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Utilitarianism Stuart Vs Mill

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Essay title: Utilitarianism Stuart Vs Mill

One of the major players in ethical theories has long been the concept of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism states that in general the ethical rightness or wrongness of an action is directly related to the utility of that action. Utility is more specifically defined as a measure of the goodness or badness of the consequences of an action.

Utility is considered to be the tendency to produce happiness. There are two types of Utilitarianism; "act" and "rule". An act utilitarian uses thought processes associated with utilitarianism to make all decisions. This requires a lot of thought and careful calculation. For example, an act utilitarian deciding from a list of possible day trips would sit down and calculate out the utility of each possible decision before coming to a conclusion as to which one was preferable.

Contrary to an act utilitarian, a rule utilitarian uses the principles of utility to create a set of rules by which they live. Rule utilitarians are not incapable of calculating a decision; they just do not see a need to do it all the time. For example, a rule utilitarian might have some rules like this: in general do not kill, in general do not steal, in general do not lie; but if they found a situation that might except the rule they would do the calculations due to it and make a decision based on that. Perhaps the two greatest proponents of utilitarianism as an ethical theory were Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

Though the terms act and rule utility came after the time of Bentham and Mill, it can still be noted that Bentham was clearly an act utilitarian and the Mill was a rule utilitarian. This paper will focus on the way Bentham and Mill would direct us to apply the principle of utility, and the possibility that the differences in their views may make us come to different moral decisions.

In the application of the principle of utility, Bentham and Mill differ greatly. Bentham is an act utilitarian, this means that he believes in a precise calculation of the utility of each possible action in a given situation. This precise calculation is achieved through the calculation of different criteria. The resulting number quantifies the utility of a situation.

Five Criteria of Pleasure or Pain

1) Pleasure minus pain

2) Intensity

3) Duration

4) Fruitfulness

5) Likelihood

Pleasure minus pain refers to whether the pain produced by the decision is worth the happiness produced. Intensity refers to the strength of the experience. Duration relates to the length of time for which the experience lasts. Fruitfulness refers to the long-term results of the pleasure. Likelihood determines whether it is likely the choice will result in the presumed effect. Through careful calculation of these factors, Bentham believes it is possible to come to a conclusion selecting the best possible choice, thus bringing the most pleasure to the most people.

There are several concerns raised by this application of utility, such as: What is the utility of calculating utility? Is not precision only relative in these calculations? Are not some of these criteria a bit abstract to calculate? These concerns are raised and addressed by Mill.

Mill is a rule utilitarian; he believes that decisions are best made in life through the application of rules that have been calculated ahead of time. He

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