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According to Jeremy Bentham, the utilitarian principle states that the greatest moral produces the maximum contentment for the maximum number of people (Bentham, 1907). He bases his argument on the concept that the means that an individual uses to accomplish his/her needs is justified by the consequences that arise. The hedonistic value theory states that the value of life is a balance of pleasure and pain. I plan to show that there is much more to morals than the utilitarian proposition shows and that everything in life cannot be measured by pleasure and pain. First, I will provide details of the Bentham moral principles and then criticize his argument by proving my point. Finally, I will present evidence that disapproves the Bentham theory.
Bentham’s moral philosophy evaluates actions based on their consequences. The relevant consequences are the general happiness that happens to all the people affected by the action. He held a self-gratifying explanation of both value and motivation according to which what is essentially beneficial and what ultimately motivates us is pain and delight. According to him, happiness is a matter of experiencing pleasure and absence of pain. There are three principles which form the basis of Bentham’s theory i.e., the greatest happiness principle, universal egoism and the simulated classification of one’s interest among others. According to him, utility is any property in an object whereby it tends to produce pleasure, proficiency or happiness, or prevents the occurrence of pain, malevolence, or discontent to the person whose interest are considered (Bentham, 1907).
I disagree with Bentham’s moral theory because his hedonistic value theory holds that life is a balance of pleasure and pain i.e. maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. In the real sense, you can not equate everything that happens in life with pleasure and pain, because there is a significant difference in the quality of pleasures and pains which makes some intrinsically preferable than the others; those feelings can not be adequately further broken down into terms of pleasure and pain. Also, people are different and what makes you happy is not necessarily what will make other people happy and that makes it extremely difficult to please everyone at a go.
On the other hand, my argument could be wrong because although it is difficult to please everyone, one should take the action that brings maximum happiness to the maximum number of people, which can become handy, especially in a situation where there is a conflict of interest.
My argument could also be realistic, because majorities aren’t always right and some people with personal interest could take advantage of the utilitarian theory to oppress the minority. Also, it’s not in all cases where the goal justifies the means. In some cases the means justify they aim because you can do something with a genuine intention when something unexpected happens and you end up with negative results. Contrary, you may do something with an ill intention and end up with positive results due to cheer luck or end up pleasing the majority that isn’t necessarily right.
In conclusion, we can say that the utilitarian theory is not always correct because human happiness depends on so many other factors like God, self-esteem, progress in life; also people’s interest are so different thus you can’t always please the majority, because you may end up oppressing the minority.