What is Utilitarianism? Utilitarianism is a philosophical concept that holds an action to be held right if it tends to promote happiness for the greatest number of people. Utilitarians define the morally right actions as those actions that maximize some non-moral good or happiness and minimize some non-moral evil. Pleasure is an example of a non-moral good and pain is an example of a non- moral evil. A utilitarian will fous on the consequences of an act rather than on the intristic nature of the act or the motives of the agent. In short, utilitarians focus on ends rather than actions. An example would be a person that litters, a utilitarian will argue that the act of littering is not intrinsicly bad but the litter that is caused will eventually cause harm and therefore it is bad. Utilitarianism is all about making the right choices that will consequently promote the greatest amount of happiness. The following four stories will explain utilitarianism in depth.
Kai Nielsen wrote "A Defense for Utilitarianism" in which he describes his strong arguments that favor utilitarianism. He beliefs in maximizing the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Nielsen strongly supports consequentalism. Consequentialism describes that an action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone. There are two examples that Nielsesn uses to reinforce his arguments. The first story (Fat Man Story) deals with a fat man that needs to be killed in order to save the lives of the people stuck in the cave. A utilitarian will favor the decision of killing the fat man because the action will produce the greatest amont of happiness for the greatest amount of people. In order for ...
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...ngs die and not killing an innocent man. It is very difficult to weigh the greatest happiness in this case. If you agree with Williams you will be totally against this case because killing an innocent man is wrong, but if you agree with Nielsen you can agree because you are bringing more happiness (two human beings) by killing only one person. Harris mentions that if people were choosen randomly then people would not live totally happy because they would live with fear and unsecurity. Furthermore, the doctors should not interfere with the will of God. But what if two people can be saved by the elimination of one? (Utilitarian view)
In conclusion it is very diificult to determine wheter the utilitarian theory can be justified. Should we just focus on the positive outcome or should we also focus on the actions that we take in order to accomplish the greatest good?
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