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-Utilitarianism is a theory in which the morality of actions is judged by their consequences. The more beneficial an action is for all the more likely it is a morally good action. Jeremy Bentham was a classic utilitarian who pushed for the idea of the greatest happiness for all and that if an action produced happiness for the greater good of society then it was impossible for it to be morally wrong.
Bentham argues that when we think about whether someone/something ought to count morally that â€œThe question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer?â€ I think it makes sense for him to make this kind of statement because in his belief as a utilitarian, he focused on pain and pleasure as the primary factors in determining the goodness of an action. So, for Bentham, the more one suffered from their action and the happier it made society then the action could be morally good. As I mentioned in my previous post from week 6, I talked about Dostoyevskyâ€™s Crime and Punishment and how some of his characters sought redemption through utilitarianism by committing a murder that is perceived as an act of utility. The murder was justified as beneficial to their society because the â€œvictimâ€ was a crooked pawnbroker that ripped off the poor and had no care for others and so their suffering (death) was far more beneficial to society than their current state of existence.
I think in some way Benthamâ€™s theory about the ability to suffer as a way to look at whether something counts morally is still something that is being followed today in the justice system. The idea is that people who commit crimes are tried in front of the people and a decision is made on the severity of their crimes and then we determine how they should suffer to repay society, whether it be community service or serving prison time. As for the treatment of non-human animals, Iâ€™m not entirely sure whether their suffering or happiness really affects our society the same way as a human would suffer or be happy. Would it be wise to think that because animals are sometimes considered a lesser species due to â€œlack of intellectâ€ that they wouldnâ€™t be considered a proponent in utilitarianism? that whatever they experience and feel aren’t the same magnitude as humans?
When assessing the morality of actions what should be considered more important consequences or intentions? This week the question focuses on comparing the morality of an act and the consequences of an act. Two different philosophical perspectives can be took on this matter the first one being Kantâ€™s who focused on the intentions behind the actions, and the other coming from Bentham and Mill who focused on the moral worth of the consequences. The biggest difference between these two methods is that Kant uses practical reason to determine the â€œshouldâ€ to justify the means of an action as opposed to moral reasoning that would focus on what is right overall. The next question that was posed this week was do good intentions save bad outcomes and vice versa. It can be said that some of the worst things have be executed with the best of intentions, but the person committing the act probably feels justified in their actions or at least in the moment anyway. For example when two opposing forces in conflict with one another meet morality has a different face depending which side of a conflict you fall on. Also if only one of intentions or consequences can be prioritized when looking at an act, then priority would be dependent on the perspective the act was being looked at. This can be determined because as an individual looking at their own actions will focus on the moral of their intent and would want to be judge by that intent even if the consequence of that outcome is bad. If that same individual had to judge the acts of others then would focus on the consequences of the acts of others regardless of intent to determine if the act is moral or not.