Utilitarianism and the Sinking of William Brown
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The paper discusses the case of William Brown frigate's longboat where Alexander Holmes and the other crewmen took on a utilitarian approach to chose who was to die and who was to live on the basis of several factors such as marital status, gender, and usefulness. The paper considers the decision in the "United States v. Holmes" case and argues that because they were the least-advantaged individuals on board the longboat, the people who died should have been provided with equal chances to life, through taking part in a lottery involving all of the people in the boat. The paper explains the maximin theory, the Baysian theory, act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism, and notes that relying on rule utilitarianism to prevent them from being sentenced to death, the sixteen people failed to consider act utilitarianism, and that it was likely to emerge victorious out of a situation involving a great deal of tension.
From the Paper:"People are often guided by their instinct when they come across circumstances that require rapid response and a combination of self-preservation and rationality influences them in making choices that can be immoral. One can be inclined to behave in accordance to the principle of utility when being presented with a situation from which he or she has to choose between a lesser evil and a greater one. The Case of United States v. Holmes perfectly exemplifies how someone can exploit utilitarianism and how such an act is morally wrong.
"Most individuals express their certainty regarding an ethical dilemma, claiming that it would be best for one to refrain from committing any immoral acts, regardless of the circumstances involved. When they are pressured however, most are likely to admit that they are willing to employ a strategy they believe to be objective and rational. The expression "you have to break some eggs to make an omelet" is apparently thought of as a good rationale for every condition involving negative activities done with constructive purposes. In such conditions rational choices are believed to have little to do with morality, with the latter concept simply including factors related to sentiments, which can in some cases be based on unreasonable thinking (Bailey 39)."
Sample of Sources Used:
- Bailey, James Wood. Utilitarianism, Institutions, and Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
- Bedau, Hugo Adam. Making Mortal Choices: Three Exercises in Moral Casuistry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
- Hall, Jerome. General Principles of Criminal Law, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1960).
- Koch, Tom. Scarce Goods: Justice, Fairness, and Organ Transplantation (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002).
- Reznek, Lawrie. Evil or Ill? Justifying the Insanity Defence (London: Routledge, 1997).
Cite this Analytical Essay:
Utilitarianism and the Sinking of William Brown (2013, May 01) Retrieved February 28, 2020, from https://www.academon.com/analytical-essay/utilitarianism-and-the-sinking-of-william-brown-152971/
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