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Utilitarianism: Principle Based and Virtue Ethics

            We are all born in this world with what can be described as an intuitive sense of what's considered 'right' and 'wrong' however philosophers have much to offer about the nature of these two divisions. There are many proposed theories that provide a basis, explanation and possible guide for our ethical reasoning. Utilitarianism and Kant's philosophy of principle, duty-based ethics and virtue ethics represent three different interpretations and theories however virtue ethics offers more as a basis for living a good ethical life. Utilitarianism, a conception of morality developed primarily by Jeremy Bentham, James Mill and his son John Stuart Mill attempts to bring back personal inclinations and interests into moral consideration. 1 It is based upon a form of hedonism, an ethical doctrine implying that the ultimate good is pleasure and what has pleasurable consequences and that the pursuit of pleasure in itself is what can be considered the 'highest good' and proper aim for human life. While traditional hedonism is concerned only with one's personal pleasure, utilitarianism is concerned with pleasure in general- both one's own pleasure and the pleasure of other people.2 The phrase "the greatest good for the greatest number" is used to summarise the utilitarian theory revolving around a desire to return morality to the search for a individually satisfying or pleasurable life while often sacrificing short term pleasures for more lasting or "greater" pleasures. Jeremy Bentham, father of the utilitarianism ethical position developed the 'principle of utility' to reinforce the central theme for utilitarianism which says that any individual should act to ultimately produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Although pleasure seeking and acting in the interests of others is a nice concept, utilitarianism has many downfalls.

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