Utility, after which the doctrine is named, is a measure in economics of the relative satisfaction from, or desirability of, the consumption of goods. Cambridge University Press, 1995. Mill, in contrast to Bentham, discerned differences in the quality of pleasures that make some intrinsically preferable to others independently of intensity and duration (the quantitative dimensions recognized by Bentham). One such criticism is that, although the widespread practice of lying and stealing would have bad consequences, resulting in a loss of trustworthiness and security, it is not certain that an occasional lie to avoid embarrassment or an occasional theft from a rich person would not have good consequences and thus be permissible or even required by utilitarianism. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. The belief that a morally good action is one that helps, or makes happy, the greatest number of people. Utilitarianism is a theory of morality, which advocates actions that foster happiness or pleasure and opposes actions that cause unhappiness or harm. Most companies have a formal or informal code of ethics, which is shaped by their corporate culture, values, and regional laws. Customers who fly in first or business class pay a much higher rate than those in economy seats, but they also get more amenities—simultaneously, people who cannot afford upper-class seats benefit from the economy rates. Utilitarianism holds that an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if it tends to produce sadness, or the reverse of happiness—not just the happiness of the actor but that of everyone affected by it. Brian Duignan is a senior editor at Encyclopædia Britannica. Similarly, monopolistic competition teaches one business to flourish at the expense of others. Utilitarianism (pronounced yoo-TILL-ih-TARE-ee-en-ism) is one of the main schools of thought in modern ethics (also known as moral philosophy). Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that determines right from wrong by focusing on outcomes. However, if you choose to do something morally wrong—even if legal—then your happiness and that of your colleagues, will decrease. In the notion of consequences the utilitarian includes all of the good and bad produced by the action, whether arising after the action has been performed or during its performance. Utilitarianism is a reason-based approach to determining right and wrong, but it has limitations. The key passage from this book: "The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals utility, or the greatest happiness principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. Bentham and Mill were hedonists; i.e, they analyzed happiness as a balance of pleasure over pain and believed that these feelings alone are of intrinsic value and disvalue. When used in a sociopolitical construct, utilitarian ethics aims for the betterment of society as a whole. Derek Parfit. What is Utilitarianism. (Philosophy) the theory that the criterion of virtue is utility Such precise measurement as Bentham envisioned is perhaps not essential, but it is nonetheless necessary for the utilitarian to make some interpersonal comparisons of the values of the effects of alternative courses of action. Social justice is a concept holding that all people should have equal access to wealth, health, well-being, privileges, and opportunity. Utilitarianism is mainly characterized by two elements: happiness and consequentialism. Moore, one of the founders of contemporary analytic philosophy, regarded many kinds of consciousness—including friendship, knowledge, and the experience of beauty—as intrinsically valuable independently of pleasure, a position labelled “ideal” utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a theory of morality, which advocates actions that foster happiness or pleasure and opposes actions that cause unhappiness or harm… The Three Generally Accepted Axioms of Utilitarianism State That, Utilitarianism's Relevance in a Political Economy, Everything You Need to Know About Macroeconomics. Definition of Utilitarianism. If the difference in the consequences of alternative actions is not great, some utilitarians would not regard the choice between them as a moral issue. Utilitarianism – Definition. Utilitarianism definition is - a doctrine that the useful is the good and that the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences; specifically : a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Rule utilitarianism helps the largest number of people using the fairest methods possible. For example, say a hospital has four people whose lives depend upon receiving organ transplants: a heart, lungs, a kidney, and a liver. ", John Stuart Mill had many years to absorb and reflect on Jeremy Bentham's thoughts on utilitarianism by the time he published his own work, Utilitarianism, in 1863. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login).

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