Utilitarianism, yet another ethical theory between right or wrong. If everyone acted in an effort to promote the greatest good for the greater number of people our universe would exist with a utilitarian state of mind. Although, when one looks at this statement on the surface without further analyzing it, most would assume that existing in a universe where everyone seeks the happiness for the greatest amount of people that it would be greater one to live in.
Although, surface wise we can make this assumption, everyone’s definition of “happiness” varies, for some happiness is defined by monetary objects and for others happiness is not determined through any tangible element. Utilitarianism was defined by John Stuart Mill who derived the theory based on the hedonistic version presented by his mentor Jeremy Bentham which he described it as “the greatest happiness”. According to Mill the basic principle of utilitarianism is “Actions are right to the degree that they tend to promote the greatest good for the greatest number.
The theory of both ethicists can be summarized in three propositions. First, Consequentialism stating that actions are to be judged right or wrong solely by virtue of their consequences; nothing else matters. Second, Hedonism that states in assessing consequences, the only thing that matters is the amount of happiness or unhappiness that is created; everything else is irrelevant. Lastly, the equality principle which states each person’s happiness counts the same, meaning that each unit of happiness has the same value; neither is valued more or less.
The most common confusion is that utilitarianism is not based on what the majority wants is right but what brings about the most happiness to the greatest number of people. These three propositions make up the Utilitarianism equation: Utilitarianism = Consequentialism + Hedonism + an Equality Principal. In summary, utilitarianism says that the right action is the one that brings about the most overall happiness to everyone; you should do whatever makes you happy even if it means lying or breaking a promise as long as it bring greater units of happiness overall as a consequence of a decision.
Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory; meaning that we must act in a manner that best consequences. So, when making a decision you should focus on the outcome and determine what decision will deliver the best consequences. As a result, just like any other theory in existence utilitarianism brings about a number of objections specifically because it determines your actions based on consequence and this can become trivial in many types of scenarios.
Overall, after reviewing the numerous objections there are two that stand out over the others, Utilitarianism is too demanding and that it disrupts our personal relationship. Utilitarianism does seem to be too demanding, if we all acted based on doing things that bring everyone happiness it would eventually take from our personal happiness. How is one to not go to a movie or spoiling themselves with an expensive handbag if the other choice of spending that money would be to donate to charity or what society considers a greater cause.
Donating money to a greater cause would indeed bring more units of happiness than the one unit would bring to me personally if I choose to purchase my expensive designer bag versus donating that money. This can ripple into not only this aspect of everyday personal life. Imagine not driving a car because of the pollution, overall that decision would cause greater good to the planet but that idea is just not feasible, especially in our city where commuting is a part of life not a choice. The second is that the utilitarianism theory can disrupt our personal life.
The idea of treating my husband or family as I treat a complete stranger is simply unrealistic. Utilitarianism asks that you make impartial decisions and in normal human “animal” emotions that is unnatural. Animal instinct even in the wild make biased decisions, a lion knows when a cub is its cub and acts in defense and protection of it, human instinct is the same. These two objections simply provide evidence that utilitarianism is overall unrealistic. With objection comes defense to ones