The “ethics of advertising wine” is not actually the subject of this post. The web site, Ethics of Advertising Wine, is. I enjoyed the site, an interesting foray into ethics and advertising, and below is the author’s take on utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism is split between the works of two famous philosophers: Bentham and Mill. What you have just seen is a very shallow version of Bentham’s philosophy. What Bentham did was provide a moral theory that was supposed to allow people to calculate whether something is morally good dependent on if it brought more overall pleasure than pain. The tricky part of his theory comes when you have to place a numeric value on seemingly immeasurable things. I mean, how exactly do you put a number on how much pleasure eating an entire pizza pie will bring? (one million pleasures, that is how much.) And how many pleasure points are subtracted from how fat and unhealthy you will feel? (seven…the answer is seven. so I’m heading off to Little Caesars.) Not only is it difficult to put a number on your own personal pleasure an pains, but utilitarianism includes the pleasure and pain of anyone that will be affected by your decision, even those that will be effected in the future. Bentham also was a follower of act utilitarianism. This means that he believed that you should deem the moral value of each individual act and follow those calculations.
Mill, who studied Bentham, was a rule utilitarian. He believed that moral citizens should calculate the ethical value of a set of “rules.” They should then never stray from following those rules. For example, he would calculate the pleasures and pains of every person ever in the case of lying. He would possibly find out that lying causes more pain than pleasure, and would deem that, as a rule, lying is immoral. No longer do you have to do individual calculations on each special scenario to see whether lying is okay in this case and bad in another.
From around the web.
From the web site, European Business Ethics Ireland.
Probably the most widely understood and commonly applied ethical theory is utilitarianism. In an organisational context, utilitarianism basically states that a decision concerning business conduct is proper if and only if that decision produces the greatest good for the greatest number of individuals.
“Good” is usually defined as the net benefits that accrue to those parties affected by the choice. Thus, most utilitarians hold the position that moral choices must be evaluated by calculating the net benefits of each available alternative action.
Importantly, all the stakeholders affected by the decision should be given their just consideration.
As mentioned previously, teleological theories deal with outcomes or end goals. The often-stated declaration that “the end justifies the means” is one classic expression of utilitarian thinking. Several formulations of utilitarianism exist. Their differences harken back to the original writers on the topic, the nineteenth-century philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.