A well-known British philosopher and thinker named Jeremy Bentham coined the theory of Utilitarianism. In the nineteenth century, when Europe was facing many challenges because of communism, Bentham’s thinking and philosophies helped the society positively. He was an early supporter of women’s rights, freedom of speech, liberalization at economical level, animal rights, prison reforms and the separation of church from state. He introduced the concept of utility.
In his words,
“Actions are only permissible if they produce as much happiness and less suffering”
So, in simple words, utility is a sense or power in a human being that seeks happiness and tries to avoid pain.
When we combine two theories together, we get Utilitarianism.
- Theory of value
Anything which brings happiness and absence of pain is valuable.
- Theory of right action
Take the right action to make a choice between two things and choose one which maximizes your happiness.
To define both of them together, Utilitarianism means taking a decision to bring happiness to more people and pain to fewer people.
Let’s suppose a hospital has six patients, and the hospital has six doses of a medicine. Five patients need one dose of that medicine to get cured, but one of them is critically ill and needs all the six doses. Now, if the hospital applies the theory of utilitarianism, it will let that one patient die and save the other five patients. This way, the hospital has brought happiness to the maximum number of people and pain to fewer.
Pros and cons of Utilitarianism With Examples
To calculate everything, Bentham also created an algorithm to make a right decision based on utilitarianism. It is calculated, how strong the happiness will be, how long it will last, how likely and how soon the happiness will occur, how many people will be affected and many other things.
Pros of utilitarianism
- It is simple
The philosophy of utilitarianism is fairly reasonable and easy to understand. Its calculations and measurements make decision-making an easy task. You just need to know which thing will bring more happiness to maximum people. You can calculate the amount of happiness, its duration, whether it will cause a ripple effect and will bring more happiness or not. etc by using the algorithm.
- Utilitarianism is flexible
It is adaptable based on the decisions because utilitarianism is a consequential mode of thinking. As we discussed earlier, utilitarianism’s value is judged by the outcomes of an action. So it is the result that counts, not the process.
Let’s suppose a person becomes a thief and loots other people, but he donates all the looted money to a cancer hospital. Utilitarianism will actually support that guy because in the end he brought happiness to the maximum number of people.
- It supports democracy
All of us apply the theory of utilitarianism in our lives, as we want things in our life that bring maximum happiness. If we observe things on the level of state, we see that the only fair way of taking a step and deciding is to let people cast their votes. In this way, a decision can be made in favour of the maximum number of people to guarantee the highest amount of happiness.
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Cons of utilitarianism
- Happiness is the only thing that is considered
The problem with utilitarianism is that it does not really consider the other elements of life. If you look at the overall experience, there are other things of value too. For example, eating fried food and a lot of chocolate gives you happiness, utilitarianism will say, keep eating the fried food and chocolate. But, your health and body will demand healthier things to eat. Those healthier things may not bring happiness or joy, but they will make you healthy.
- Utilitarianism is unpredictable and unrealistic
What if ten people need your organs to live? Utilitarianism will let you die to save those ten people. What if voting is done and the whole group votes against you, even if you are right? Moments earlier, when we discussed how a thief can be considered valuable to utilitarianism because he donated the looted money to the hospital. Although he looted other people, hurt them and took away their belongings. According to the philosophy of utilitarianism, happiness is more important than morality.
It is also unpredictable because no one knows what the future would look like and with this theory based on an abstract idea of happiness it is hard to calculate.
- It can support tyranny and injustice
A philosophy that can ignore moral values cannot serve justice to every class in society. Some European countries kept their women away from voting by voting against their basic rights. If the majority votes in favour of child trafficking, nothing can be done against it.
Although the concept of utilitarianism is based on spreading happiness, it can sometimes become a great trouble for mankind.
Hope you enjoyed reading the article. Happy reading!!