Explain how Utilitarianism might use the hedonic calculus in making moral decisions

Utilitarianism is a non religious ethic, and is based on the greatest good for the greatest number and takes into account the greatest happiness principle. Jeremy Bentham put forward the idea of Utilitarianism and the “Principle of Utility”, this is the rule where a decision regarding wether an action is good or bad is based upon the results they produce. He took many things into account such as the end results of the action (“Telological”), the results of the action (“Consequentalists”), and He also argued that the “Hedonistic” value of any human action is easily calculated by considering how intensely its pleasure is felt, how long that pleasure lasts, how certainly and how quickly it follows upon the performance of the action, and how likely it is to produce happiness.

Bentham devised a “Hedonic Calculus” which considered all these areas when attempting to decide whether an action was ‘good’ or ‘bad’. For example, if an ethical issue was taken into account the Hedonic Calculus would somewhat help in obtaining an answer or action to be done. For arguments sake, I used the issue of “Britain’s first cancer-free designer baby born after being screened for deadly gene”.

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Once it became known that this child would inherit the cancer gene the baby was genertically screened. Her parents were said to be ‘delighted’ at the birth of their first child, which they hope will break the chain of cancer misery that has haunted the family. The family of the baby all suffered from the disease, passed down through the generations, Any daughter born with the gene has a 50 per cent to 85 per cent chance of developing breast cancer.

The child was born over the Christmas period to her London-based parents, who have asked not to be identified. The baby was created when doctors at University College Hospital used IVF techniques to harvest 11 embryos. Six of these were found to contain the cancer gene, and were discarded. Three others were discarded for other abnormalities. The remaining two were implanted in the womb, one of which led to pregnancy and the birth of this familys daughter. Applying the Hedonic Calculus would be useful in this ethical issue of weather to genetically screen the embryos to eliminate the cancerous gene.

The first step is questioning the “Duration” of the happpiness, which asks weather the happiness will last long term or short term. In this specific case, the happines will be long term and life long as the baby does not have the cancer gene and therfore will not develop the disease herself or pass it on through future generations.

The second step regards the “Remotenes”, and asks how soon will the happiness occur. The happiness in this case will be almost immediently as soon as the baby is “Purity” is another factor which considers wether an action will produce any un-happiness in the future. By erasing the cancerous gene it will produce happiness in the future but only to an extent, as the newborn child may still develop deadly or harmfull conditions/diseases in the future.

So although it will produce some happiness in the future it is not 100%. “Richness” is similar as it raises the question of will it produce more happiness in the future, in this case it will as the family can be reassured that their child will not be disgnosed with breast cancer in the future and wont pass it on to future generations.

“Intenisty” is also considered, this regards how great the happiness of an action will be, so in this case by erasing the cancer gene how much happiness will it produce. By doing this the intensity of the happiness would be massive as there is no longer any fear of the cancerous gene in the babys life and by genetically screening the embryos and selecting ones without health concerns means that the happiness will be huge. Also the intensity of happiness increases as it is clarified that the gene wont be passed on to the future generations.

Bentham also considered “Certainty” which asks whether you can be sure of the results. In this breast cancer baby case, it is certain that the cancer gene is eliminated however there is a chance that the embryo might not lead to a live birth. And in this situation there is a risk of loosing the baby causing unhappiness.

The last aspect that Bentham considered is “Extent”, Regarding how many people it will affect and in this case it will affect the individual and the family. Meaning a large amount of happiness for the greatest number. The Hedonic Calculus considers the factors Duration, Remoteness, Purity, Richness, Intensity, Certainty, and Extent to decide whether the solution to a situation is wrong or right. Lucy Farrell.

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Explain how Utilitarianism might use the hedonic calculus in making moral decisions. (2016, Nov 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/explain-how-utilitarianism-might-use-the-hedonic-calculus-in-making-moral-decisions/