Ethics should concern all levels of life: This document is designed as an introduction to making ethical decisions.
Precursors to the Classical Approach Though the first systematic account of utilitarianism was developed by Jeremy Bentham —the core insight motivating the theory occurred much earlier.
Of these, Francis Hutcheson — is explicitly utilitarian when it comes to action choice. They believed that promoting human happiness was incumbent on us since it was approved by God. This view was combined with a view of human motivation with egoistic elements.
A person's individual salvation, her eternal happiness, depended on conformity to God's will, as did virtue itself. Promoting human happiness and one's own coincided, but, given God's design, it was not an accidental coincidence.
This approach to utilitarianism, however, is not theoretically clean in the sense that it isn't clear what essential work God does, at least in terms of normative ethics. God as the source of normativity is compatible with utilitarianism, but utilitarianism doesn't require this.
Gay's influence on later writers, such as Hume, deserves note. It is in Gay's Utilitarianism is the most useful ethical that some of the questions that concerned Hume on the nature of virtue are addressed.
For example, Gay was curious about how to explain our practice of approbation and disapprobation of action and character.
When we see an act that is vicious we disapprove of it. Further, we associate certain things with their effects, so that we form positive associations and negative associations that also underwrite our moral judgments. Of course, that we view happiness, including the happiness of others as a good, is due to God's design.
This is a feature crucial to the theological approach, which would clearly be rejected by Hume in favor of a naturalistic view of human nature and a reliance on our sympathetic engagement with others, an approach anticipated by Shaftesbury below. The theological approach to utilitarianism would be developed later by William Paley, for example, but the lack of any theoretical necessity in appealing to God would result in its diminishing appeal.
This seems to have been an innate sense of right and wrong, or moral beauty and deformity.
Again, aspects of this doctrine would be picked up by Francis Hutcheson and David Hume — Hume, of course, would clearly reject any robust realist implications.
If the moral sense is like the other perceptual senses and enables us to pick up on properties out there in the universe around us, properties that exist independent from our perception of them, that are objective, then Hume clearly was not a moral sense theorist in this regard.
But perception picks up on features of our environment that one could regard as having a contingent quality. There is one famous passage where Hume likens moral discrimination to the perception of secondary qualities, such as color.
In modern terminology, these are response-dependent properties, and lack objectivity in the sense that they do not exist independent of our responses. If an act is vicious, its viciousness is a matter of the human response given a corrected perspective to the act or its perceived effects and thus has a kind of contingency that seems unsettling, certainly unsettling to those who opted for the theological option.
So, the view that it is part of our very nature to make moral discriminations is very much in Hume.
Further — and what is relevant to the development of utilitarianism — the view of Shaftesbury that the virtuous person contributes to the good of the whole — would figure into Hume's writings, though modified.
It is the virtue that contributes to the good of the whole system, in the case of Hume's artificial virtues. Shaftesbury held that in judging someone virtuous or good in a moral sense we need to perceive that person's impact on the systems of which he or she is a part.
Here it sometimes becomes difficult to disentangle egoistic versus utilitarian lines of thought in Shaftesbury. If one should help others because that's the right thing to do — and, fortunately, it also ends up promoting one's own interests, then that's more like utilitarianism, since the promotion of self-interest is a welcome effect but not what, all by itself, justifies one's character or actions.
Further, to be virtuous a person must have certain psychological capacities — they must be able to reflect on character, for example, and represent to themselves the qualities in others that are either approved or disapproved of. Animals also lack the capacity for moral discrimination and would therefore seem to lack the moral sense.
This raises some interesting questions. It would seem that the moral sense is a perception that something is the case. So it isn't merely a discriminatory sense that allows us to sort perceptions.
It also has a propositional aspect, so that animals, which are not lacking in other senses are lacking in this one. The virtuous person is one whose affections, motives, dispositions are of the right sort, not one whose behavior is simply of the right sort and who is able to reflect on goodness, and her own goodness [see Gill].
Similarly, the vicious person is one who exemplifies the wrong sorts of mental states, affections, and so forth. Shaftesbury approached moral evaluation via the virtues and vices. His utilitarian leanings are distinct from his moral sense approach, and his overall sentimentalism.
However, this approach highlights the move away from egoistic views of human nature — a trend picked up by Hutcheson and Hume, and later adopted by Mill in criticism of Bentham's version of utilitarianism. For writers like Shaftesbury and Hutcheson the main contrast was with egoism rather than rationalism.
Like Shaftesbury, Francis Hutcheson was very much interested in virtue evaluation. He also adopted the moral sense approach.Utilitarianism is one of the most powerful and persuasive approaches to normative ethics in the history of philosophy.
Though not fully articulated until the 19th century, proto-utilitarian positions can be discerned throughout the history of ethical theory. Utilitarianism holds that the most ethical choice is the one that will produce the greatest good for the greatest number.
It is the only moral framework that can be used to justify military force or war. It is also the most common approach to moral reasoning used in business because of the way in which it accounts for costs and benefits. Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that states that the best action is the one that maximizes utility, which is usually defined as that which produces the greatest well-being of the greatest number of people, and in some cases, sentient animals.
The field of ethics is traditionally divided into three areas: 1.) meta-ethics, which deals with the nature of the right or the good, as well as the nature and justification of ethical claims; 2.) normative ethics, which deals with the standards and principles used to determine whether something is right or good; 3.) applied ethics, which deals with the actual application of ethical principles to a particular situation.
While utilitarianism is currently a very popular ethical theory, there are some difficulties in relying on it as a sole method for moral decision-making. First, the utilitarian calculation requires that we assign values to the benefits and harms resulting from our actions and compare them with the benefits and harms that might result from other actions.
Most opponents of utilitarianism have held that it has implications contrary to their moral intuitions and a rule is judged useful or not by the consequences of its As an abstract ethical doctrine, utilitarianism has established itself as one of the small number of live options that must be taken into account and either refuted or.