In everyday life we make decisions, which in some way affect those around us, but should those decisions benefit us as an individual, or should they benefit the “greater good”? Utilitarianism, based on utility, states that we should, in fact, act for the greater good of the greater majority, rather than what we consider to be best for ourselves. The ethical theory of Utilitarianism was proposed by John Stuart Mills from a qualitative hedonistic view which states that there is only “one foundational good” (Burnor and Raley). Because Utilitarianism states that there is only one right moral standard, it falls under the view of Objectivism, in which there is only one universal moral standard. According to Utilitarianism, Popular Relativism
This focus on happiness or pleasure as the ultimate end of moral decisions, makes it a type of Hedonism (sometimes known as Hedonistic Utilitarianism). Utilitarians support equality through equal consideration of interests, and they reject any arbitrary isolations such as to who is worthy of concern and who is not, and any form of discrimination between individuals. However, utilitarianism agree to the idea of declining marginal utility, which recognizes that the same thing furthers the interests of a well-off individual to a lesser degree than it would the interests of a less well-off individual. From the eighteenth century to date, six authors have significantly contributed to the utilitarianism ethical
So how then can one decide which approaches in life are virtuous? Another issue with virtue ethics is the difficulty in applying this theory to specific moral dilemmas. Aristotle’s theory tells us be virtuous and act as a virtuous person would. That can be very open ended in practical moral dilemmas. What about a case of abortion, or the use of drugs?
Unlike the alternative ethical theories mentioned above, virtue ethics is not associated with a moral imperative. It is the idea that acting virtuously will result in virtuous consequences. Most virtue ethics theories are embedded in Aristotle's teachings which declare that "a virtue is a trait of character manifested in habitual action". These traits are derived from a natural internal inclination which needs to be guided, yet, over time, may become stable. Aristotle also defined virtues as a ‘golden mean’ which ultimately is the middle ground between two extremes also known as vices.
Virtue Ethics is habitual, not necessarily religious and involves having a complex mindset with no external influence. It involves having intrinsic value which is the value is in itself as well as extrinsic value which is established from external motivation. Virtue Ethics focus on being rather than doing and is exercised on moral character and Eudemonia. Eudemonia is roughly translated into happiness, human flourishing, happy lifestyle, etc. A person acquires a set of skills based on how their life flourishes, with the capacity to navigate and increase their human flourish.
He presents an example where a certain society might be better off banning a racial minority because, since the racists outnumber the minority, the best way to maximize happiness is to conform to the racist’s demands. Williams goes on to say that a utilitarian might be ashamed of this conclusion. However, if a utilitarian tries to change his views because he feels uncomfortable supporting racism, he might start going against his own utilitarian beliefs. This is where I find that basic human compassion clashes strongly with utilitarianism. In this particular case, utilitarianism seems to support a conclusion that goes against a fight humanity already fought during the civil rights movement.
Virtue ethics are ethical theories which focus on moral character rather than right action. The main focus of Aristotle’s ethics is on the person’s character, you must try to become a person with good character regardless of thinking about any end, outcome, happiness, consequence, action, reward or punishment. If you will be able to have a good and virtuous character right actions will take place automatically. The actions of a person with good character are right actions and the actions of a person with a bad character are wrong actions. Virtue ethics do not require you to focus on doing your duty or on actions that would bring about good consequences.
The term ethics is derived from the Ancient Greek word ethikos, which is derived from the word ethos which means habit or custom. The branch of philosophy axiology comprises the sub-branches of Ethics and aesthetics, each concerned with concepts of value. As a branch of philosophy, ethics investigates the questions “What is the best way for people to live?” and “What actions are right or wrong in particular circumstances?” In practice, ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality, by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime. As a field of intellectual enquiry, moral philosophy also is related to the fields of moral psychology, descriptive ethics, and value theory. The three major areas of study within ethics are: 1.Meta-ethics, concerning the theoretical meaning and reference of moral propositions, and how their truth values (if any) can be determined 2.Normative ethics, concerning the practical means of determining a moral course of action 3.Applied ethics, concerning what a person is obligated (or permitted) to do in a specific situation or a particular domain of
Rethinking Principle of Utility What is the guideline of your behavior and what does pleasure means to you? In Bentham’s book An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, he gives a detailed explanation of principle of utility, a series of principles of behaviors. He thinks it is pleasure and pain that determine what human beings should do, and the motivation of humans’ behaviors can be attributed to the pursuit of happiness or the evasion of pain. Besides, he states that a good action should increase the happiness or diminish the pain, otherwise the action will be harmful to the whole community. However, Bentham’s principle of utility is under-developed because of his oversimplification of the relationships of individual and
His thoughts of utility would be picked up by Bentham and his account of role sentiment in moral judgment and commitment to moral norms influenced Mill. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill are regarded as the Classical Utilitarians who had the desire to judge legal and social laws and see them changed. The society’s problems on the government urged them to further develop and officially call the theory, utilitarianism where they used early articulations as tools. Jeremy Bentham is influenced by Hobbes principle of human nature and Hume’s social utility. He said that humans are ruled by two master, pleasure and pain, where they govern us of our actions.