There are two main forms of this theory; rule utilitarianism and act utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism judges the rightness of an action by following a set of rules. These rules are set so that they provide the best possible outcome for everyone. For example, a rule utilitarian would say it’s always wrong to lie because, in general, telling the truth brings about the optimal consequences. A utilitarian applies these rules universally and without exception.
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory which acts as a guideline on how people should act in certain situations and was first introduced by a hedonist (pursuer of pleasure) named Jeremy Bentham who put forward the ‘Principle of Utility’ which said “The greatest happiness for the greatest number”. Utilitarianism is a theory which bases on the end purpose (teleological) of achieving pleasure, our decisions should be based on consequences in pursuit of the principle of utility (consequentialist) and is a theory which judges each situation independently (relativistic).
Utilitarianism is a normative ethical theory that holds the morally right course of action in any given situation is the course of which yields the greatest balance of benefits over harms. More specifically, utilitarianism’s core idea is that the effects of an action determine whether actions are morally right or wrong. Created with the philosophies of Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), Utilitarianism began in England in the 19th Century. Bentham and Mill built their system of Utilitarianism on ancient hedonism (pursuing physical pleasure and avoiding physical pain). Although both of these philosophers agreed on the basic principals of Utilitarianism they disagreed on what exactly hedonism is.
Utilitarianism is the moral doctrine that we should always act to produce the greatest possible balance of good over bad for everyone affected by our actions (Shaw & Barry, 62).
Utilitarianism is the concept that the best action in any given instance is the one that optimizes wellbeing usually in terms of conscious entities. Jeremy Bentham explained utility as being the acquisition of pleasure with a disregard for any pain or difficulty experienced by an individual as a result of that action. Utilitarianism is a version of consequentialism, which proposes that the consequences of any action is the only measure of whether that action was right or wrong. Utilitarianism is different from other forms of consequentialism because it considers all interests equally. John Stuart Mill was a proponent of utilitarianism and put forth arguments in its support. There are however some flaws in the arguments he provided. Mill argues in support of the Utilitarianism by seeking to counter certain arguments against utilitarianism especially the argument that it reduces humanity to the pursuit of easy pleasures and forsaking the more difficult and often delayed pleasures of intellectual pursuits.
Act utilitarianism says that an action is considered morally right when its outcome is the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. It directly produces the greatest overall good. While rule utilitarianism describes how the action which is considered morally right is the one which is covered by a rule. This rule should result in a “favorable balance of good over evil, everyone considered.” Rule utilitarianism focuses on the consequences of generally following a rule, while act utilitarianism focuses on the consequences of individual actions. “Act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism do not use the same methods to make moral evalutations.”
2. To begin, I will be defining both act and rule utilitarianism. In act utilitarianism, you determine the morality of an act by measuring the pleasures and pains for a specific situation Angeles 326). Act utilitarians take into consideration only those affected in the specific situation. However, rule utilitarianism determines the morality of an act “according to the good or bad consequences that ensue from following a general moral rule of conduct…” (Angeles 326). Good examples of those general moral rules are phrases like, never steal or never tell a lie. In any situation, people can use either act or rule utilitarianism to determine the correct course of action.
The proponents of utilitarianism differentiate two versions of this theory: act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. While the former is concerned with the particular scenario and its direct outcomes on people involved, the latter evaluates
Utilitarianism defined, is the contention that a man should judge everything based on the ability to promote the greatest individual happiness. In other words Utilitarianism states that good is what brings the most happiness to the most people. John Stuart Mill based his utilitarian principle on the decisions that we make. He says the decisions should always benefit the most people as much as possible no matter what the consequences might be. Mill says that we should weigh the outcomes and make our decisions based on the outcome that benefits the majority of the people. This leads to him stating that pleasure is the only desirable consequence of our decision or actions. Mill believes that human
One of the major players in ethical theories has long been the concept of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism states that in general the ethical rightness or wrongness of an action is directly related to the utility of that action. Utility is more specifically defined as a measure of the goodness or badness of the consequences of an action (see quote by Mill above). For the
Utilitarianism can be generally defined as a way of thinking where one chooses an action based on the amount of happiness that it would produce. In the book Ethics: Theory and Contemporary Issues, by Barbara MacKinnon and Andrew Fiala, the authors state “Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism,” and that “John Stuart Mill explained it as ‘actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.’” (MacKinnon 95). This means that utilitarianism focuses on result of an action based on happiness and that decisions can be taken made by looking at possible outcomes of that decision. What Mill stated would be defined as “ the principle of utility or the greatest happiness principle.”( MacKinnon, 95). This principle is one in which could be
Utilitarianism is the ethical belief that the happiness of the greatest number of people is the greatest good. Jeremy Betham and John Stuart Mill are two philosophers that were leading advocates for the utilitarianism that we study today. In order to understand the basis of utilitarianism, one must know what happiness is. John Stuart Mill defines happiness as the intended pleasure and absence of pain while unhappiness is pain and the privation of pleasure. Utilitarians feel the moral obligation to maximize pleasure for not only themselves, but for as many people as possible. All actions can be determined as right or wrong based on if they produce the maximum amount of happiness. The utilitarian belief that all actions can be determined as right or wrong based only on their repercussions connects utilitarianism to consequentialism. Consequentialism is the belief that an action can be determined morally right or wrong based on its consequences. Just like any other belief system, utilitarianism faces immense amount of praise and criticism.
Utilitarianism is one of the most commonly used ethical theories from the time it was formulated by Jeremy Bentham and John Stewart Mill in the nineteenth century. In his work, Utilitarianism, Bentham “sought to dispel misconceptions that morality has nothing to do with usefulness or utility or that morality is opposed to pleasure” (MacKinnon, 2012, p. 53). To simplify the utilitarian principle, which is one of utility, one can surmise that morality is equated with the greatest amount of utility or good for the greatest number of people (MacKinnon, 2012). Also, with its orientation to the “end or goal of actions” (MacKinnon, 2012, p. 54), Utilitarianism thus, espouses the consequentialist principle, e.g., the evaluation of any human act lies not so much in the nature of the act or the drive behind the act but rather the result of the act (MacKinnon, 2012).
Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory that judges an action on its outcomes and aims to maximize happiness. This means finding the action that generates the “greatest good for the greatest number”.
Utilitarianism, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, states that the morality of an action should be judged based on the extent to which it produces happiness, or the opposite of happiness—an action is good as long as the result is happiness, and deemed bad if it results in pain. A clearer understanding of what Utilitarianism is can be gained by John Stuart Mill’s characterization of what it is not. He states, “I believe that the very imperfect notion ordinarily formed of its meaning, is the chief obstacle which impedes its reception; and that could it be cleared, even from only the grosser misconceptions, the question would be greatly simplified, and a large proportion of its difficulties removed” (Mill, 2007, p. 4). In defining Utilitarianism, Mill dispels common misconceptions that are held about Utilitarianism in order to give the reader a clearer understanding of the doctrine and the rationales that support it.