Utilitarianism & Decision making

The use of utilitarianism when making moral decisions leads to an injustice society, evaluate this claim. The use of utilitarianism is a controversial subject for many people, some believe by using it, it can bring happiness to the majority of society, others say by using utilitarianism it can take away peoples own judgment making our society unjust.

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Strengths of Bentham’s theory begin with the fact that utilitarianism offers a relatively straightforward method for deciding the morally right course of action for any particular situation we may find ourselves in. Utilitarianism treats everyone the same, no one gets special treatment due to their emotional or social attachments, and Bentham wanted us to strive for happiness, his principle of utility states “the greatest happiness for the greatest amount of people”. In order to make sure we follow this statement Bentham devised the hedonic calculus as a way of measuring happiness; this name was chosen based on its Greek meaning of “pleasure”.

For many people happiness is an important aspect of decision making as it is their main aim in life, the Hedonic calculus assists us in our moral decision making because it covers all the aspects of happiness for not one but all, the outcome is not bias and takes everyone’s feelings into account, by having happiness as a basis behind how we make decisions it allows us to adopt a flexible relativistic approach to each situation, aiming for the greatest happiness for the greatest number is discourages selfishness which then leads to a better society due to everyone being fair and reasonable.

Mel Thompson agreed with Bentham, he said that Act utilitarianism appears to be simple to follow, just aim to achieve “the greatest happiness for the greatest number”. The positive and negative consequences of our actions can be measured. This gives us an objective, independent way of deciding on what is right and wrong. Utilitarianism doesn’t rely on specific beliefs about God; this is helpful to all religious people and the growing number of atheists in our society.

Utilitarianism is straight forward and based on the principle of minimising pain and maximising pleasure and happiness, it does not take into account religion, meaning the outcome may be more fair, some religious people have prejudices towards certain minorities meaning that women or homosexuals may be victimised, people who are religious may choose to do something because the bible says it, for example the slave trade was in the bible, but if they had used the hedonic calculus instead of the bible then it wouldn’t of happened, furthermore is would of lead to a just society, another example would be if someone was racist and was about to make a decision about a black person using their mind then the outcome would be unjust, but if they used the hedonic calculus it would lead to justice because the hedonic calculus does not take personal views into account.

There are also many weaknesses to Bentham’s theory starting with the idea that some things are unpredictable and we should not base our ethical choices on something that may or may not happen. Utilitarianism has a different strategy when it comes to justice, our normal idea of justice would relate to everyone being treated fairly, utilitarianism allows some people to be sacrificed for the greater good, some people would argue that this in unfair and leads to an unjust society.

One of the main weaknesses of Bentham’s version of Utilitarianism is that there is the potential to justify any act. This is because Bentham’s version is based, yes on the consequences of an action, but on the pleasure gained from an action.

For example, if seven men were walking down an alley and stabbed a girl to death, then according to Bentham’s device ‘The Hedonic Calculus’ the amount of the men’s pleasure would completely outweigh the amount of the woman’s pain, and would therefore make the action of killing the women morally right. If you get rid of rules and allow people to choose to act in the greater good, they will actually act selfishly, and then try to justify their actions by claiming they were in the greater good, this would also lead to an unjust society because people would and argue that they were trying to follow the hedonic calculus.

Imagine someone killed one healthy person and gave their organs to save 5 others. The balance of happiness over harm supports doing this according to the hedonic calculus, but we know that it is not right,

Another argument against utilitarianism would be the idea of happiness and how it differs depending on the individual, happiness is not the same for everyone, one person’s happiness could be meaningless to another, this flaws utilitarianism due to the idea that it predicts that everyone’s idea of happiness is the same. Utilitarianism ignores the motives of actions, so long as the end is good, sexually this could mean that immoral means could be taken to obtain pleasure, so long as the pleasure outweighs any pain.

In conclusion all the information shows that utilitarianism can help many people in the situations they may face throughout their life, but altogether does lead to injustice with in society, this is because utilitarianism assumes you can know the definite answer to every decision you make, this would be impossible for any human to achieve, the information leads to a conclusion that can justify evil acts, for example, if eight prison guards find a sense of happiness from beating the prisoners, then their acts of evil will be overlooked if someone was basing their decision on the hedonic calculus because in theory the happiness of the guards will out way the prisoners.