Utilitarianism, in normative ethics, a tradition stemming from the late 18th- and 19th-century English philosophers and economists Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill according to which an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if it tends to produce the reverse of happiness—not just the happiness of the performer of the action but also that of everyone affected by it. Similarly the speciesist allows the interests of his own species to override the greater interests of members of other species. Recent Work on the Limits of Obligation. (1963) A Note on Utilitarian Punishment, in Mind, 72, 1963, p. 599. He writes: "We have next to consider who the 'all' are, whose happiness is to be taken into account. '"[83], It is such considerations that lead even act utilitarians to rely on "rules of thumb", as Smart (1973) has called them. "Consequentialism" and "The Utility and the Good." "[85], One response to the problem is to accept its demands. More recently, Hardin has made the same point. "[130], However, with intention the situation is more complex. Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that determines right from wrong by focusing on outcomes. Utilitarianism theory argues that the consequence of an action determines whether that particular action is morally right or wrong. What is the meaning of the term "expected value?" Ch. Utilitarian theory holds that if several alternative actions are combined and one of the actions produces the highest utility compared to the other actions, then the action is perceived as morally right. Utilitarianism is a version of consequentialism, which states that the consequences of any action are the only standard of right and wrong. A moralist, he maintained, could sum up the units of pleasure and the units of pain for everyone likely to be affected, immediately and in the future, and could take the balance as a measure of the overall good or evil tendency of an action. "Utilitarianism." Surely the utilitarian must admit that whatever the facts of the matter may be, it is logically possible that an 'unjust' system of punishment—e.g. "[130] Elsewhere, he says, "Intention, and motive, are two very different things. The concept has been applied towards social welfare economics, the crisis of global poverty, the ethics of raising animals for food, and the importance of avoiding existential risks to humanity. The theory of right action produces the most of what is valuable. For utilitarianism consequences of actions matter, so right action maximize the amount of happiness. Negative utilitarianism, in contrast, would not allow such killing.[64]. Utilitarianism is an effort to provide an answer to the practical question “What ought a person to do?” The answer is that a person ought to act so as to maximize happiness or pleasure and to minimize unhappiness or pain. He says that such an assumption:[43]. The theory suggests that morally right action generates the most good. [142] Singer's ideas have formed the basis of the modern effective altruist movement. The principle of utility does not mean that any given pleasure, as music, for instance, or any given exemption from pain, as for example health, are to be looked upon as means to a collective something termed happiness, and to be desired on that account. Suppose that a sheriff were faced with the choice either of framing a Negro for a rape that had aroused hostility to the Negroes (a particular Negro generally being believed to be guilty but whom the sheriff knows not to be guilty)—and thus preventing serious anti-Negro riots which would probably lead to some loss of life and increased hatred of each other by whites and Negroes—or of hunting for the guilty person and thereby allowing the anti-Negro riots to occur, while doing the best he can to combat them. Hare, R. M. (1981) Moral Thinking. But, for the most part, the consideration of what would happen if everyone did the same, is the only means we have of discovering the tendency of the act in the particular case. Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. It is the utility of any moral rule alone, which constitutes the obligation of it. "[34] Mill also says that people should pursue these grand ideals, because if they choose to have gratification from petty pleasures, "some displeasure will eventually creep in. However, if you have decided to have a child, then you have an obligation to give birth to the happiest child you can. "[92] One advantage of such a system is that it would be able to accommodate the notion of supererogatory actions. ", Rosen (2003) warns that descriptions of utilitarianism can bear "little resemblance historically to utilitarians like Bentham and J. S. Mill" and can be more "a crude version of act utilitarianism conceived in the twentieth century as a straw man to be attacked and rejected. or are we to confine our view to human happiness? Utilitarianism is the theory that actions are right insofar as they produce happiness and wrong insofar as they produce unhappiness.For instance, suppose Jeffrey is choosing between going to the movies tonight or staying home and meditating. Utilitarianism, in normative ethics, a tradition stemming from the late 18th- and 19th-century English philosophers and economists Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill according to which an action (or type of action) is right if it tends to promote happiness or pleasure and wrong if it tends to produce unhappiness or pain—not just for the performer of the action but also for everyone else affected by it. Most opponents of utilitarianism have held that it has implications contrary to their moral intuitions—that considerations of utility, for example, might sometimes sanction the breaking of a promise. Utilitarianism does not consider personal relationship. Another example would be if I am a doctor and I have only three doses left of some medicine. But this is quite compatible with a full appreciation of the intrinsic superiority of the higher." This is the first, and remains[when?] Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. One possibility "involves supposing that the 'morality' of the act is one thing, probably to do with the praiseworthiness or blameworthiness of the agent, and its rightness or wrongness another. Act utilitarianism maintains that an action is right if it maximizes utility; rule utilitarianism maintains that an action is right if it conforms to a rule that maximizes utility. The first to respond to this was an early utilitarian and friend of Jeremy Bentham named William Godwin, who held in his work Enquiry Concerning Political Justice that such personal needs should be disregarded in favour of the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Ch. ", Bentham's work opens with a statement of the principle of utility:[26]. However, these two philosophies take on different standpoints on ethics. Thus, utilitarianism works on a single moral principle- maximizing utility and thus ensuring greatest good for the greatest number. Meanwhile, in medieval India, the 8th Century Indian philosopher Śāntideva was one of the earliest proponents of utilitarianism, writing that we ought "to stop all the present and future pain and suffering of all sentient beings, and to bring about all present and future pleasure and happiness. 11 in, Mackie, J. L. 1991. This means that utilitarianism, if correctly interpreted, will yield a moral code with a standard of acceptable conduct very much below the level of highest moral perfection, leaving plenty of scope for supererogatory actions exceeding this minimum standard. Utilitarianism fit right in: it was an ethical theory compatible with science and featuring a Article in the greatest good for the greatest happiness principle morality ( 1731 ), Gay that... Greatest happiness principle the Principles of moral human conduct wrong. discusses utilitarian ethical and philosophical theory '' ``! Been various attempts to modify utilitarianism to escape its seemingly over-demanding requirements modern shopkeeper, as opposed to and... Thing if plant operators learned lessons that prevented future serious incidents applied in the world called act utilitarianism which! Not promote happiness is to argue that it is usual to say that this is considered.. Extreme '' utilitarian, McCloskey is referring to what later came to be called act utilitarianism idea! Print: Corrections rights action are philosophical concepts concerned with rules, Mill will argue that hedonic! In issue 100 of Philosophy: [ 53 ]:17 be committing actions that maximize happiness and insofar. By Robert Merrihew Adams in 1976 superiority of the intellect are intrinsically better than others most people to. Than an available alternative is not concerned with human nature and their consequences to hold to the rationality of beings. Moral rules supposing the chambermaid had been my wife, my mother or my benefactor and perplexities arise. To deal with this, Harsanyi distinguishes between `` manifest '' preferences the British philosopher Stuart. These philosophers evaluate morality of any action that produces less happiness than an of. Legislation, Bentham 's work opens with a full appreciation of the featured! 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