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Utilitarianism

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by

Jamers Gerhardt

on 19 September 2010

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Transcript of Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism By James and Michaela Utilitarianism was created by John Mills and Jeremy Bentham in the mid 1800's. The principle of Utilitarianism is that a decision is right only if it produces the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number of people involved. The consequence of the action determines the action's rightness or wrongness, not the motive. For example: You want to watch the latest episode of The Office, but your younger siblings have friends over and want to watch Sesame Street. Your family only has one TV. You and your siblings take up the issue with your mom. Your mom decides to let your siblings and their friends have the TV, because that way more people would be happy. There has been debate about whether or not utilitarianism is practical or even makes sense. Some philosophers, such as Friedrich Nietzsche argued that some people were worth more then others,therefore, their happiness was to be the deciding factor, even if they don't have the greater number. Another difficulty is that it is assumed that it's the total number of people and effects that need to be taken into account, to determine an action's rightness or wrongness. But we can only determine the amount of immediate pleasure, pain, and benefits that would result from it. However it is impossible to know what the long term effects will be. So, you could make a decision and think that it will be helping the majority, but in reality it could have devasting long term effects. For example, when the United States dropped the atomic bomb over Japan, it ended the war, just like they thought it would. But it also cost thousands of Japanese people their lives and their homes.

Hitler believed that he was acting in the best interest for Germany, when he tried to rid themselves of the Jews and others who didn't meet his standard. In reality though, this was was not an example of utilitarianism because the effect did not help the majority of the people. It is said that the Eskimos, when traveling in the winter, would leave thier elderly and sick to die along the trail. This was because food was scarce and difficult to find. While in today's society, this action would be greatly looked down upon, it was common sense to these people because they needed to save their food for those who were healthy. That is why they considered their action to be right. I In the Academy Award winning film,
The Dark Knight, the atagonist, The Joker, kidnaps two people: Harvey Dent, an up and coming politician who wants to reform Gotham and save them from their abyss of crime, and Rachel, a District Attorney, and Batman's old girlfriend. In the end Batman makes the choice to save Harvey rather then Rachel, because he believes that Gotham needs Harvey more then he needs Rachel.
When considering the ever changing landscape of politics and society, do you see Utilitarianism is the solution to today's many issues and debates?
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