James Rachels: The Debate over Utilitarianism

March 2, 2009

Book: Contemporary Moral Problems by James E. White (7th Edition)

Library Reference: N/A

Amazon Reference:


Quote: “The utilitarian doctrine is that happiness is desirable, and the only thing desirable, as an end; all other things being desirable as means to that end”


This chapter talked about the propositions declared by the author, James Rachels, about his debate over utilitarianism:

The first proposition is when we judge our actions base on what we know is right and wrong. Hedonism is about pleasure and nothing is bad when your action is came from pleasure because you just satisfying your needs as a human being. “The respond of the defenders of utilitarianism to hedonism is their two doctrines the good and the right.”

Second proposition is when we think about the consequence of our action after we judge it and thus making the right actions the greatest producers of balance of happiness over unhappiness. “Utilitarianism is about pleasure but what is good and right pleasure in a human being to have.”

Third proposition is calculating the happiness and unhappiness that we felt after our action. Justice, rights, and promises are being done because they don’t want to have scandals and riots. In short justice, rights, and promises are done to have peace and order in the society. “The act utilitarian considers the consequences of the act while the rule utilitarian considers the consequences that result of a rule of conduct. Utilitarianism reply to the objections by analyzing first the problem, then judge whether that action is right or not before thinking the consequence to the action made.”

What I’ve learned:

· What is utilitarianism

· Take considerations first before doing an action

· Utilities are not compulsory to live in this world


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