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Utilitarianism and Social Contract Theories Essay

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Updated: Mar 19th, 2020

The society should be the judge of happiness or harms, and establish ways of ensuring people enjoy their lives. Utilitarianism is a belief advanced by many scholars, including John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. It emphasizes on the need for more people to be happy even if a minority will suffer in the process of pursuing this happiness (Kaswan 11).

It is a one sided approach to issues of morality, governance, economy and politics; therefore, it focuses on how individuals can maximize happiness and reduce suffering. Therefore, the society is the judge to define happiness or harms by regulating human behavior to conform to its requirements.

Individuals can also be judges of happiness and harms if they agree to stop doing things that cause suffering. Thomas Hobbes discussed the Social Contract Theory by referring to ancient societies and individuals as primitive, arrogant, disorderly and poor. Therefore, individuals had to make consensus to cede part of their rights so that they could protect their lives.

This gives individuals the power to decide what is good or bad for them; therefore, it makes them judges to define happiness or harms. This theory is based on agreements that Hobbes refers to them as contracts that give institutions and individuals legitimacy to rule others (Rachels and Rachels 31).

In addition, these contracts enable people to draw boundaries between their happiness and the rights of others. Individuals can establish institutions like courts and security departments to ensure the rights of different groups are protected.

The second difference between Utilitarianism and Social Contract Theory is that the former does not designate boundaries between harms and benefits and supports individuals to use unorthodox ways to pursuit happiness. This notion promotes the suffering of individuals that have limited resources to defend their rights from abuse.

Financial resources, civic awareness and the will to fight for each others’ rights drives people to seek the company of those they share similar predicaments.

Unfortunately, there is limited information about the limits of the rights of individuals and this makes most people abuse the freedoms of others. Individuals have rights and freedoms that should be protected from abuse; therefore, they have the right to define happiness or harms in the society (Hampton 19).

Utilitarianism gives people the right to pursuit happiness regardless of the consequences of their actions. Therefore, it does not impose restrictions and limits on human behavior and this makes people violate the rights of others when pursuing happiness.

On the other hand, the Social Contract Theory states that people should strive to protect their rights at all costs; moreover, he highlights the importance of sacrifice in ensuring that individuals enjoy their freedoms after agreeing with others on how this should be done (Rousseau 68). Hobbes’ theory identifies boundaries that limit human behavior and ensure people do not abuse the rights of others when pursuing their happiness.

Utilitarianism is an expanse approach of achieving pleasure while Social Contract Theory places boundaries between happiness and the means of attaining it.

Hobbes claims that societies and governments were formed when individuals identified their rights and marked boundaries that showed the degree to which a person can enjoy his freedom (Kaswan 16). However, utilitarianism allows individuals to do what they want if it gives them happiness. This approach promotes conflicts in the society and exposes marginalized groups to cycles of poverty.

Moreover, it is not right to make people suffer so that some individuals can benefit. In addition, it is not right for a small group to suffer so that many people can become happy. Utilitarianism supports the interests of huge crowds and ignores the importance of equal distribution of resources among individuals. It supports the belief and practice of subjecting minority groups to pain so that most people can benefit.

This belief promotes the notion that most people should be happy even if this means that some individuals must surrender their rights (Hampton 56).

This justifies the act of subjecting people to suffering so that others can be happy. Happiness in the society should be celebrated when everybody has what he needs and not what he wants; therefore, it is not right to have a hundred rich people and a million beggars. The happiness of a small crowd and the suffering of most people makes this theory an ineffective way of achieving social order in the society (Rachels and Rachels 59).

On the other hand, Hobbes believed that social order is achieved when all people surrender their rights to their governments. This means that they become unhappy because they sacrifice their freedoms to ensure everybody is happy. Social order and agreements in the society are supported by the need to ensure there is equality and respect for human life. Nobody will suffer more than the other because people will surrender their rights to the state.

In addition, everybody will be happy and satisfied with states’ regulations because they will be fair, just and treat all members as equals (Rousseau 77). Social contract ensures people surrender part of their rights to an agreed authority and this means that no groups will be marginalized or exposed to suffering while others benefit in the process of sacrificing their freedoms.

Utilitarianism focuses on maximizing happiness and reducing the suffering of majority groups by subjecting others to pain. Hobbes refutes this argument and presents that individuals have inalienable rights and that nobody can take away their freedom regardless of their social, economic or political status (Kaswan 21). This means that nobody is justified to make others suffer so that he can be happy.

Lastly, religious organizations can also define happiness or harms based on their understanding of humanity and aspects that determine the success of brotherhood in the society. Humanity is an important aspect of human life and nobody should violate the rights of others when pursuing happiness.

The need to make life bearable should not negate the importance of promoting equality, justice and the promotion of human dignity. Utilitarianism ignores the need of human beings to live full lives and focuses on the importance of satisfying the desires of a few people. This makes human beings to be like animals that focus on satisfying their needs and ignore the importance of sharing resources and living with others in harmony (Hampton 78).

On the other hand, Hobbes’ theory explains that human beings must unite to ensure they promote their rights and aim at achieving their objectives. Hobbes considered all societies equal and that the needs of individuals are similar; therefore, he proposed the need for people to make agreements and ensure they adopt similar principles to guide their behavior.

This theory focuses on improving human life through the promotion of equality, justice and respect for the rights. He claims that Utilitarianism violates the rights of small groups because it grants favors to the majority and allows them to pursue happiness even if this will inflict pain on others (Rousseau 81).

Works Cited

Hampton, Jean. Hobbes and the Social Contract Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.

Kaswan, Mark. Happiness, Democracy, and the Cooperative Movement: The Radical Utilitarianism of William Thompson, New York: State University of New York Press, 2014. Print.

Rachels, James and Stuart Rachels. Problems from Philosophy, New York: McGraw- Hill, 2011. Print.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract, Confessions, Emile, and Other Essays, London: Halcyon Press, 2009. Print.

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