Classical utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism where actions are judged only by the consequences of the action (act based). According to Hodgson (1967), the act is only right if it was to have the best consequences for any alternative acts open to you. Utilitarianism is a popular form of consequentialism. Utilitarian’s believe that the consequence of the action must maximise utility, and by maximizing utility, your action will maximise happiness. Bykvist (2010, p.19), put this idea in a very simple equation, ‘Classical Utilitarianism = Maximizing act-consequentialism + Sum-ranking + Subjective conception of well-being’. According to classical utilitarian’s, everybody is equal so one person’s happiness will not be greater than another person’s happiness. So through the eyes of a classical utilitarian, if there were two people who enjoy eating biscuits, one person will not be happier than the other but they will gain the same amount of happiness by this action. In a scenario where you were shipwrecked and there are five people alive, but there is no food and you are all about to die what will you do? Say that help would come in three days but without food, no one will last that long so the only way to survive is to sacrifice one person to eat. Utilitarian’s would say that this would be the right thing to do, because this action will result in four happy people, rather than zero happy people. In this way, classical utilitarian’s must we...
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...es society lives by so the theory cannot be saved unless it takes this into account and so long as there are rights for individuals (which they are), this theory cannot exist.
Allison, Lincoln. (1990). The Utilitarian Response: The Contemporary Viability of Utilitarian Political Philosophy. Worecester: Sage.
Bykvist, Krister. (2010). Utilitarianism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Chippenham, Wiltshire: Continuum International.
Crimmins, James. E. (2013). The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Utilitarianism. USA: Bloomsbury Academic.
Gensler, Harry. (2011) Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction (2nd Edition). Routledge, New York.
Hodgson, D. H. (1967). Consequences of Utilitarianism: A Study of Normative Ethics and Legal Theory. Bristol: Clarendon Press.
United Nations (2014). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/#atop
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