explain the main forms of utilitarianism

Essay by jjjj22High School, 12th gradeA-, October 2014

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Carys Jones 26th March 2014


Utilitarianism is the idea that the greatest good for the greatest number, so the action that causes the most number of people, pleasure or happiness. It is a teleological theory of ethics, as it is more concerned with the outcome rather than the act. It is also relative and subjective. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory as it decides whether an action is good or bad depending on its consequences. There are two main utilitarianism theories - Jeremy Bentham, who illustrated the idea of pleasure, and John Stuart Mill who illustrated the idea of happiness

Jeremy Bentham developed his theory on the idea of pleasure and based it on ancient Hedonism. Hedonism is the view that pleasure is the chief 'good' and pursues physical pleasure and avoiding pain. Pleasure differs from happiness as pleasure is a short-term feeling, whereas happiness is long term contentment.

Bentham believes that the best act maximises pleasure and minimises pain, bringing the greatest amount of pleasure possible. Jeremy Bentham's theory of utilitarianism is considered as act utilitarianism as it focuses on the act. The situation is taken into account when determining the morality, and from this general rules can be derived.

Bentham begins his theory with the principle of utility, which is the theory of usefulness - the greatest good for the greatest number. Through the principle of utility, Bentham developed a way to establish whether something was good or bad on the basis of the amount of benefit it caused for the largest number of people. His theory is therefore qualitative, as it focuses on the quantity of people that are caused pleasure.

Bentham created a way of measuring the good and bad effects of an action, through the...