Joel Cassells F346235x
‘The ends always justify the means’. Do they? Discuss in relation to the contrast between Mill’s and Bentham’s utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is a well known and relatable moral theory. A form of consequentialism, the belief is that actions can be morally right or wrong depending on their production of utility, or happiness. The pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain takes precedence over any other effect. The two most common types of utilitarianism are Act and Rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism, popular with classical utilitarian Jeremy Bentham, focuses on a more simplistic hedonic calculous of an action. Rule utilitarianism, product of which spans from John Stewart Mill, focuses on the types of actions categorising them into higher and lower pleasures. In this essay I will mark the distinctions between the two types of theory from Bentham and Mill whilst also critically appraising the theory. I will discuss the many flaws associated with this moral theory, which make it difficult to justify the mantra that ‘the ends always justify the means’, which I think neither Bentham or Mills versions can justify it.
Jeremy Bentham is thought to have been the founder of utilitarianism as a theory, specifically that of ‘act’ utilitarianism, which is its simplest form. Act utilitarians believe that whenever we are considering which decision to make, that we should make the one which will created the greatest overall utility. Their belief that to do whatever action, made by a sentient being, makes the greatest utility. This method was revolutionary at the time, as at the turn of the 18th Century began the growth of scientific research to answer many unanswered problems of the time. These decisions must be applied on a case-by-case basis by converting moral dilemmas into empirical solutions. (Barber, p57) He provides hedonic calculous which decides the value of pleasure by seven measures of quality; intensity, extent, purity, propinquity, duration, certainty and remoteness. (Cottingham, p.579) What sets apart Bentham’s utilitarianism from the rest is that it is egalitarian at heart. All pleasures in life experienced by sentient beings are of equal value, and that one should never attempt to value one pleasure over another. Only the seven measures matters when one makes a decision.
Utilitarianism has had an influence in modern day life, in particular in government policy. The pursuit of making peoples lives happy can be applied to many government departments all over the world. Indeed Bentham was aiming for this when he first set out his version of utilitarianism. He began his career as a lawyer, and was particularly interested in improving the criminal justice system (reference) using the utilitarian principle. He saw the criminal system as barbaric and scientifically ungrounded (textbook). When explain gin how human beings act, to focuses more on pain than pleasure. In his book, ‘The Purpose of Punishment’, Bentham belie...