Definition of utilitarianism in US English:



  • 1The doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority.

    • ‘After all, moral theories such as Kantianism, utilitarianism, and common-sense morality require that an agent give weight to the interests of others.’
    • ‘The report identified social justice and economic-rationalist utilitarianism as the major competing educational philosophies or ideologies.’
    • ‘Mill criticizes Kant's categorical imperative noting that it is essentially the same as utilitarianism since it involves calculating the good or bad consequences of an action to determine the morality of that action.’
    • ‘He argued that Kantianism and utilitarianism, the two major traditions in western moral philosophy, mistakenly placed the foundation for morality in legalistic notions such as duty and obligation.’
    • ‘Rule utilitarianism holds that a behavioral code or rule is morally right if the consequences of adopting that rule are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone.’
    1. 1.1 The doctrine that an action is right insofar as it promotes happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct.
      • ‘Critics have traditionally attacked utilitarianism for focusing too heavily on happiness, and not enough on other intrinsic goods, such as justice and rights.’
      • ‘And once happiness is itself moralized, the credentials of utilitarianism as an overall theory of ethics are compromised.’
      • ‘One version of utilitarianism holds that a good way of increasing total happiness is to bring into the world more happy people.’
      • ‘Mill famously advanced a nuanced utilitarianism, in which the principle of greatest happiness included the caveat that there were qualitatively distinct kinds of happiness.’
      • ‘Thus, if the operating principle of utilitarianism is to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number, it would be impossible to realize because there is no way to know what constitutes that happiness.’