straightforward method for deciding the morally right course of action for any particular situation we may find ourselves in.
* first identify the various courses of action that we could perform.
* Second, we determine all of the foreseeable benefits and harms that would result from each course of action for everyone affected by the action.
* third, we choose the course of action that provides the greatest benefits after the costs have been taken into account.
While utilitarianism is currently a very popular ethical theory, there are some difficulties in relying on it as a sole method for moral decision making. First, the utilitarian calculation requires that we assign values to the benefits and harms resulting from our actions and compare them with the benefits and harms that might result from other actions. But it's often difficult, if not impossible, to measure and compare the values of certain benefits and costs. How do we go about assigning a value to life or to art? And how do we go about comparing the value of money with, for example, the value of life, the value of time, or the value of human dignity? Moreover, can we ever be really certain about all of the consequences of our actions? Our ability to measure and to predict the benefits and harms resulting from a course of action or a moral rule is dubious, to say the least.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty with utilitarianism is that it fails to take into account considerations of justice. We can imagine instances where a certain course of action would produce great benefits for society, but they would be clearly unjust. South African whites, for example, sometimes claim that all South Africans--including blacks--are better off under white rule. They have claimed that in those African nations that have traded a whites-only government for a black or mixed one, social conditions have rapidly deteriorated....