Utilitarianism is a moral theory that operates in the idea that the end must justify the means. Its core idea depends on the effects that a morally right or wrong action leads to. Proponents believe that morality can make life better when the amount of good things is increased and bad things are decreased. Utilitarianism, however, reject moral codes or systems that are based on traditions, customs or beliefs. Instead, they believe in moral actions that can be justified based on how they contribute to human beings in a positive way.
But what is good in this type of moral theory? One of the important classical utilitarians, Jeremy Bentham, associates it with hedonism, something that many thinkers reject because pleasure and pain are not as important as health or knowledge.
List of Pros of Utilitarianism
1. Provide a clear and easy-to-understand guidelines
Utilitarianism is one of the forms of consequentialism that states that everything has a consequence. There are rewards if you do something good, and there are repercussions if you do something wrong. With this in mind, people will strive to be morally and ethically good to avoid the consequences. If everyone shares this ideal and puts it into practice, the world would be an amazing place to live in. No one would drink and drive because of the possible negative effects.
2. Focus on happiness and benefits
In its simplest form, utilitarianism works in the premise that an action is considered good if it benefits someone. Add to this the idea of avoiding anything that is immoral, an individual’s happiness and benefits can be easily achieved. No person would say no to this. Why do we avoid rape or murder, anyway? This is because it will cause unhappiness.
3. Take into account all elements
This ethical theory may seem simple enough to understand, but it covers all sorts of elements that have good and bad sides, pros and cons. It measures action based on whether it results in happiness or unhappiness, anything else will not matter.
List of Cons of Utilitarianism
1. Have negative complications
Euthanasia, for example, is considered unethical and immoral in utilitarianism. So even if ending one person’s life can save another through organ donation, no one would dare kill a terminally ill patient even for a good cause. Even if the death of one will save ten people, the core idea of utilitarianism will prevail.
2. The theory is subjective
Taking for example the case above, utilitarianism makes it hard to determine where the line can be drawn. After all, not all bad actions are downright bad. Would you consider someone with a Robin Hood complex good or bad?
3. Time-consuming and difficult
Can you imagine calculating total utility for every action you take? It would be difficult and time-consuming, unless you have done everything and knows exactly the consequences and rewards. For instance, before you turn in a project, you have to stop and think if you have done everything right.
Most importantly, utilitarianism have the tendency to ignore obligation and a sense of duty. So, are you for or against it?