What are the merits and demerits of utilitarianism.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To me, the major merit of utilitarianism is the fact that it can be applied without regard to the moral system that is present in a given culture or society.  In other words, if we say that morality is measured by regard for human rights, for example, we are imposing...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

To me, the major merit of utilitarianism is the fact that it can be applied without regard to the moral system that is present in a given culture or society.  In other words, if we say that morality is measured by regard for human rights, for example, we are imposing our own system of values.  By contrast, utilitarianism looks at people's own perceptions of their happiness.

I would also say that this philosophy is good because it takes into account the actual impacts of actions.

However, a major demerit of this is that it does not focus at all on the motives a person has for performing a given action.  It seems hard to me to accept that an action taken for a bad reason can be good just because it brings happiness to a large number of people.  I also think this allows for very immoral actions to be done against small numbers of people so long as large numbers of people approve.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team