In Defense of Utilitarianism
17 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2010
Date Written: June 1, 2009
This paper argues that people from all walks of life are required to make ethical decisions. Assessing the consequences of what we decide provides us with a workable method of reaching an answer – by deciding whether the consequences are good or bad. The decisions we make in the institutions that organise our lives – be it the workplace, our professional lives, in our industry associations or our social or public structures are often complex, difficult to choose between conflicting alternatives, between good or bad consequences. Most people have little or no training in moral decision making. This paper argues that utility is more likely to provide a defendable response. But utilitarianism has been attacked on many fronts, and by renowned philosophers. The paper refutes these attacks, further arguing that the version of utilitarianism set out by John Stuart Mill provides a simpler, preferable way to make an ethical choice than competing theories, particularly deontology and virtue. The principles that he sets out, readily identifiable in his text: Encourage happiness; Do good; Minimise pain; Do no harm; Ensure justice; Respect individuals and their freedoms, will not answer all issues. But they will, with some weighing of utilities, bring greater rationality into our ethical decisions.
Keywords: Ethics, business ethics, decision making, utlitarianism, JS Mill
JEL Classification: I20, M14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation