Utilitarianism Essay, Research Paper
Utilitarianism is the ethical doctrine which essentially states that which is good is
that which brings about the most happiness to the most people. John Stuart Mill believed
that the decisions we make should always benefit the most people as much as possible
regardless of the consequences to the minority or even yourself. He would say all that
matters in the decision of right versus wrong is the amount of happiness produced by the
consequences. In the decisions we make Mill would say that we need to weigh the
outcomes and make our decision based on that outcome that benefits the majority. For
Mill, pleasure is the only desirable consequence of our decisions or actions.
The Judeo-Christian ethic embraced by Augustine places questions of right and
wrong under the authority of a divine creator – God. The Judeo-Christian ethic can be
summed up in one word – Love. In Matthew 22:40 Jesus says: “Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and
greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love you neighbor as yourself.”
When Augustine said, “Love God and do what you will”, I believe he is asserting the fact
that when a person loves God truly he or she is in God’s will. John 14:15 says, “If you
love me, you will obey what I command.” If a person obeys God which is loving God
and loving his creation then a person is in his will. The decisions made by a person in
God’s will are thus ethical decision in view of the fact that God is the ultimate moral
authority. To help his creation in determining right from wrong he has provided the
Bible. Although not every ethical question is covered in the Bible he has also given us
his Spirit for guidance.
Utilitarianism like the Judeo-Christian ethic is viewing others in a high regard.
Utilitarian desire the greatest happiness as an end and the Judeo-Christian perspective
seeks love and obedience to God. These two ethical systems seem to be similar in this
aspect of caring what happens to all people. Both Utilitarianism and the Judeo-Christian
ethic take the focus off the individual and place it on others.
The Utilitarian is aiming to bring about the greatest amount of happiness to the
greatest amount of people. The Judeo-Christian ethic is God-centered with the
commandment to truly love Him. This love places a person in his divine will. People
operating in this system are also called to love others as themselves. Being in God’s
divine will is the end by which love is the means. A person’s commitment is to God and
his divine will. On the other hand, in Utilitarianism a person’s commitment is to
Another point of variance lies in the meaning of love and happiness. For Mills,
happiness is the desired end regardless of the means. Thus there seems to be an absence
of standards by which the means to obtain happiness are judged. If ten people would
derive happiness by beating and robbing a man whose life affects no one, Utilitarianism
seems to deem this ethical. On the other hand, the Judeo-Christian perspective clearly
sets standards on actions. The commandment to love your neighbor as yourself dispels
such actions of beating and robbing others.
Love as a commandment doesn’t always necessarily mean happiness for the
greatest number of people. In the Judeo-Christian ethic discipline is often a part of
loving someone. In Mill’s ethics discipline is what may happen to the minority to
provide happiness for the majority. In the Judeo-Christian ethic discipline may involve
the majority such as in the case of God’s disciplinary actions on Israel.
In the process of forming a decision the Utilitarian must consciously weigh
outcomes for the greatest happiness. This system places ultimate morality on the
individual making the decision. This is in stark contrast to the moral authority found in
the Judeo-Christian ethics of God.