An Analysis of the Strengths and Weaknesses of Utilitarianism, a Normative Ethics Theory
Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the moral action. Is the one that maximises utility, therefore creating the majority of happiness for the majority of people. However, it is a theory that holds many strengths and many weaknesses.
On one hand Utilitarinaism has many strengths. It is a democratic theory, meaning it is fair and and tries to control and balance everyone’s differing interests. An example of this would be what Singer’s Preference Utilitarianism proposes. That everyone’s individual interests and desires are all equal and important. Preference Utilitarianism is based on the idea of choosing the action which creates.
The most pleasure and least pain, and that it is the satisfaction of an individual person’s interests that matters. This strength therefore disagrees with the statement. That Utilitarianism has too many weaknesses to make it useful because the fact. That it is a democratic theory means it can be used in modern democracies such as governments who use principles of Utilitarianism to determine what is right.
Another strength of Utilitarianism is that it is universal. An example of this would be. That Utilitarianism could be used within the religion Christianity because Christians believe according to the the Bible that everyone should be treated fairly, right, and equally, something that Utilitarianism hopes to achieve: ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number.” This therefore demonstrates that the Principle of Utility devised by Bentham.
For reducing harm and increasing happiness. Is present all over the world and applies to every religion and culture, making it easy to use and apply within different religions and faiths. This also disagrees with the statement that Utilitarianism has too many weaknesses to make it useful, because this strength demonstrates that Utilitarianism is universal and can be used all over the world, making it a useful theory to adopt into any society based on its aim to achieve the ‘greatest good’ and create the ‘greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number’.
However, there are, too, many weaknesses of the theory Utilitarianism. One of the biggest weaknesses of the theory is that it tolerates injustice. Act Utilitarianism allows the minority to suffer if the majority are happy ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number,’ according to Bentham. This could allow extreme acts of injustice such as terrorism to take place, because Utilitarianism says that it’s a right act because the majority (all the terrorists and their supporters) are happy.
Using Utilitarianism in this way could then lead to extreme unjust acts to be explained and justified and lead to an unfair society. Therefore, this weakness agrees with the statement that Utilitarianism has too many weaknesses to make it useful, because it would allow the theory to be misused by the wrong people (e.g. rapists and terrorists) and become less useful to creating a fair and happy society.
Another viewpoint that agrees with the statement that Utilitarianism has too many weaknesses to make it useful is that it is subjective. Utilitarianism is based upon the idea of happiness and pleasure, as Bentham stated, the best act would create ‘the greatest happiness for the greatest number.’ However, a weakness of this theory is that happiness is very subjective, for what could be pleasurable for one person may not be for another, because people have different definitions of what happiness is for them.
An example of this would be gang rape, because although it is extremely wrong and against the law, Utilitarianism would dismiss the happiness of the victim for the wrong kind of happiness of the rapists. This confusion of the wrong kind of happiness would make the theory less useful, because again it would justify wrong acts and become less about creating happiness and more about creating pain.
Utilitarianism is also immeasurable. You can’t assign a value or number to an amount of pleasure, because all pleasures are different. The Hedonic Calculus is an example of this, which aims to rate the amount of pleasure or pain an act creates. While using the Hedonic Calculus, pleasure and pain are too broad to determine a value for.
When applying situations such as getting a new job, having sex or washing a car, all three pleasures are different, and it would be impossible to compare and rate them, because they are all different types of pleasures. This weakness would therefore make Utilitarianism less useful as a theory because it doesn’t account for the fact that pleasures, satisfactions, happiness and relief are all different and it would therefore make it impossible to rate and compare these different situations using the Hedonic Calculus.
In conclusion I agree with the statement that Utilitarianism has too many weaknesses to be useful, because although there are many strengths to the theory the weaknesses of the theory could make it a threat to modern day societies by justifying unjust acts and lead to many disagreements and conflict if used incorrectly.