How does Utilitarianism seek to establish, once and for all, the difference between "morally right" and "morally wrong" actions? What are the difficulties that arise from their definition?.
Unlike many approaches which try to define morality, the philosophers of utilitarianism believe that morality is not about things such as pleasing God or following rules, they merely believe morality is about happiness.
There were two philosophers who revolutionised utilitarianism, these were Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill and they believed that there was one ultimate moral principle, which was named "the Principle of Utility". This principle set out that whenever we have a choice between two different actions we must chose the action which would create the most happiness. The "morally right" thing to do is chose the action which will create the most happiness. Followers of utilitarianism believe that the key feature of morality was to maximise happiness and minimise unhappiness within the world. Utilitarianism takes a consequentialist view in which all that matters is the consequences of people's actions and whether they produce happiness. The utilitarian theorist, John Stuart Mill commented, "The utilitarian doctrine is that happiness is desirable, as an end; all other things being desirable as a means to that end ". This may seem that utilitarians are consenting to people doing whatever they want in order for them to gain individual happiness and may seem like a rather selfish idea, but that is not the case. The Utilitarian approach believes that we should aim at achieving the greatest happiness possible, not for the individual but for everyone. We should only count ourselves as a link in a chain and we should aim to make everyone happy, not just ourselves. Utilitarians believe that happiness and pleasure have intrinsic value and we should be aiming for the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, making this theory far from selfish.