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Sample Essay on Utilitarian Theories by Jeremy Bentham

September 24th, 2015

Jeremy BenthamWhen the conversation flips to the utilitarianism, the history of philosophy distinguishes it as one of the most persuasive and powerful approach to what is called ‘normative ethics’. Although the term of ‘utilitarianism’ wasn’t fully articulated right until the nineteenth century, a wide range of utilitarianism positions could be observed from the very rise of ethical theory.

A great number of varieties of utilitarian theories have been discussed widely, but, generally, utilitarianism is associated with the following view: a particular morally right action is the one that is crowned with the most good. Although these definitions may vary among the philosophers, the ones produced by Classical Utilitarian Jeremy Bentham deserve particular consideration.

According to Bentham’s theory, ‘the good’ is the synonym for ‘pleasure’, which means the philosopher was the hedonist about value. He also held on to the belief that human beings ought to maximize the good, i.e. to bring a huge amount of good for the greatest number.

His famous theory holds that we all are ruled by two kings of our lives – pain and pleasure. We are looking for pleasure and do our best in order to stay away from pain, philosopher said. Based on his views, ‘two sovereign masters’ govern humans in all they say, or do, or even think.

Jeremy Bentham also propagated the utility principle as the basic standard of right action on the side of people and governments. His theory states that actions are approved only when they have a tendency to cause happiness, and disapproved when they are such as to promote pain. Throw in a view that people are supposed to exert every effort in order to promote happiness in every aspect of life, and what you got is a significant inconsistence with psychological egoism.

In Jeremy Bentham’s theory, any action that confronts to the utility principle is never wrong. What is more, it ought to be done, or at least there are no obstacles for it not to be done. However, the reformer doesn’t use the word ‘duty’ in this case. To his/her mind, duties are rights, the notions of the legal nature related directly to the notions of sanction and command. Talking about natural duties and rights suggests a law with no legislator and besides, it is irrational just like talking about a daughter without her parents. In addition to the theoretical considerations, the philosopher also condemned the belief in natural rights on account of the fact that it inspired bloodshed and aggression, as it happened during the Revolution in France.

By means of the criteria of duration, intensity, proximity, productiveness, certainty, extent and purity, Bentham reviews the punishment concept, as well as when this very punishment should be used in order to create more happiness and pleasure or pain for people. Instead of repressing the acts of violence, the philosopher points out that some of the unnecessary punishments and laws could eventually cause more dangerous acts than the ones being punished, as well as requires the legislators to properly measure the pains and pleasures that are associated with any kind of legislation and to generate laws to provide the greatest good.

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