There are five types of ethical theories: 1. Teleological theory of ethics 2. Deontological theory 3. Virtue ethics 4. Justice as fairness 5. Feminism
The teleological theory examines the consequences in terms of pleasure and pain, which is termed as “Utilitarianism”. According to this theory, our obligation in any situation is to perform that action which will produce the greatest amount of good over evil. Under this theory, the ethical virtues such as being honest or not lying are not obligatory. Utilitarian morality compels you to do only those particular acts which bring out good results only.
For instance, consider a situation where telling the truth can break someone’s heart or hurt his/her feelings then in the light of this theory, lying is better than honesty. One of the fundamental characteristics of utilitarianism is universalism which talks about the pleasure of everyone, rather than benefitting your own self only. The two versions of utilitarianism have evolved from these conditions, act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism. The two great philosophers, Jeremy Bentham and Stuart Mill presented their views in the light of this theory.
Bentham proposed the act-utilitarianism theory and said: “An action is right if it produces greatest amount of pleasure over pain for everyone” However, this statement was greatly opposed by many critics since they termed it as a “pig philosophy”. Critics complained that pleasure alone can not constitute the good for human beings because even pigs are capable of attaining pleasure from their own bodies so it would be better to live the life of a satisfied pig rather than being a dissatisfied human being such as Socrates.
Seeing these objections, Stuart Mill supported the utilitarianism gave the idea of act-utilitarianism by giving his view that an action is right if it produces greatest amount of pleasure over pain by following certain moral rules. Mill said that a person should go for qualitative pleasure rather than quantitative pleasure. Mill also defended the accusation of pig philosophy on Bentham by giving his views that human beings are able to enjoy the higher levels of pleasure than swine. Human beings can pursuit pleasure in the form of intellectual arts and other such activities.
Hence, Mill categorized pleasure in higher and lower forms of pleasure. Rule-utilitarianism emphasized tremendously on morality and social obligations, which in fact, are the problems of all teleological theories. Concluding the discussion now, the best theory is the rule-utilitarianism as compared to act-utilitarianism theory because one does not need to calculate the amount of pleasure and pain before performing any deed. Instead, it provides the basic grounds of morality and goodness for doing any action.