I’m personally not a utilitarian but this is a (
hopefully) unbiased answer to my essay question; “Utilitarianism has no serious weaknesses - Discuss”
Utilitarianism is progressive and argues that, if implemented, the world would be a better place.
The most fundamental challenge to Utilitarianism’s argument comes from its claim that only one factor to be considered in deciding on the right or wrong in an action is the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number, it then therefore ignores the plight of minority groups – why is it that the minority should feel unhappy in order for the majority to be happy, is it fair?
Utility seeks for justice and is in essence a simple idea which is easily understood and therefore possible for everyone to use, however justice requires that people to be treated fairly, each person should be treated according to their needs. This then contradicts the premise as in theory is not a simple idea if applied as it must cater to all, which is extremely difficult to do while keeping moral order.
The principle of human rights also conflicts the idea of utility as it can be seen to provide grounds that deny rights such as freedom of speech, right of assembly and even life itself; in the argument proposed by Margaret Thatcher in defence of General Pinochet when he was placed under house arrest pending trial for crimes against humanity, She argues that his alleged actions (such as the torture of journalists and the disappearances of dissidents) were to secure the stability of Chile – the atrocities served a greater good.
Thus, the killing of innocent people was then justified – Utilitarianism seems to ignore the idea of self-sacrifice as a moral virtue yet, at the same time, it tolerates the sacrifice of individuals for common good.
In a day and age when religion is becoming more and more set aside when it comes to Law, Utilitarianism does not rely on what many see as out of date religious basis for morality, England is a Utilitarian state therefore its Laws are not made according to Christian belief but rather to a more ‘universal’ approach. However, there is a question of whether it is truly possible to set Laws that are universal due to the great scale in difference of opinion on matters. (Such as abortion)
It takes into account other sentient beings such besides humans including animals and their pleasures, although the killing of animals is justified as they feed the greater people in order to survive – people question why animals should be considered, as humans are seen as superior.
When applied Utilitarianism is extremely flawed; if ten rapists were to rape the same women one might conclude that such an action is morally justified on the basis that the pleasure of the rapists altogether would outweigh the pain of their victim.
Nothing is right or wrong in itself for a utilitarian, nothing; as it all depends on the consequences of the act, the results are what matters as they set the universal precedent.