a. Explain how Bentham’s version of utilitarianism may be used to decide on the right course of action
Jeremy Bentham created a theory to figure out the goodness of an act based upon how much pleasure of happiness the consequence of an act would bring. To decide on which action should be taken a person must consider which action would bring the most happiness. As such it is a consequentialist theory, one which is measured upon outcome alone and also a teleological theory as one which focuses upon the consequence of an action as opposed to the action itself. This theory became known as utilitarianism, though Bentham himself never called it this.
Such a focus on pleasure and pain is hedonistic, with the focus of avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure. Bentham believes that the correct action is the one which brings the most pleasure and least pain as a consequence. Bentham himself was a hedonist and therefore believed human beings were motivated by the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain – to him this was a moral fact, with pleasure as goodness and pain as badness or evil. Bentham’s motivation for his theory was this belief, that the most pleasurable act was the good one.
Bentham established that a good act should also be the greatest act for the greatest number, making his theory quantitative and also democratic. To Bentham the greatest act was the one which brought the most pleasure and which brought benefit to the majority of people. This was known as his ‘Principle of Utility’.
The ‘Principle of Utility’ was established after his decision that pleasure and pain were the greatest moral factors. This meant the correct course of action to take was either the most useful (‘utilis’ means ‘useful’) or how the one which brought the most pleasure with the least amount of pain possible, though he believed reason and law prevented this. The rightness or wrongness of an action was dependent on this and this required a way to calculate the pleasure and pain of...