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Utilitarianism and Justice

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Contemporary Moral Principles


        This moral principle emphasizes a great balance of good over bad. As to the “Greatest Happiness Principle”, the sole basis of every action whether right or wrong depends if it promotes more happiness than harm, if its purpose is to bring pleasure and appreciate the absence of pain. Essentially, the happiness of one is as significant as the happiness of the whole. Morality is more than just pleasing God and doing good, it should bring out the most happiness in the world. The following are the three stages of Utilitarianism:

  1. Principle of Utility: Actions should be based on the core of happiness; promoting the optimum advantage of good against evil.
  2. Pleasure Principle: Good and evil are two extremes that can be easily identified, Utilitarians believed that good is pleasure. Each person’s action should accentuate the optimum advantage of pleasure over pain.
  3. Maximization Principle: this principle stresses that pleasure should be taken full advantage of the greatest number of people and not by few. The action that we have to perform should be inconsideration to the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

Happiness should not be sought for the sake of “being good” instead it is a response that we acknowledge morality more than doing good and also bringing utmost happiness in the world. Consequences are not all the matter because more than that is required to determine the morality of an action or decision.

Two Early Formulations:

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832): Quantity over Quality- the principle of utilitarianism set forth a criterion to approve and disapprove every action. This criterion is based on the inclination of promoting or opposing happiness.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873): Quality over Quantity- pleasure principle is qualitatively desirable to only select members of the whole. Moral Superiority, a second factor introduced by Mill means that the quality of pleasure is essential over the quantity pursued because pleasure by any means is subjective.        

Justice as Fairness

        According John Rawls, a rational person has the ability to rationally reflect what constitutes his good, thus a rational community must decide what is to count as just and unjust. The original position of equality- in justice as fairness parallels to the social contract of the traditional state of nature. It is a mere aboriginal condition of culture. Original position features a specific task to reach an agreement that harmonize the basic structure of society and are regarded as choosing behind a “veil of ignorance”.

        The veil of ignorance asserts the idea of impartiality, a significant part of justice as fairness.  Two things are viewed in this assumption: first, talents and abilities in relation to its place in the society; second, notion of the value of life.

Two principles of Justice:

  1. Everyone has the equal right to equal basic liberties for all.
  2. Social and economic imbalances are to be positioned based on (a) to be off everyone’s advantage and (b) devoted to positions and offices open to all.

The second principle is also known as the “Difference Principle”. Inequalities socially and economically are acceptable only so long as it is beneficial. Rawls argued that a person determined through his educational attainment, social structure, talents and abilities is equally unjust. The difference principle sets a best way in treating those less in the distribution of abilities by permitting inequalities that is advantageous to them.



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