The Theory Of Utilitarianism: Philosophical Issues

Utilitarianism is a direction in ethics that presents utility as the basis of morality. It is the principle of evaluating phenomena, processes, objects, and information only in terms of their usefulness and ability to serve as means to a goal (Scarre, 2020). The essence of utilitarianism consists of its concept of pleasure and suffering. The philosophy of utilitarianism considers everything that enhances pleasure and diminishes suffering to be beneficial (Scarre, 2020). This philosophy is founded on the result; if an action produces an increase in enjoyment and a decrease in pain, then it is assumed to be positive.

The Strengths and Weaknesses of Utilitarianism

It is worth considering the advantages; utilitarianism asserts that everyone desires to be happy, and it is difficult to dispute this. However, even more fundamentally, utilitarianism clarifies happiness in definitions that everyone can understand (Tannsjo, 2019). According to the theory, happiness is pleasure, misery is suffering, and it is better to have more enjoyment and less distress. Utilitarianism does not require its adherents to make strange, painful sacrifices (Tannsjo, 2019). The most powerful aspect of utilitarianism is its ability to translate intractable problems of moral reflection into solvable empirical problems of inquiry.

It is also appropriate to highlight the limitations of utilitarianism. At first, utilitarianism neglects the plurality of the human goal. Since one of these ends is the maximization of happiness or utility, utilitarianism places it above all others. It treats the common good as the aggregate benefit of society as a whole, without any interest in the individual or in the person’s uniqueness (Tannsjo, 2019). Second, in general, the teleological ethics of utilitarianism prioritizes the goals over the means. For example, utilitarianism is based on the idea that society’s aggregate aims should not be limited to individual human rights (Tannsjo, 2019). In fact, utilitarianism is in many senses opposed to liberalism.

Correlation with the Bible

Notably, there are some problems with utilitarianism that correspond with the concepts of the Bible. First, it focuses on results; an action cannot be good because that is the outcome. The Bible declares that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks into the very heart. God is not so much interested in the results as in the intentions of human hearts” (Riches, 2022, p. 23). God cannot be pleased with good actions with bad intentions; people cannot recognize the purpose of others. Individuals are not even capable of fully discerning their intentions. However, this is no excuse; persons will all have to stand before God and answer for their concessions.

Furthermore, utilitarianism emphasizes pleasure rather than what is a benefit. Pleasure is enjoyable for a person, but this concept can be intensely subjective. For example, pleasure for one person may be discomfort for another. Based on the Bible, God determines what is good and what is not, and God is not immutable, then God’s definition of goodness does not change; it is objective, not subjective (Riches, 2022). The concept of good depends on human desire or the passage of time. Similarly, by equating the concept of goodness with pleasure, people risk defining goodness as simply satisfying their basic, carnal desires. As people leading hedonistic lifestyles demonstrate, the more one indulges in pleasure, the less intense it becomes, and the more pleasure is required to achieve the same stimulation (Riches, 2022). This is the law of diminishing effect, which also applies in terms of satisfaction.

My Perspective on Utilitarianism

In my opinion, the philosophy of utilitarianism is oriented toward providing life with the least amount of suffering for most human beings. On the face of it, this appears like a fine goal. Still, its principal and fundamental disadvantage is the impossibility of combining the two elements of morality: justice and law. Hence, this means that sometimes actions may be morally justified based on utilitarianism. However, they may be illegal, and therefore their end result will be a violation of human rights, which is already unacceptable. Therefore, I consider that utilitarianism includes a lot of weaknesses.

References

Riches, J. (2022). The Bible: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.

Scarre, G. (2020). Utilitarianism. Routledge.

Tannsjo, T. (2019). Hedonistic utilitarianism. Edinburgh University Press.