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Explain Both The General Principles Of Utilitarianism And The Distinctive Features Of Rule Utilitarianism. (30 Marks)

964 words - 4 pages

Explain both the general principles of utilitarianism and the distinctive features of rule utilitarianism. (30 marks)

In the following essay in order to illustrate the general principles of Utilitarianism; I will first introduce the general principles of Utilitarianism as a theory used by many, then secondly I will explain the principles of rule utilitarianism by Mill. Finally I sum up both the principles and rule of utilitarianism.

Teleological ethics is one of the principles on which Utilitarianism is based. They focus on the consequences/result which any action might have. Thus, in order to make correct moral choices, we have to have some understanding of what will result from our ...view middle of the document...

Jeremy had a very much so Quantitative approach to his ethics that differs to J.S Mill, but his ideas are very important as without them J.S Mill really wouldn't have a theory to base it on.

John Stuart Mill sought to address the weaknesses that had been found in Bentham’s principally quantitative approach. Mill maintained that the well-being of the individual was of greatest importance and that happiness is most effectively gained when individuals are free to pursue their own goals subject to the rules that govern us all. Mill accepted the utility principle ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’, but in recognising the dangers that such an approach posed he developed a qualitative approach – i.e. it is the quality of happiness that is important not the quantity. This approach stops the majority achieving a goal simply because they are in the majority and it will bring happiness for them – after all the minority who disagree with the action may be in the right – like those in Nazi Germany who opposed the Holocaust. Another example would be if a group of sadistic guards are torturing a prisoner. If the guard’s pleasure outweighs the prisoner’s pain, then according to the hedonic calculus the action is justified! Therefore the morally acceptable action to the quantitative utilitarian may in fact be unjust.

He also distinguished between higher and lower pleasures with the higher pleasures being qualitatively (i.e. the quality of the pleasure) better and more important than the lower pleasures. The pleasure gained by the guards in the example above would be regarded a lower pleasure. Mill famously quoted ‘It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied .’ You may find a life in pursuit of higher pleasures more difficult – but it will be more rewarding and of a...

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