Utilitarian Theory Compared to Self Interest

In the era of intellectual philosophy on morals, some crucial moral theories came to being after lengthy discourses. One such theory is the Utilitarian theory which embraced consequentialism which basically propounded that whether an action, policy or law was morally good or bad, depended on the effect that it would have. It depended on the theory of intrinsic value which held that something would be considered good in itself far from other consequences if it was a means to an end (West, 2004,p.153). Here, pain and pleasure were the units.

If an action promotes happiness, even it is considered wrong, a utilitarian supports it because this wrong deed would have a reverse effect and later create happiness for the doer of the action and all the people involved in general. This theory holds that if a person commits a crime for example stealing from the rich and giving the money to the poor (such as Robin Hood), he would be lauded by adherents of this theory. The act of stealing is considered bad by society, but its final consequence would benefit more people as the poor would now have a chance at financial emancipation. This is the greater good that would be derived from an action considered by many in the society as “bad”.

Conversely, utilitarianism is strongly against self interest. This is when individuals decided to embrace egoism and look at situations in terms of how they alone benefit.. Say for example a corrupt government official who has been put in charge of a government kitty comprising of money to help. If this individual pockets this money and refuses to look at the ripple effect this action would have on the orphans this money is supposed to help he will be turning a blind eye to their dire situation, only looking at the self-interest. To such an individual, moral integrity and accountability comes second to their self interest.

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