Essay Explanation of the Utilitarian Ethical Theory

1394 Words Nov 7th, 2011 6 Pages
Explanation of the Utilitarian Ethical Theory
There are many different ethical approaches that deal with the morality issues we face every day, but the utilitarian approach holds the feeling of morally belonging to a group and the lack of individualism that many others carry. It also can be a very cold approach for those who belong to the minority in a society. This is because the principle of utility says that “we ought to do that which produces the greatest amount of happiness or pleasure for the greatest number of people (MacKinnon, 32).” To examine utilitarianism we first need to look at the word, this is where we find the word “utility” imbedded into it. Utility, by mathematical definition, is “a measure of the total benefit or
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Where Bentham was considered an act utilitarian, Mill is thought to have more of a rule utilitarianism approach. He believed that people should “seek to benefit the most people but through the fairest and most just means available.”3 This is a more qualitative approach to consequential decision making. Going back to the example of the cliff hangers and comparing it to rule utilitarianism, we can determine that there would never be such a rule in place that would require the “would be” hero to act. The hero themselves would have to qualify their own decision, and make their own choice, whether or not, to sacrifice their life for the others.
It is hard not to consider consequences in everyday situations and for the most part people cannot avoid doing so. Before telling a lie people will think of what the future may hold in doing so. This is what utilitarianism is centered around. If I were the “would be” hero, knowing that my only two choices would result in death, I would be completely morally conflicted. I would have to be against the act utilitarianism approach in this instance because I would not only lose my life, but my children would grow up fatherless, my wife would be inconsolable and left in debt, and my friends and family would have to deal with my death. I would not know what the two

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