SRA is a consists of a page of summary of the topic of a class meeting plus a page of commentary. You can use any class meeting for this assignment.
What’s Wrong With Utilitarianism?
The ethical theory of Utilitarianism is perhaps the main pillar of the British Enlightenment, which included a closely associated package of core theories including Psychological Egoism and Hedonism, as well as theories derived from all of the above, such as Capitalism. The close association of these core theories is by and large not, as I have emphasized, logical, but accidental in nature. Nonetheless, it is even today difficult to find a Utilitarian who is not also a Hedonist. Nonetheless, a proper critique of Utilitarianism per se should ignore its accidental association with Hedonism; the two ought to be evaluated each on its own merits: Hedonism as a theory of Metaethics, and Utilitarianism as a theory of Normative Ethics. For this reason, I shall ignore further mention of Hedonism in this paper and shall treat the term ‘utility’ as denoting net good and not necessarily net balance of pleasure over pain.
Typical of Enlightenment theories, Utilitarianism has a built-in flexibility which allows it to absorb much criticism without being dealt a fatal blow. I will go over some of the classical criticisms and their rebuttals before discussing what I consider to be Utilitarianism’s fatal flaw: its inability to countenance inestimable values.
Whereas Metaethics is focused on the task of defining goodness, Normative Ethics is famously trained on the question: What makes right acts right? The following logical relationships between the concepts of rightness, wrongness, and obligatoriness suffice to extend the import of this question to all three, where p is any act:
that p is wrong means that p is not right.
that p is wrong means that it is obligatory not to do p.
that p is obligatory means that p is the only right thing to do.
Thus, as we directly depend on Utilitarianism to give us the criterion of right action, we extend its domain to the other normative terms as well by means of the above.