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How Is the “Greatest Happiness Principle” Supposed to Be Useful in Determining What I Ought to Do? Essay


All people live according to various principles. Some people follow one specific principle, others refer to various life principles depending on situation. It is possible to judge each of the existing principles from the point of view of correctness and morality.

Considering the greatest happiness principle as the main idea I ought to live in accordance with, it is essential for me to consider all pros and cons of this principle, to refer to the usefulness for of this issue and to consider the harm which may be caused.

The main idea of the greatest happiness principle is that “one should always act in each way as to bring about the greatest amount of happiness possible for those who are affected by one’s actions” (Hamilton 67).

Therefore, the main idea of the greatest happiness principle is to make sure that more people are satisfied, however, the volume of the satisfaction is not discussed as well as the level of harm caused by other people who are not involved in the majority of those who are happy.

The reference to the greatest happiness principle is supposed to be useful in determination of personal actions as it brings pleasure to the greater number of people, this principle supports general ethical and moral living rules and it is aimed at improving social situation in the whole world.

Bringing pleasure to those who are involved into action is one of the main reasons why people are to act in accordance with such statement.

When people perform some tasks and their main purpose is to please all those who are involved into the action, people work for their personal benefit, therefore, the final outcome is completed with the highest quality.

Moreover, having been satisfied with the outcome, people are satisfied with the process of their work, as a result, the general well-being of people is improved. Making a greater number of people happier, moral and ethical rules are followed as it is hardly possible to make others happy while violating personal values.

Finally, it is essential to consider social improvement in the whole world as a result of following the greatest happiness principle. When the final purpose of an action is satisfaction of personal needs and making a person happy, a well-being of a concrete personality is increased.

Therefore, the general social improvement may be seen. Thus, acting in accordance with the greatest happiness principle, we act for the benefit of the world society.

The greatest happiness principle is an effective life principle. Living for the personal benefit and trying to satisfy the needs of others while making those happy we contribute to the social well-being.

There are a lot of examples when making better for ourselves, we contribute to the greatest happiness of others (Burns 53). Let’s consider a care for children in schools and kindergartens as an example.

Working in such establishments, we perform our work in a quality way to get the higher salary. Moreover, we work for the benefit of children, therefore, we are interested in making them happy.

Thus, being happy, children come home and make happy their parents as when children are satisfied with everything, there is nothing greater in the world.

However, there are some objections to the greatest happiness principle. First, the pragmatic objection states that following this principle we are aware of the final outcome of the happiness and, therefore, we know what happiness is.

This is impossible as making some actions which are good for others, we may harm another person. The outcome of the action cannot be the same for all people and even when the intentions are the best ones, one person may be harmed.

Second, the moral objection states that happiness is a mere pleasure and cannot be valued. Speaking about the pleasure committed in favor of one particular aspect, pleasure may spoil a person, making him/her desire more and more pleasure which does not bring any real value (Veenhoven 2).

To understand the negative effect of the greatest happiness principle, the following example may be considered. Let’s imagine the situation when a crime was committed, a very cruel and severe.

After some time has passed, the criminal is found. The society is satisfied and these people have a desire to revenge. However, additional investigation shows that this person is not guilty.

A police officer is to make a decision whether to satisfy the desire for happiness of all people and to release a person, or to keep him/her is a jail until the society calms down. In this case, a police officer acts controversially to the desire of the majority of people to be happy.

This is exactly the reason why the greatest principle of happiness cannot be applied to all the cases. The happiness of the vast majority of people should be measured with the effect which may be caused to others.

Works Cited

Burns, J. H. “Happiness and Utility: Jeremy Bentham’s Equation.” Utilitas 17.1 (2005): 46-61. Print.

Hamilton, Christopher. Understanding Philosophy for AS Level AQA. Nelson Thornes, 2003. Print.

Veenhoven, Ruut. “Happiness as an aim in public policy.” In Alex Linley and Stephen Joseph. Positive Psychology in Practice. 1-11. John Wiley and Sons, Inc, 2004. Print.

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"How Is the “Greatest Happiness Principle” Supposed to Be Useful in Determining What I Ought to Do?" IvyPanda, 9 Apr. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/how-is-the-greatest-happiness-principle-supposed-to-be-useful-in-determining-what-i-ought-to-do/.

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IvyPanda. "How Is the “Greatest Happiness Principle” Supposed to Be Useful in Determining What I Ought to Do?" April 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-is-the-greatest-happiness-principle-supposed-to-be-useful-in-determining-what-i-ought-to-do/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "How Is the “Greatest Happiness Principle” Supposed to Be Useful in Determining What I Ought to Do?" April 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-is-the-greatest-happiness-principle-supposed-to-be-useful-in-determining-what-i-ought-to-do/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'How Is the “Greatest Happiness Principle” Supposed to Be Useful in Determining What I Ought to Do'. 9 April.

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