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Applied Ethics: Utilitarianism theory.

Applied Ethics: Utilitarianism theory.

Select one of the three theories below (I chose Utilitarianism). Once you have done so, select one of the three
topics associated with that theory. Watch the associated video for that topic.

Although the very first organized bank account of utilitarianism was designed by Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), the core understanding encouraging the theory took place very much previously. That insight is that morally appropriate behavior will not harm others, but instead increase happiness or ‘utility.’ What is distinctive about utilitarianism is its approach in taking that insight and developing an account of moral evaluation and moral direction that expands on it. Early precursors to the Classical Utilitarians include the British Moralists, Cumberland, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Gay, and Hume. Of these, Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746) is explicitly utilitarian when it comes to action choice.

A number of the earliest utilitarian thinkers have been the ‘theological’ utilitarians such as Richard Cumberland (1631–1718) and John Gay (1699–1745). They believed that promoting human happiness was incumbent on us since it was approved by God. After enumerating the ways in which humans come under obligations (by perceiving the “natural consequences of things”, the obligation to be virtuous, our civil obligations that arise from laws, and obligations arising from “the authority of God”) John Gay writes: “…from the consideration of these four sorts of obligation…it is evident that a full and complete obligation which will extend to all cases, can only be that arising from the authority of God; because God only can in all cases make a man happy or miserable: and therefore, since we are always obliged to that conformity called virtue, it is evident that the immediate rule or criterion of it is the will of God” (R, 412). Gay held that since God wants the happiness of mankind, and since God’s will gives us the criterion of virtue, “…the happiness of mankind may be said to be the criterion of virtue, but once removed” (R, 413). This view was combined with a view of human motivation with egoistic elements. A person’s individual salvation, her eternal happiness, depended on conformity to God’s will, as did virtue itself. Promoting human happiness and one’s own coincided, but, given God’s design, it was not an accidental coincidence.

This approach to utilitarianism, however, will never be theoretically nice clean from your understanding it isn’t very clear what crucial task The lord does, no less than in terms of normative values. God as the source of normativity is compatible with utilitarianism, but utilitarianism doesn’t require this.

Gay’s effect on later writers, such as Hume, warrants be aware. It is in Gay’s essay that some of the questions that concerned Hume on the nature of virtue are addressed. For example, Gay was curious about how to explain our practice of approbation and disapprobation of action and character. When we see an act that is vicious we disapprove of it. Further, we associate certain things with their effects, so that we form positive associations and negative associations that also underwrite our moral judgments. Of course, that we view happiness, including the happiness of others as a good, is due to God’s design. This is a feature crucial to the theological approach, which would clearly be rejected by Hume in favor of a naturalistic view of human nature and a reliance on our sympathetic engagement with others, an approach anticipated by Shaftesbury (below). The theological approach to utilitarianism would be developed later by William Paley, for example, but the lack of any theoretical necessity in appealing to God would result in its diminishing appeal.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713) is often thought to are already the among the earliest ‘moral sense’ theorists, positioning that we have a very type of “inner eye” that permits us to make ethical discriminations. This seems to have been an innate sense of right and wrong, or moral beauty and deformity. Again, aspects of this doctrine would be picked up by Francis Hutcheson and David Hume (1711–1776). Hume, of course, would clearly reject any robust realist implications. If the moral sense is like the other perceptual senses and enables us to pick up on properties out there in the universe around us, properties that exist independent from our perception of them, that are objective, then Hume clearly was not a moral sense theorist in this regard. But perception picks up on features of our environment that one could regard as having a contingent quality. There is one famous passage where Hume likens moral discrimination to the perception of secondary qualities, such as color. In modern terminology, these are response-dependent properties, and lack objectivity in the sense that they do not exist independent of our responses. This is radical. If an act is vicious, its viciousness is a matter of the human response (given a corrected perspective) to the act (or its perceived effects) and thus has a kind of contingency that seems unsettling, certainly unsettling to those who opted for the theological option.

So, the view that it must be element of our very character to create moral discriminations is quite much in Hume. Further — and what is relevant to the development of utilitarianism — the view of Shaftesbury that the virtuous person contributes to the good of the whole — would figure into Hume’s writings, though modified. It is the virtue that contributes to the good of the whole system, in the case of Hume’s artificial virtues.

Shaftesbury organised that in judging an individual virtuous or good in a moral perception we need to see that person’s impact on the systems in which they are a part. Here it sometimes becomes difficult to disentangle egoistic versus utilitarian lines of thought in Shaftesbury. He clearly states that whatever guiding force there is has made nature such that it is “…the private interest and good of every one, to work towards the general good, which if a creature ceases to promote, he is actually so far wanting to himself, and ceases to promote his own happiness and welfare…” (R, 188). It is hard, sometimes, to discern the direction of the ‘because’ — if one should act to help others because it supports a system in which one’s own happiness is more likely, then it looks really like a form of egoism. If one should help others because that’s the right thing to do — and, fortunately, it also ends up promoting one’s own interests, then that’s more like utilitarianism, since the promotion of self-interest is a welcome effect but not what, all by itself, justifies one’s character or actions.

Further more, to get virtuous a person will need to have specific mental health capabilities — they ought to be able to reflect on figure, for instance, and stand for to themselves the qualities in other people that are either accepted or disapproved of.

In this instance alone it may be we make contact with any creature deserving or virtuous in the event it could have the idea of any general public interest, and can get the conjecture or scientific research in the is morally excellent or ill, amazing or blameable, proper or wrong….we never say of….any simple beast, idiot, or changeling, even though very really good-natured, he is deserving or virtuous.