Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Utilitarianism and Moral Fibre

It would be fair to state that if morals were not to exist then many more people would be utilitarian. It is not fair however to say that because someone is a utilitarian they are lacking moral fibre. The principles of utilitarianism seem sound so long as the question of morals is avoided. Sometimes it can be better to do wrong to bring happiness. McCloskey gives an example of a sheriff who frames and executes and innocent man in order to prevent a riot in his town that would almost certainly kill thousands. The utilitarian view would be that the sheriff would be justifible in his actions supposing that he has enough empirical evidence to keep his actions quiet and prevent distrust of the law which would almost certainly cause serious social disorder. One person will be sacrificed to save many other lives, which will bring happiness to the community. The sheriff in this example will be seen as an evil and dangerous man but utilitarianism would suggest otherwise. The sheriff could be seen to be in touch with his morals. By doing bad he is doing good which takes a strong man. To simply state that utilitarians lack moral fibre is wrong. If the sheriff had no morals he would think soley of himself and not of the thousands of people who could potentially die. In an example such as this the utilitarian approach, although difficult to accept, is in my eyes the right decision. It may be a cruel decision to execute an innocent man but it must be done to ensure the happiness of thousands of others. Political morality is a tricky subject as the decisions in politics affects many many people. There are times when cruelty has to occur before happiness and however difficult that is to accept the utilitarian mindset helps decision makers make these cruel-to-be-kind decisions.

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