Utilitarianism Theory: Applications and Issues

What you have learned concerning the theory

A welfarist philosophy is largely presumed or applied in utilitarianism theory. In other words, it is necessary to have a thorough grasp of the welfarist theory before applying the principle of utilitarianism. This implies that that the theory of utilitarianism is constructed using the key tenets derived from the welfarist principle. These include welfarism, consequentialism, consumer sovereignty and utility maximization (Singer, 2011). The latter exemplifies the fact that individuals have their own freedom to make choices. However, the moralities of such choices are not addressed by the utility of maximization. On the other hand, consumer sovereignty states that individual welfare is appropriately judged by consumers (Bentham, 2012).

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If everyone receives the maximum benefit out of a given course of action, then there is no problem at all. Hence, the balance between benefits and harms is weighed keenly according to the utilitarian theory. So long as the anticipated benefits outweigh the harms, the utilitarianism theory is applied. Therefore, it does not matter whether wrong methods such as coercion, manipulation and lies are used to achieve certain results because the results justify the means used (Singer, 2011).

The course of action that is morally right is directly offered by the theory of utilitarianism. There are a number of everyday situations handled or addressed using this theory even though individuals applying the principle may not be aware whether they are using it. In order to evaluate the right course of action, we need to assess the various available options. Most importantly, the overall outcomes of our actions are used to determine the nature of decisions we adopt. Hence, all the foreseeable negative and positive outcomes of our actions should be critically judged before final choices are made. Eventually, the line of action that generates the greatest positive results is chosen over the one that is apparently harmful (Bentham, 2012).

The theory of utilitarianism has been modified over the years with the aim of applying its multiple versions. For instance, pleasure and pain were once used to relate the aspects of benefits and harms. During the 19th century, pleasure and pain were the main terms used to relate the principle of utilitarianism. Pains and pleasure were also discussed in terms of their quality or intensity in order to derive the intended meaning. As it stands now, pure economic terms are used to explain the theory of utilitarianism. For example, concepts such as personal tastes and preferences are used to denote the theory of utilitarianism in contemporary applications of the concept (Bentham, 2012).

The nature of questions asked before ethical decisions are made has been a major area of controversy among utilitarians. A number of individuals who believe in the theory of utilitarianism argue that the issue of evil and good should be considered before any ethical decisions are made. On the other hand, ‘rule utilitarians’ posit that the best consequences should be considered in the process of making ethical decisions (Bentham, 2012).

Your personal position concerning the theory

Although the theory of utilitarianism appears to be relevant or applicable in most daily situations, there are deep underlying challenges associated with the concept. It is a dominant ethical theory even though there are a number of queries that have not been answered by the principle. It is vital to mention that the anticipated harms and benefits should be assigned specific values according to the theory of utilitarianism.

The values should be related to the course of actions taken by individuals. Thereafter, a comparison is created between the adopted actions and those that have been ignored. Nonetheless, this process is often not as easy as it may sound. In some instances, it has proven to be impossible to strike a balance between benefits and harms. The measurement and comparison of certain values are quite cumbersome. In other terms, the process of undertaking a cost-benefit analysis before an ethical decision is made can be a complicated affair and therefore not practical in nature. For example, it is not possible to attach a specific value to aspects such as art and life. Worse still, the values attached to money and life can hardly be compared bearing in mind that life is an abstract and extremely precious commodity that cannot be equated in monetary terms. Other values that cannot be compared to money include the dignity of humanity and aspect of time.

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In addition, it may almost be impossible to fully account for our actions or be certain about them. The consequences of our actions may yield any results (beneficial or harmful). It is dubious to argue that we are in a position to assess and project the harms and benefits associated with our actions.

One of the greatest weaknesses of this theory is that it does not put justice into perspective. The theory provides a broad way to violate rights and privileges of some people so long as benefits are generated in the process of decision making. The theory can be used to propagate injustice in society due to the anticipated benefits. I suppose that justice should be the hallmark of any type of ethical theory.

If considerations of justice are put into account when making moral decisions, then there must be other strategic and viable ethical theories that can be used to make valid decisions. The main assumption is that the utilitarianism theory is the sole guiding principle for making ethical verdicts. As already pointed out in the first section of this paper, utilitarianism theory is a mere subset of welfarsim. Nevertheless, it can still be applied in making relevant decisions if sufficient caution is put in place.

On a final note, the theory of utilitarianism demonstrates two major strengths in its application. First, we need to consider both the current and future outcomes of our actions before we make any decisions. This appears to be a crucial ingredient in any ethical decision process. Second, the theory puts into account the common good for most of the affected people. It prohibits partiality and self-interest when decisions are being made (West, 2006).

Why you chose that particular theory

To begin with, I chose this theory because it is a popular principle that has been well documented in written literature. Most readers can easily identify with the theory and also develop pro or counter arguments against it. The popular nature of the theory has made it possible for the audience to evaluate it in details. It is interesting to mention that the utilitarian theory is broad and regularly applied in various life situations. Hence, there is adequate information on the theory especially for research and evaluation purposes.

Moreover, the theory presents a controversial perspective in some of its considerations. Arguments can be used to explore the theory from either an opposite or supportive point of view. In the above discussions, it is evident that the theory can be approached from both dimensions. Hence, it offers an ample discussion platform for both the researcher and the targeted audience. Alternatively, we can argue that the theory is open-ended and therefore not restrictive at all.

The theory was also chosen because it has vastly evolved over a long period. Its provisions and key tenets have been fully tested. Better still, the weaknesses and strengths of the theory have been identified and known over the years. A newly developed theory might not be suitable for a serious academic discussion of this magnitude. It is often necessary to navigate theories that have passed the test of time. Besides, there are myriads of both empirical and theoretical research studies that have been conducted on the utilitarian theory. As a matter of fact, all the counter arguments raised from this ethical principle are within the confines of rigorous sociological research studies.

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Besides, I opted for this theory because its basic application principles are common in daily life scenarios. We all face circumstances that demand decisions to be made. However, before we make such decisions, it is vital to weigh both the immediate and long term consequences. Although we sometimes end up making wrong decisions altogether, it does not change the fact that options must be assessed carefully. The practical nature of the utilitarian theory makes it one of the most valid ethical decision making tools. On a final note, the weaknesses evident in this theory tend to depict our true nature as human beings since we are not flawless. Character perfection is also impossible.


Bentham, J. (2012). Utilitarianism. New York: Nabu Press. Web.

Singer, P. (2011). Practical Ethics, Third Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Web.

West, H. (2006). The Blackwell Guide to Mill’s Utilitarianism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Web.

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1. StudyCorgi. "Utilitarianism Theory: Applications and Issues." January 11, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/utilitarianism-theory-applications-and-issues/.


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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Utilitarianism Theory: Applications and Issues." January 11, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/utilitarianism-theory-applications-and-issues/.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Utilitarianism Theory: Applications and Issues'. 11 January.

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