Utilitarianism. The world itself is a mouthful, but it represents a belief and moral system that has been around since the 19th century. It is an ethical theory that very closely stems from the idea of consequentialism . The basic idea is that you can determine whether an action is right or wrong, solely based on the outcome that it will produce. If the outcome will bring happiness to people, then it is the morally correct choice. However, if the consequence of your action will bring more pain and sadness, it is morally wrong. This ideal has been debated for many years, mainly because so much of it is left up to speculation. How do you determine what is right for some and what is right for others? While the general mindset and belief system itself is well intentioned, there are certainly some foggy areas. In order to better understand the theory of utilitarianism, it is best to understand what it’s strong points are, as well as the holes in the theory.
The Advantages of Utilitarianism
1. Promotes a Happier World
Utilitarians, in a nut shell, want everyone and everything to be happy. This method of decision making could be very beneficial, because it helps people to truly think about the effects of their actions.
2. Strong Sense of Purpose
When you look at every decision you make with a utilitarian view, every decision becomes very important to you. You begin to think of the things you do in a broader picture, effecting more than just yourself.
3. Helps With Tough Choices
In life, we are often faced with difficult choices. Our emotions and desires will take over these decisions most of the time. However, with this theory of ethics, you are able to think very rationally and make the, perceived, right choice.
4. We Are Pleasure – Pain Creatures
From infancy, you are conditioned to like or fear things by the feelings that they cause you. Burning yourself causes you pain, so you learn that hot things are bad, while laughing causes you happiness, so you learn that funny things are good. Utilitarianism merely articulates what the basic human functions already are.
The Disadvantages of Utilitarianism
1. We Can’t Predict The Future
If you are judging your actions based on the outcome, then there is no way to make an accurate judgment. It is extremely difficult to correctly determine what the exact consequences of your actions will be. This makes the ideals behind utilitarianism a mute point.
2. Who Decides Good and Bad?
Who exactly is the say what is good and what is bad? Everyone is wired differently, and has different beliefs on these things. Some people believe that alcohol brings happiness, while others disagree and believe that it is poison. Who is right? When so much of morality is left up to judgment, issues will inevitably arise.
3. Missed Opportunities
Many situations require quick decisions. This is nearly impossible to do as a utilitarian. Every decision must be calculated to determine who it will effect and it what ways it will effect them. Often times, the opportunity to make the truly correct decision is lost during this time of calculation.
4. Favoritism Is Natural
How can someone make a utilitarian decision if their own loved ones are on the line? This is not possible, because your instincts will take over and you will make the decision that is in the favor of those you love.