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Limitations of Utilitarianism Essay (Critical Writing)


People’s highest moral actions are reflected in their deeds, and utilitarianism is one division of philosophy that tries to explain why people select certain actions over other and what should be done for the best outcome for all. Utilitarianism states that people must focus on the greater good for all people and maximize happiness in the process.

The most basic aspect is the utilization of the situation in such a way that everyone does not suffer and get the most out of actions of actors. The end results or consequences of actions is what matters, so people should make their selections very carefully. One of the most important criteria of utilitarianism is the balance between happiness and unhappiness.

If a certain action will bring less happiness, especially to the greater amount of people, then such action should be avoided at all costs. Utilitarianism bases itself on ethics and moral principles of highest order and even takes into consideration animals and the way people act towards them. There are many individuals who support this division of philosophy because it does not base itself on religion or any other power except a person, humanity and the greater good for people and other animals.

This is an important division because there are many instances where people are unnecessarily cruel to people and animals and so, utilitarians believe that it is wrong to bring pain to any living creature that can feel pain and suffer in the process. The highest ethical criteria define people’s actions and even though the situation matters and different conditions can be present, the end result stays the same and bases itself on most happiness.

In a moral dilemma of a trolley coming down the tracks without breaks, a person is presented with the choice to flip the switch and kill either five people or one. Most, would choose to flip the switch, so that one person is killed.

The reasoning is that the greater good would be to kill one person, as opposed to five because the happiness of five people is much greater than that of one. But at the same time, it is possible to speculate that one person might have a number of relatives or children that depend on them, so the greater happiness would be to kill five people because they are all single.

In case morality is taken into question, it can be asked whether one person has greater morality than that of other five. Maybe, it is the kindest person in the world and the good deeds that they have done and will do are going to be much greater than of the other five individuals. This situation presents a clear difficulty in making the right decision and the consequences are unknown, as there is no real way to predict and utilize knowledge, to figure out which choice is best.

This is one of the limitations of utilitarianism, as some situations are much harder to decide on. A far out possibility, would be for a person to rely on chance and start flipping the switch chaotically, so that the decision is made in a random order. But, this would not be according to the principle of the greater good, as the person does not make a conscious selection. Either way, it is better to strive towards more happiness than less.

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IvyPanda. (2019, May 25). Limitations of Utilitarianism. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/utilitarianism-4/

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"Limitations of Utilitarianism." IvyPanda, 25 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/utilitarianism-4/.

1. IvyPanda. "Limitations of Utilitarianism." May 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/utilitarianism-4/.


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IvyPanda. "Limitations of Utilitarianism." May 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/utilitarianism-4/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Limitations of Utilitarianism." May 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/utilitarianism-4/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Limitations of Utilitarianism'. 25 May.

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