Many philosophers have had their thoughts on utilitarianism be known. According to this thought, happiness occurs when it is experienced in great numbers. This approach is admirable in matters concerning happiness. It is often referred as being a response or a stimulus approach. Its main focus lies on pain and pleasure, as well as associations, which are either positive or negative. It is through punishment and praise that the latter occurs (Moore, 2006).
This paper seeks to give an analysis on the different views, which exist, concerning utilitarianism according to various philosophers.
People associate Peter Singer with being a modern utilitarian. This is because he is known for matters, which concern animals and human beings. Many of the activities he engages in include issues on poverty, abortion, animal rights, among others. In turn, he has received a lot of condemnation and praise as well. This is the reason why he is not like other thinkers in the academic field. According to Singer, the consequences of actions are the ones, which are judged (Stuart, 2002).
On the other hand, two approaches, which are distinct, exist concerning moral theories, according to John Mill. They are the inductive and intuitive schools. The approaches are similar in that there is a belief of a normative, which is high as well as single. If happiness is promoted, then actions are deemed as being right. Also, if happiness is not achieved, the action is dimmed as being wrong. The latter is the difference between the approaches used by Singer and by Mill. Sensual pleasure and intellectual are used to describe happiness according to Mill. Human beings prefer pleasures, which are intellectual, because of their dignity and this is opposed to pleasures, which are sensual (Moore, 2006). The process of an action’s consequences being assessed is known as the utility principle. Agents such as character traits and motives are not extremely vital. In order for moral principles, which are secondary to be generated, the utility principle must exist. In turn, it ensures that happiness is promoted. It is as a result of secondary principles that human beings are judged. When people are faced with dilemmas of a moral nature, they should obtain help through the utility principle. The latter only applies when there is conflict between two principles of a secondary nature.
Most people, who criticize utilitarianism, believe that actions, which have consequences do not relate to morality. According to them, justice is a key concern. Mill equates utilitarianism to justice. He goes further to use the explanation of utility to be the same as that of justice. This is his main argument in matters concerning the negative aspects of utilitarianism (Robinson & Groves, 2003). The counter arguments, which are offered by Mill, are two. Justice notions are due to moral elements that are governed by social utility. In ‘notion of Justice’ rights violation and punishment are present. Social Empathy that is collective, as well as moral components brings the components of revenge. All the different elements have their origins from utility. People are secure and protected because of social utility. Lastly, the other argument given by Mill is that ambiguity occurs due to justice and in turn, justice becomes foundational. Justice is associated with matters in society such as taxation, and wealth distribution. Solution to disputes will occur if utility is implemented. Also, justice should not be ignored as it is extremely genuine.
Barnard Williams also has his own views concerning utilitarianism. According to him, happiness is related to love as compared to numbers. Sentiments should not be involved in matters related to utilitarianism, as they bring about problems. There are implications of a personal nature when people want to obtain happiness. There should not be standards, which are universal concerning what should be wrong or right (Stuart, 2002). According to him the problems, which are associated with utilitarianism, are that it is impractical, insufficient, impossible, as well as being distasteful. Thus, it is possible to claim that Singer is justified in his arguments. They concern what gives human being happiness at the expense of other things. This means that people who live in American are in society, which is extremely individualistic .Most people are concerned about their own issues at the expense of others.
Despite agreeing with the arguments presented by Singer, there are certain limitations. It is not easy to give up ones possessions, so that others can benefit. Even if a person’s life will be saved, it is impractical to do so. Happiness should exist for everyone, no one should benefit while others suffer (Robinson & Groves, 2003). People who do not give all their wealth to charity are still considered as being moral. In accordance to Singer’s philosophies, they are not practical as human nature cannot allow. No one has the right to call others selfish, as people have been brought up differently. Singer is concerned with matters that will benefit everyone in society, which might have many repercussions. In conclusion, the philosophies on utilitarianism should be well thought off as they have different interpretations.
Moore, W. (2006).Philosophy As a Humanistic Discipline. New York: Princeton University Press.
Robinson, Dave. & Groves, Judy. (2003). Introducing Political Philosophy. New York: Icon Books
Stuart, Mill. (2002). A System of Logic. Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific.
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