Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is a moral theory that has long been the subject of philosophical debate. This theory, when practiced, appears to set a very basic guideline to follow when one is faced with a moral dilemma. Fundamental Utilitarianism states that when a moral dilemma arises, one should take action that causes favorable results or reduces less favorable results. If these less favorable results, or pain, occur from this action, it can be justified if it is produced to prevent more pain or produce happiness. Stating the Utilitarian view can summarize these basic principles: ?the greatest good for the greatest number?. Utilitarians are to believe that if they follow this philosophy, that no matter what action they take, it will be the correct one if it achieves useful results. Williams says that utilitarianism can sometimes bring about undesirable outcomes because of the fact that it forces one to violate his/her convictions or ?lower-order projects? which in turn cannot account for integrity or ?coherently describe the relations between man?s projects and his actions
Utilitarianism contains many important characteristics, but Bernard Williams claims that integrity cannot be entered into the utilitarian debate. His reasoning is that ?each of us is specially responsible for what he does, rather than what other people do (Singer: 340).? A Utilitarian has ?the general project of bringing about the maximally desirable outcomes (Singer: 341).? The way one accomplishes this depends on which variables or ?casual levers? are attainable at that point in time (Singer: 341). In other words, the way one acts or reacts to certain situations that may occur is in effect towards the collective good. This reasoning would be true if one?s only project is to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number; but what about personal beliefs or desires for oneself? Utilitarianism would say that the more ?basic or lower-order projects? that comprise of these desires such as family and friends, are unimportant and detract from ?higher-order project? of maximizing desirable outcomes (Singer: 341). The result of this reasoning would mean that all ?lower-order projects? would have only the purpose of satisfying ?higher-order projects.? This would make one?s only goal in life to make other people happy which is not the only cause for one?s own happiness. An individual?s happiness is also related to a varying range of projects or pursuits of interest of ?lower-order projects.?
Integrity is a very important issue that is often overlooked by Utilitarians. This is often the case because integrity is closely related to ?lower-order projects.? If an individual did not have any integrity, he/she would a unfulfilling and boring life. Williams says that ?happiness, rather, requires being involved in, or at least content with, something else (Singer: 342).? These ?lower-order projects? are the defining characteristics of an individuals? existence and allow one to achieve personal happiness.
?If such commitments are worth while, then pursuing the projects that flow from them, and realizing some of those projects, will make the person for whom they are worth while, happy (Singer: 342).?

The examples that Williams? uses, shows us how two characters are faced with a dilemma that they are reluctant to address. Jim and George have to make a choice: to participate in an immoral action or to let someone else do it in a way that will bring about much more harm. What if Jim?s whole life was devoted to peace and non-violence? Should Jim shoot the Indian to save nineteen others? Utilitarianism would say that Jim should shoot the Indian, for this promotes the greatest good for the greatest number. I believe that this would be too great of a violation of Jim?s life defining project or belief. It would be too much to ask of him to lose his integrity for the sake of the greater good. The utility of all the saved people would not outweigh Jim?s possible psychological strain from killing the Indian. Another similar example could be if a run-away bus driver (and a member of Amnesty international) had to make the choice of taking one route that would kill one person on the road or take another route that would kill five people. What route should he choose? It would seem that again Utilitarianism would go against his ?lower-order projects? or fundamental belief.
A different view along the same ideas would be if Jim were a mercenary for whom killing is a part of life. It would probably be the right thing if he killed the one Indian to save the others. He would not suffer from a loss of integrity because his ?lower-order projects? are not that of non-violence. What if the bus driver did not value human life? He probably would not think twice about taking the route with just one person in the way. It seems to me that the determining factor is what each individual holds as an integral fundamental belief in his/her life. If I were to be placed in the situation of Jim, I would definitely not be able to kill an innocent man. My reason for this is because I personally hold the value of human life very high on my list of values. The effects of my shooting the Indian would cause much mental and physical anguish. At the same time

The Utilitarian view on these examples would be that Jim would have to be prepared to sacrifice his integrity for the lives of the others. He would no doubtedly feel bad about killing an innocent man, (and could possibly not be able to actually do it) but it must be done for the greater good.

Utilitarianism 7.1 of 10 on the basis of 1780 Review.