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Criticisms of Utilitarianism


‘‘Criticismsof Utilitarianism’’

Utilitarianismis a theory developed by an American philosopher known as JeremyBentham. This theory states that a person’s action is right if thebring happiness to him. Theapproach goes ahead to state that thehappiness should,however, be on both ends. So, ifone side is happy and the one is not, that is not utilitarianism.John Stuart Mill has also played a role in developing utilitarianismby adding that happiness should be of high quality and quantity.

This paper aims at analyzingthe immeasurability objection set up by E.F. Carritt to argue against utilitarianism.

‘‘The Immeasurability ofPleasure and Pain’’ Objection

Althoughothers are satisfied with the explanations made by Jeremy Benthamregarding happiness, Carritt isnot convincedthat happiness or pain can be measured. Initially, Bentham statedthat when one does an action, they must ensure that it makes themhappy to the fullest. Here, he was talking about quantity. Later on,Stuart added flavorto it by stating people should not just focus on the amountof happiness but quality as well. Carritt disagrees with thestatementand states, &quot…that pleasures and pains cannot be measured orweighed like proteins or money and therefore cannot becompared. …..Ican never tell whether I shall produce an overbalance of pleasure inthis way or that&quot(Carritt, 1950).According to Carritt, one cannot measure the quantity of pain orhappiness they are enduring. He believes that these are two differentthings which should never even becompared.He says that either happiness or pain just happen and cannot bemeasured. Itisthe same argument as one cannotgaugethe quantity of loves them to someone for joy.Whenpeople akin to each other, it just happens,but it cannot be measured.

PossibleReply by a Utilitarian to Carritt’sObjection

Carritt’sargument against the measurement of pain and pleasure is well putmaking it easy for a utilitarian to respond to it. Firstly, Carrittshould understand that people measure the quality of happiness theyexperience.For example, asalespersoncan be happy today since their store has earned $ 1000. However,tomorrow they might be happier after makingdouble of what they received yesterday. The use of happy and morecomfortableonlymeans that today`shappiness measured happinessis greater than the one experienced yesterday. Theissue is similarto pain or sadness endured by a person. Using the same salesmanexample, they might sad today since their stores made small losseswhich they did not expect. However, tomorrow things might get worse,and this will make him moredepressed.The measure of the pain is possible since today`spain is greater than the one experienced yesterday.

Carritt alsoargues thatitis not feasibleto comparepainand pleasure. Itisinteresting because the comparison of sadness and happiness is easy.Itis possible for someone to besad in the morning since they have not had breakfast. Nevertheless,this same person will be euphoricin the afternoon since they will have something to eat. The twosituations the one in the morning and the one in the afternoon havebeencomparedand the truth is that they are comparable. Apart from qualitymeasuring, pain and pleasure can also be measured using quantity. Aperson can claim that they hate a certain television program becauseit is not of their taste and preference. For another program, thehate might be greater,and they will claim that they hate it too much. Itcompares the quantity of hatewhich this person has for the two television programs.

Satisfaction in the Utilitarian’sStatement

Theutilitarian’s statement is satisfying. The utilitarian keeps itsimple and proves to Carritt that pain and pleasure can be measured.The author has used the best example of ‘’happy and morepleased’’. So as to boost theargument by the utilitarian, another example can be love. Love isa pleasureand someone can have different quantity and quality of love forvariousthings. A student can lovetheir desk-mate because they are easy to cope with, but will lovetheir siblings very much since they are family. Theaspect explains what Bentham wastrying to argue out when he said that one must utilize the pleasurein what they are doing. When someone goes toa party, they can either have fun or have a lot of fun. Contrary,they can also be bored or be very bored. Itis enough proof that pain andpleasure arecalculable.


In summary, Jeremy Bentham made a lot of sensewhen he said that people should utilize the pleasure to the maximumregarding what they are doing. He has also explained that one must,however, consider the feelings ofothers as well. It is not right for someone to enjoy while others aresuffering according to utilitarianism. Although Carritttries toobject that pain and pleasure cannot be measured, it is evident it ispossible to measure them considering terms such as ‘’happy,happier, happiest.“


Carritt, E. F. (1950).. Ethicsand Society,503-504.