Utilitarianism


Ethics 1101


11/07/03


Some people have argued that utilitarianism doesn\'t account for the claims of justice and that it sometimes endorses unjust actions and makes people surrender their integrity and morals. Utilitarianism sometimes makes people do what they normally won\'t do because of the situation that they are placed in. My essay will explore examples of what a person would do in certain cases according to the rules of utilitarianism and the critiques of these actions. I\'m against utilitarianism and the critiques will be followed by my view point of the scenario.


To begin utilitarianism is defined as a moral theory which claims that the morally right action, is the action which will maximize utility. Utility is defined by John Stuart Mill (author of Utilitarianism) as happiness, and happiness is pleasure minus pain. The theory of utilitarianism is actually neutral about what utility means, except to the extent that utility is the measure of goodness of a situation (the units of measure are called "utiles"). The reason why a decision is hard to make in a certain scenario is that here are many conflicting factors. There is a conflict between the principle of utility (what you should do according to a utilitarianism) and the demands of justice (what you want to do because of your own morals).


The first Case were going to look at is the Town Sheriff case. The situation unfolds like this ‑ Imagine that there is a town which has been the victim of a series of grizzly murders apparently by the same person. The townspeople are hysterical with fear, and some people has been accused by a number of influential townsfolk. The mayor comes in the office and admits that he is the one who has committed all the killings and then he drinks a vile of poison. The sheriff knows he cannot convince anyone that the mayor is the killer because he is a very respectful man. The sherif thinks quick and then decides to blame the town drunk since people would believe that and that the killings would cease. This is due to the fact that the people would think that the drunk is responsible for the murders and people will no longer live in fear. The riots in this town invariably result in several deaths of people who are totally innocent of rioting or anything else. The only way to avoid the riots is for the sheriff to hang the innocent drunk. What should the sheriff do? According to a Utilitarianism, they claim that it is obvious that the right thing to do is for the sheriff to hang the accused drunk, because although it is terrible for an innocent person to be executed it is much worse for several innocent people to die in riots as well as destroying much of the town and ruining many people\'s lives. This in turn would bring out the more good then bad and will bring more happiness then sorrow because instead of a few people being murdered innocently only one person has to die (the innocent drunk)


A critique of this scenario would be William\'s arguing that a utilitarianism cannot properly appeal to the psychological effects on an agent the sheriff feeling bad as factors in the decision. In one way or another, Utilitarianism alienates us from such fundamental moral emotions. To approach this problem we are going to break it up into three parts. In the first part we are going to suppose that the feeling of the sheriff is rational. If this feeling is rational, the agent is feeling bad in that he believes he has done the wrong thing (i.e., killing the innocent drunk). But according to a utilitarianism this cannot make sense, because if the agent correctly calculated the balance of outcomes, including any of his bad feelings, then he has not done anything wrong. Therefore, utilitarianism must take such a feeling as irrational. For a utilitarian, these irrational feelings cannot consistently have any great weight in a utilitarian calculation. In fact the U should not merely give small extra weight, in calculations of right and wrong, to feelings of this kind, but [that] he should give absolutely no weight to them at all. Basically saying that your own feelings count