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Utilitarianism

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Introduction

In today's society, people are faced with moral problems everyday. Many philosophers have determined their own way of solving these problems. The philosophy I will be explaining in this paper is utilitarianism. I will state a moral problem someone close to me had to face. I will then explain utilitarianism and why I feel utilitarianism does not provide the right decision for this specific moral problem.

The Problem

Tami has a sister, Angie, who has been married for ten years to Tom. Together they have an eight year old son, Sam. Tami has just found out Tom is having an affair on Angie. Tami knows it is 100 percent true, for the fact she witnessed Tom out to dinner with another woman, whom he was clearly in a relationship with. Tami confronted the woman who then confirmed she and Tom were having an affair together. Tami's moral problem is, does she tell Angie or not?

Moral Theory

Utilitarianism is an action-based philosophy. It does not take into account a person's characteristics or motives. It is only concerns with a person's actions. Utilitarianism is the belief that the right thing to do is whatever will create the most happiness among the greatest amount of people. A person using this philosophy goes through a three step process to reach a decision. First, the person has to decide his or her options. Second, he or she has to decide who will be affected with the outcome. Lastly, he or she needs to decide how happy or unhappy the decision will make the people involved.

In my moral problem if Tami was a utilitarian she would chose not to tell Angie that Tom is having an affair. She would come to this decision by using the three step process I previously mentioned. First, she would think of her options. Her options are: 1) telling her sister; or 2) not telling her sister about the affair. Tami would then figure out who would be affected by the outcome. Tami takes into account the following people: Angie, Tom, Sam, the women Tom is having an affair with, Tami herself, and Angie's parents. Tami would assume how happy or unhappy each person would be with her decision.

Tami thinks of option number one (not telling Angie about the affair). She tries to decide if the people involved will be unhappy, neutral, or happy. She assumes by not telling Angie, Angie and her son will both be neutral. It would not change their lives because they do not know what is going on. Angie's parents would also be neutral for the same reason. Tom would be happy because Angie would not find out about the affair. The other women in the affair would be neutral because nothing would change her and Tom's relationship. Tami would be unhappy because she is keeping a big secret from her sister.

If Tami examines the other option (telling Angie about the affair) Angie would be extremely unhappy, their son would be unhappy and Tom would be unhappy because it would break their family apart (Tami assumes Angie would leave him). Angie's parents would be unhappy to see their daughter so hurt and also, there is a chance Angie would have to move in with them considering she cannot afford to live on her own. The woman Tom is having an affair with would be very happy because she will get Tom all to herself. Although Tami would feel bad for her sister it would make her a little happy to not be hiding the secret anymore.

After Tami weighs out the happiness and unhappiness of all involved, being that she is a utilitarian, she would not tell Angie that Tom is having an affair. She would come to this conclusion because by hiding the secret there is less unhappiness with all involved. This is due to the fact Tami would be unhappy, Tom would be happy, and all others remain neutral. Tami assumes by hiding what she knows Tom would be happier then Tami would be unhappy because it affects Tom's life more than Tami's. If she did tell Angie, happiness would only be brought to the other women and Tami herself. However, only a small amount of happiness would be brought to Tami because she feels bad for Angie. The other people would be unhappy (especially Tom and Angie). For all of those reasons Tami would not tell her sister the truth.

Critical Assessment

In my opinion the utilitarian approach does not seem to give the correct answer. If I were Tami I would tell my sister because she would have a right to know. It is my belief Tami knows she has a duty to tell her sister.

Although I feel this approach did not give the correct answer to the problem there are two strengths I see in the utilitarian approach.

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