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The problem with utilitarianism is that morality depends entirely on calculations of consequences, but we cannot create a simple formula for complex moral decision-making. Gut feelings have no numerical value, furthermore, we simply can’t evaluate each action based on the effects it will have. One can never be certain that an action is indeed right and produces the greatest happiness, which is a major flaw in this philosophy. A utilitarian could respond to my claim by stating that all people can predict the consequences of their actions, even if they can not see directly into the future. We have enough foresight to predict likely outcomes, we just can’t be certain of them. This system is good enough for people to make reasonable assessments because this is how we make other decisions in life that don’t pertain to morality. For example, when choosing to move to a different location, I would weigh the pros and cons of my actions, and utilize foresight. However, I don’t believe “good enough” should be a phrase that applies to a moral philosophy. If we can’t be certain that something is morally correct until future events come to pass, then utilitarianism is of no use to us. The practice simply can’t be put to use as we have no reliable method of determining whether an action is right or wrong. Utilitarianism is significantly weakened by the formula one must use to evaluate choices: it is impossible to quantify feelings, and we don’t have enough information available at hand to perform Hedonistic calculations as intended.

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Another weakness of utilitarianism that outweighs its strengths is that one holds no special responsibilities to their family or friends. Everyone is of equal standing in utilitarianism, which is a weakness when because humans are notoriously social creatures that tend to form lasting relationships. We have a duty to our family and friends, and we value those closest to us more than strangers. We “are all deeply partial where our family and friends are concerned”, so it is hard to imagine caring for a spouse in the same way one would care for a stranger (Rachels, 125). For example, say there is a bus crash and you can only get one person out. Your mother is on that bus, and so is a scientist who will go on to cure cancer. A utilitarian would have to weigh the costs of saving their mother against the happiness of all those saved by this scientist’s cure. The morally correct thing to do from a utilitarian standpoint would be to save the scientist and let the mother die. Even though you love her and you have a special relationship with her, she must die for the greater good. This is an easy prospect for someone who values all human life equally, but few people hold this opinion. This idea is contrary to the mechanism of human emotion; it is unnatural to not form meaningful relationships. If one is truly utilitarian, they have no room for friendship because their life is governed by an impersonal sense of duty to the greater good. This is a miserable way to live and surely does not result in the greatest happiness for the utilitarian. A utilitarian could argue my claim by saying that all people are held equal in this philosophy, so we connect with more people since we value everyone. However, there is a great difference between treating everyone equally, and impartially. Utilitarians must treat everyone with impartiality, and then themselves miss out on “intimacy, love, affection, and friendship” (Rachels, 125). We give no value to human life by neglecting those closest to us. Saving two children by leaving your own to burn in a building is correct from a utilitarian standpoint but inhumane to an outside observer. We are naturally wired to protect those we love, and a utilitarian would have to actively fight this instinct. Utilitarianism has unrealistic expectations of its followers because for it to work, we would have to stop loving our family and friends. Utilitarianism’s weaknesses are more significant than its strengths, which is evident when taking into account that a utilitarian has no relationships or deep connections with other people.

Utilitarianism’s benefits are not worth its flaws, seeing as evil deeds can be classified as correct so long as the majority supports them. All that matters is the total happiness resulting from the action, and if that is greater than one individual’s suffering, no matter how extreme, the action is right. For example, in Gone Baby Gone, high-ranking police officers conspire to kidnap a baby girl for her protection. Her mother is a drug user who neglects her daughter, so the police chief smuggles the girl away one night, and she moves in with him and his wife. A utilitarian would say this action was right: the total sum of happiness of the chief and his wife with a replacement daughter at home, and the girl herself with a nicer upbringing is greater than the displeasure caused to the mother. However, stealing children from their parents is not morally correct, no matter the incentive. Utilitarianism leaves out other important morals from its philosophy, such as the rights of the individual. One can justify sadistic acts if the majority supports them, meaning individual rights are forsaken in this philosophy. But, a utilitarian would argue, a theory that promotes pleasure is good since most people seek pleasure over pain. Utilitarianism attempts to make the most people happy, which is surely the right thing. The flaw with this line of thinking is that utilitarianism presumes people to be inherently good. People don’t necessarily support what is good, because we love taking shortcuts to achieve optimal results, regardless of the rules of morality. 

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