right Decision? Essay example

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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). In simpler terms, an action is right if they benefit the majority. Consider the case in which you are voting on a bill that, if passed, will enhance the welfare of the majority of the citizenry. For arguments sake, lets say you vote for the bill to pass and, despite your vote, the bill fails to pass. Now that you know the outcome, did you choose the morally correct decision? Furthermore, does judging the rightness of a decision require knowledge of the outcome? As one can see, the concept of utilitarianism leaves quite a great deal up for debate in situations such as this. Throughout this paper, I will argue that although utilitarianism has been accepted for many centuries, I do not believe it be maintained against the many arguments against it.
Two of the most influential utilitarians in the 18th century were Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Although Bentham and Mill were both undoubtedly utilitarian, there are some crucial topics they disagreed on. Jeremy Bentham is an act-utilitarianism, meaning he believes that an act is right if and only if it leads to greater utility (Johnson, “Consequentialism” 4). While Mill is a rule-utilitarianism—he believes that an action is right if and only i...


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...rge number of people would consider to be too large to come from such a widely known theory.
In examining our case of voting for a bill that would increase utility but ultimately fails, I do not believe that it would be possible to vote in a way that both Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill would say that your action was morally correct. Bentham and other act-utilitarians would say that there is not a correct decision to be made. You either vote ethically, for the bill to pass, or vote with the majority; either way the overall utility of the community decreases. Thus, no action is morally acceptable. Mill, on the other hand, would suggest that you vote for the bill to pass regardless of the outcome. It is quite easy to find arguments against utilitarianism and not easy to find defense against these objections; therefore, I believe that utilitarianism is untenable.

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