Act Utilitarianism

Rachel Wallace
Mind Map by Rachel Wallace, updated more than 1 year ago
Rachel Wallace
Created by Rachel Wallace over 4 years ago


Act Utilitarianism Mindmap

Resource summary

Act Utilitarianism
1 Bentham
1.1 Pursue physical pleasure and avoid physical pain.
1.2 Act Utilitarianism is based on ancient hedonism.
1.3 Hedonic Calculus
1.3.1 Whatever is good or bad can be measured in a quantitative way.
1.3.2 To help us choose the good thing to do and work out the possible consequences of an action. Bentham provided a way of measuring this: Seven Elements: The intensity of the pleasure (how deep) The duration of the pleasure caused (how long) The certainty of the pleasure (how certain or uncertain) The remoteness of the pleasure (how near or far) The chance of a succession of pleasures (how continuous) The purity of the pleasure (how secure) The extent of the pleasure (how universal)
1.4 An act would be moral if it brings the greatest amount of pleasure and the least amount of pain
1.5 The value of an act is the amount it increases general utility or happiness.
2 Acknowledges that the same act in some situations produces the greatest good but in other situations not.
2.1 This is why Utilitarianism allows moral rules to change from age to age and situation to situation.
3 Issues with the theory:
3.1 It can't cope with emergency situations as you need to use the hedonic calculus to figure out what to do and in an emergency using this may result in someone dying rather than possibly being saved.
3.2 It encourages injustice.
3.2.1 EXAMPLE - If there is an act utilitarian sheriff in a town of Mississippi and racial tensions are made worse by the rape and murder of a white woman. You are aware that if the killer isn't caught soon then there will be trouble and several black men will die at the hands of the Klan. You are not aware of who the killer is but you know that possibly Old Joe couldn't possibly have done it. However, despite this you frame him by planting evidence on him. The all white jury convicts him and so you hang an innocent man. Thus stopping the riot and saving some innocent lives.
3.3 It is self defeating
3.3.1 A basic requirement of a moral theory is that if everyone acted the same then according to it then it would produce a better world. So a theory is self defeating if the world is actually made worse when everyone acts according to it.
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