The basic moral principle of utilitarianism is called the principle of utility or the greatest happiness principle. As John Stuart Mill explained it “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness” Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism. It focuses on the consequences of action. Utilitarian believe that pleasure or happiness is the good to be produced. As Bentham put it “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.
It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do” Things such as fame, fortune, education, and freedom may be good, but only to the extent that they produce pleasure or happiness. Unlike Kant’s theory, according to classical utilitarian moral theory, when they evaluate human behavior or practices, they do not consider nature of the behavior nor the motive for which people do what they do, there is no difference between pleasure and happiness. Both terms refer to a kind of psychic state of satisfaction.
However, there are different types of pleasure of which humans are capable. As Mill put it, “He who saves a fellow creature from downing does what is morally right, whether his motive be duty or the hope of being paid for his trouble. ” It is the result of one’s action that a life is saved that matters morally. (57) In this explanation of utilitarianism, you may have noticed the seeming identification of pleasure and happiness. Utilitarianism is a highly influential moral theory that also has had significant influence on a wide variety of policy assessment methods.
It can be quite useful for evaluating alternative health care system. Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill have similarities and difference in their philosophies. Both philosophers are concerned with the moral qualities of one’s actions and both taken into account the autonomy of individual. Kant emphasizes that human autonomy is the essence of morality; allowing one to make moral self-decisions freely on the reason of self-rule. Mill believes in order to create the ideal type of society; we must allow individuals liberty to choose the action that will maximize utility.
As a utilitarian one ought to devote one’s life to achieving the best possible balance of happiness over misery. Kan and Mill diverge in their opinions. Kant argues one must according to duty, will and Mill believes that we tend to promote happiness and we ought to decide which action or practice is best by considering the likely or actual consequences of each alternative. Kant argues that an intention of an action is what’s important rather than the consequence of action. Kant said good will and good intention is intrinsically good.
However, Mill says that intentions do not matter and consequences of action are what truly matter. Ethical egoism holds that it is good for people to purse their own self-interest. Some versions of ethical egoism also hold that altruism is misguided and wrong. In this view, not only should people purse their own self-interest but they should also mind their own business and not reach out to help others. “Ethical egoist’s idea of “Good” and “Right resonate in what they believe is virtuous.
An ethical egoist can embrace any virtue so long s it seves self-interest. (43) An ethical egoist would, for example, embrace the virtues of being honest, or brave so long embracing it did something beneficial for them. From an ethical egoist’s standpoint all virtues can be embraced so long as they are used in self-benefiting way. If these virtues are used for another purpose that is not egotistical, than they no longer are virtues for an ethical egoist.
So, admitting the truth and going to jail is not virtuous; but admitting the truth and getting reward is virtuous to ethical egoist. Relativism ethic holds that ethical values from society to society and that the basis for basis for moral judgments lies in these social or cultural views. “(32) Whether an act is right or wrong will depend on moral norms of that society. There are two forms of relativism: cultural and social. As far as cultural relativism is concerned right and wrong should only be considered within the context of culture and societal influences. In social relativism an individual must look to society norms to determine right and wrong because it varies.
In essence, you will abide by the norms of your community because there are no universal moral standards. For example, in some societies it is not uncommon to kill your parents while they have some vitality left. The belief is that they are better off in the afterlife in good physical shape. Even though this act is forbidden in our society, the underlying moral principle in that society was to care for the parents. Societies may differ in their application of basic moral principles, yet they agree on the principle.
Aristotle was one of the earliest writers to ground morality in nature, and specifically in human nature. His theory of ethics and morality also stressed the notion of virtue. “(92) According to Aristotle, The person who has the virtue of honesty finds it easier to be honest than the person who does not have the virtue. It has become habitual or second nature to him or her. The same thing applies to the opposite of virtue, namely, vice. “The person who lies and lies again find that lying is easier and telling the truth more difficult. One can have bad moral habits (vices) as well as good ones (virtues). (93) For Aristotle, virtue was an excellence of some sort.
Aristotle recognizes that morality involves two things, knowing what to do and then being able to do; the first is practical wisdom and the second is appropriate moral virtue. He raises the issue that while one may know what the right thing to do is one may not always do it. Additionally, if neither of these answers are satisfactory enough to answer the question “Why should we be good? ”, Aristotle also states that the virtuous person will fare better in life because certain virtue will be needed by all people in all times.
Therefore, happiness is a factor in answering, “Why should we be good? ” but it is not all there is to it. This definition draws attention to several key points, the first being that a virtue is something that is good to have whereas a vice, for instance, is something that is bad. In other words, a virtue is something that is commendable. Next, it must be habitual; a person who tells the truth only once in awhile is not said to be honest. Calling someone honest implies that they regularly tell the truth, and this is an important aspect to a virtue.
A virtue reflects this because it is also a state of character that involves feeling pleasure and pain in the right way, while a vice is feeling pleasure and pain in the wrong way. Thus, “a virtue is the mean reference to two vices: the one of excess and the other of deficiency” (EMP 161). I disagree with Mill’s utilitarian opinion to “always act in such a way that will produce the greatest overall amount of good in the world” this assertion is extremely hard to put aside self-interest for the sake of the whole such as Marlise Munoz case we discussed.
For example, let’s say there’s a house on fire with two locked rooms: one room with three people who have criminal records and the other room with my parents that can be saved. According to Utilitarianism, the action that will produce the greatest good is to break down the room with criminals and save them and let the two loved ones suffer. Acting in such a way would create the greatest positive effect on the world but is unreasonable and too hard to uphold. Also Utilitarianism is too impersonal and does not consider rights of individuals in its attempt to look for the greater good.
I wouldn’t accept that cheating, stealing, lying may be justified depending on whether they maximize happiness in particular case. I agree with Kant to “always treat humanity, whether in yourself or in other people, as an end in itself and never as a mere means. ” I believe this assertion should be essential moral concept that everyone must live by. It is wrong to treat others as a mere means and use others as a tool to profit oneself. It is morally good to treat others as ends in themselves as to not deny them relevant information.
People must be allowed the freedom of choice for greater autonomy. There are many types of moral or ethics theory’s that I studied, the three that I am focusing on are virtue ethics, utilitarianism, deontological and egoism ethics. Each have their own description and differences. I defined each theory and compared the theories each other. By do this, I am able to identify how each theory would be considered or lead to right or wrong moral action. Depending on the individuals experiences or outlook on life, will determined what type of theory is used.