Jeremy Bentham's Moral Theory Of Utilitarianism

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Within this essay I will be discussing one of the variations of Jeremy Bentham’s moral theory of Utilitarianism, Act Utilitarianism. I will be presenting the objection to Bentham’s theory that, utilitarianism, ignores the motive and means of an action and chooses to focus solely on the consequences. I will argue that a being’s means of undertaking such action is just as important in determining morality as the consequences. I will also argue that this objection is sufficient in undermining the feasibility of utilitarianism. I will provide a modification to the theory that will survive this objection
Like consequentialism, utilitarianism looks at the consequences to determine whether an action is right or wrong. Utilitarianism is the moral theory
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This objection is also shared by Bernard Williams, an English moral philosopher, he believed that moral theories were not enough to establish the morality of an action. Williams believed that there wasn’t a relationship between the utility produced by the consequences and the action taken. (Williams, 1990) The consequences of an action, although may be beneficial, are not always able to determine morality. A persons means of obtaining the beneficial consequences, the ones that maximise utility, may be morally wrong. Yet, a utilitarian would excuse this in favour of having the maximised utility. It is the same with motive; the motive behind an action could also be morally wrong, but if it maximised utility through the consequences, a utilitarian would believe this action to be morally …show more content…
For example; a current well- known rule is that slavery is immoral, however in the 1800s it was an accepted and well- regarded part of life. Rule utilitarianism suggests that the morality of the slavery changed over time, that is was once moral to enslave people against their will. Again, we encounter another problem with utilitarianism; is an act always morally right or can its morality change and how do we know when and if it changes? Another problem encountered with Rule Utilitarianism is how often should we really follow the rule? Say you a throwing a surprise birthday party for your friend in the weekend and she asks what you are doing. You lie and say nothing. The act of lying is morally wrong to a Rule Utilitarian, however, without lying you will ruin the surprise for your friend. So, what should you do? Most people would choose to lie to their friend because it is beneficial for them in the long run, this however is not what a Rule Utilitarian would do.
In this essay, I have argued against using act utilitarianism. I have done this by using the means objection, act utilitarianism ignores the morality of the means used to gain the consequences. This objection shows that act utilitarianism cannot fully account for morality, and the response given cannot fully satisfy either, raising more problems for the theory. Overall, I believe this objection is enough to undermine the Act Utilitarianism

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