Sample Philosophy Essay on Utilitarianism


Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that is mainly attributed to a writer named Jeremy Bentham. I totally agree with the writer that “Subjects should obey Kings…so long as the probable mischief of obedience is less than the probable mischief of resistance.” This is for the reason that, nature has placed human beings over the control of two key independent principles known as pain and pleasure. It is for an individual to decide what he/she is supposed to do and should be done. According to Jeremy, the theory of utility identifies the significant function of pain and pleasure in the life of an individual. It also approves as well as disproves the actions, based on the tendency it seems to add on or reduce the contentment of the person whose interest matters. Thus, according to the principle of utility, an act can be deemed to be comfortable if the tendency it has increases the contentment as compared to how it may reduce happiness. Actions are considered correct if they endorse contentment and are incorrect if the consequence of the act is the opposite of contentment. This is to say that “An action is morally correct if no other alternative action can result in a greater balance of pleasure over pain than the initial action”.

Utilitarianism is normally deemed to endorse the principle that the end result of an act justifies the means. This implies that an individual can do what he/she like as long as it allows one to attain what one desires to attain. According to Utilitarianism, the final end, which is the promotion of pleasure and avoidance of suffering and pain, can justify any form of act if it really can do the best on balance in the long run. Therefore individual acts usually considered as wrong, may at time be right if they can do more good than damage. The utilitarianism can offer a convincing account of the reasons why such acts are normally wrong. For example, lying to someone can obliterate trust and weaken the cooperation that the involved benefit from. Along with utilitarian, the justifiable thing to do is what promotes the greatest amount of contentment. For example, there are occasions when the only thing to be done to avoid hard too many people is by harming a smaller number of people. This is justifiable in relation to utilitarianism. Suppose one is driving along a constricted tunnel, then a worker happens to fall on the road in front of the driver and there is not sufficient time for the driver to hold the breaks. If the driver keeps moving straight, he is likely to hit the worker and cause his death, but is the driver veers left into approaching traffic; he is likely to collide with a school bus or a passenger vehicle and kill at least five people.

Utilitarianism and Deontology: telling lies and the truth

When his father catches him in a lie, john is given a punishment and he vows to always tell the truth. John starts to transparently speak the truth about all things and everyone and soon enough his friends become angry with him. But since he believes that he did what he considers right. John finds it difficult understanding the reason why his truth speaking turned out to be the unexpected. It takes John being on the receiving point of truth speaking for him to get to understand how truth sometimes can be harmful, and he continues making amends with friends. By the end, John gets to learn that while he should not lie it is not always necessary to reveal the entire truth either and there is a correct and incorrect way of telling others the truth. This account, bring up numerous queries concerning untruthfulness and speaking the truth particularly with respect to the states on which it is permitted to tell a lie. In the above story, John decided to tell the truth at all cost. Based on this story, it is clearly evident how issues that concern morality and the outcomes of truth are raised. In addition, the reader can raise a number of questions concerning the sort and worth of the truth. Given the key point of the story is never to tell lies and always speak the truth, it is very important to understand the two key philosophical approaches to telling the truth namely; the deontology and utilitarianism.

In accordance with the philosophical approach namely deontology, people are supposed to speak the truth at all times, as telling lies is considered morally incorrect. According to deontology, individuals should do their duties despite what the end result might be. Thus in regards to telling lie and speaking the truth, deontology requires people to always speak the truth as it is believed that telling lies is morally not right. At the beginning of the story John begins by telling lies and later on vows always to speak the truth and his deeds satisfies deontology’s imperatives. Significantly, it is Immanuel Kant’s idea that telling lies undermines an individual’s moral value and causes other people to act differently for the reason that they have been refused access to the truth. In addition, Kant argued that individuals who have been caught in lies cannot be trusted since it is hard to tell if their speaking the truth or not. When john blurts out the entire truth, it is easier to believe him because of always telling the truth.

According to the principle of utility, individuals should always do what is necessary to reduce pain and unhappiness, though pain and unhappiness have numerous sources. There are instances when speaking the truth would make an individual unhappy. Why one therefore tells lies if he/she believes that it is the only way of sparing their feelings and avoid unhappiness? According to utilitarianism, an individual ought to balance the advantages and the disadvantages. If a lie can be good as compared to bad, then an individual ought to utter a lie. But if it does more damage than good, then one should speak the truth. Essentially, a utilitarian would evaluate the consequences and then come into a conclusion. In the case of John’s speaking the truth, a utilitarian would believe that he was in some cases morally incorrect for the reason that he hurt another’s feelings. But similarly, speaking the truth could be viewed as greater good that caring about another’s feelings. But what if an individual’s choice for greater good concerning telling lies is misinformed in a specific circumstance? Generally the utilitarian evaluates the faultlessness or erroneousness of doing something through assessing the end results caused by the action. If telling a specific lie produces a good outcome than telling the truth, then telling the lie is considered the best thing. Conversely, if telling a lie produces a bad outcome than speaking the truth, then telling a lie should be the worst thing to do. This has a specific rational appeal, though it is also quite unreasonable because it requires an individual to decide in advance the probable good and bad outcomes of a lie one is about to tell and weight out the good against the bad. This may be difficult to do for the reason that the end results are difficult to predict, weighing the good and bad is difficult, it requires an individual to equally value every person that is involved and not giving extra value to their personal desires and also it requires an individual to considerer the outcomes of telling a lie.

Between the utilitarianism and deontology, utilitarianism is more defensible than deontology because it emphasizes that individuals should guide their acts, at least most often, by a set of regulations, and it is such regulations that individuals should assess in accordance to their utility. Individuals ought to act in accordance with a set of moral regulations whose general adoption would be most likely to do the most good. Sticking to the right regulations would likely benefit everyone. Focusing on individual acts, it may appear that one might sometimes do good overall by harming the other, but according to utilitarianism, one should not look at the outcome of an individual’s act but the outcome of the general adoption of a regulation.

In conclusion, according to the principle of utility an act can be deemed to be comfortable if the tendency it has increases the contentment as compared to how it may reduce happiness. Individuals ought to act in accordance with a set of moral regulations whose general adoption would be most likely to do the most good.