What is utilitarianism?

  • (noun): Doctrine that the useful is the good; especially as elaborated by Jeremy Bentham and James Mill; the aim was said to be the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, specifically defined as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering. Classic utilitarianism, as advocated by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, is hedonistic. It is now generally taken to be a form of consequentialism, although when Anscombe first introduced that term it was to distinguish between "old-fashioned Utilitarianism" and consequentialism. According to utilitarianism the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome although there is debate over how much consideration should be given to actual consequences, foreseen consequences and intended consequences. Two influential contributors to this theory are Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. In A Fragment on Government Bentham says ‘it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong’ and describes this as a fundamental axiom. In An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation he talks of ‘the principle of utility’ but later prefers “the greatest happiness principle."

Read more about Utilitarianism.

Some articles on utilitarianism:

Sociology Of Punishment - Utilitarianism - Critique of Utilitarianism
... However a NSW Prison Report found that 13% of inmates have an intellectual disability at the point of sentencing, indigenous persons are sentenced to imprisonment at about 10 times the rate expected given their relative population size of the above, 50% of crimes fell into theft, driving or offences against justice 50% of offences resulting in imprisonment over 58% were for non-violent crimes 14,154 (37%) out of a total of 38,626 persons who spent some time in full custody between June 1995 and June 1999, have been to prison at least once before, and almost half of those (18%) have been at least twice “the majority of prisoners who pass through the system serve sentences of less than 6 months and are in minimum security or serving periodic detention From these and other statistics, researchers and Mann, 1995] have suggested utilitarian justifications cannot be overwhelming assumed from the studied data ... One conclusion that can and is often drawn from prison statistics, however is that Whatever regional and national differences there might be in opinions about which offences deserve custody, the poor, the disturbed, the migrant, disadvantaged ethnic minorities are consistently over-penalised and over-imprisoned What then is the reason that we imprison these people? Utilitarianists have no answer ...
Average And Total Utilitarianism
... Utilitarianism states that the quality of conscious experience is important indeed it is the basis of its consequentialist approach to ethics ... this problem are provided by average and total utilitarianism ...
Utilitarianism - Application To Specific Issues - Human Rights
... Utilitarianism would also require the indirect impact of social acceptance of inhumane policies to be taken into consideration, and general anxiety and fear could increase for all if human ... Under rule utilitarianism, a human right can easily be considered a moral rule ... Cārvāka · Cyrenaics · Epicureanism Christian hedonism · Utilitarianism · Abolitionism · Yangism Key concepts Aponia · Ataraxia · Eudaimonia · Happiness · Hedone · Pain ...
Two-level Utilitarianism - Criticisms
... from the criticisms that are commonly made of utilitarianism in general, there are several criticisms made specifically against two-level utilitarianism ... One objection is that two-level utilitarianism undermines an agent's commitment to act in accordance with his or her moral principles ... have put forward a "radical proposal" although they accept utilitarianism as the correct moral theory, it would be more beneficial if we do not proclaim this fact, and keep it a ...
Average And Total Utilitarianism - Total Utilitarianism
... Total utilitarianism is a method of applying utilitarianism to a group to work out what the best set of outcomes would be ... The main problem for total utilitarianism is the "mere addition paradox", which argues that a likely outcome of following total utilitarianism is a future where there is a large ... paradox with a consistent model of total utilitarianism, total utilitarians have two choices ...