Themes

What is Utilitarianism definition/concept

In the field of philosophy there are several approaches or ethical doctrines. In all of them there is a reflection on the idea of ​​good and happiness. Utilitarianism is an ethical proposal developed in England, between the 18th and 19th centuries, whose main representatives were Jeremy Bentham and, especially, John Stuart Mill.

In utilitarian ethics prevails the interest of the majority

For utilitarian philosophers an action is good or bad depending on its consequences and not by itself. In other words,, something is good if it is useful. In this way, a lie is not necessarily an ethically bad thing, but it depends on the consequences it brings.

Utilitarian ethics is approached with a purpose . This means that actions are judged by the objective they have and their results.

For utilitarianism, the important consequence of its actions is the happiness or unhappiness they produce. On the other hand, happiness is understood as the search for pleasure and the absence of pain.

Utilitarians have evidenced the concept  of the utility principle. According to him, it is possible to provide good to a greater number of people. In this way, if an action exclusively benefits me, but harms others, it cannot be said that it is something truly useful. This implies that the goodness of an action should not be understood from an individual perspective, but rather from the collective interest.

Utilitarianism seeks to establish a criterion for the general well-being of society . For this reason, the individual’s happiness is in the background, since what matters is the happiness of as many people as possible.

utilitarian ethics is egalitarian

Let’s imagine three people living on a desert island. If one of them gets some food, according to the principle of utility, the right thing is to share the food equally. This example illustrates the basic idea of ​​utilitarianism: the happiness and good of the majority must be above any self-interest.

against utilitarianism

Other ethical considerations oppose the utilitarians’ thesis. Kant considers norms to be correct regardless of their consequences.

According to Kant, we act correctly when our actions are governed by a sense of duty, known as the categorical imperative . In this context, the categorical imperative principle argues that an action is morally good if it is desirable for everyone to take that same moral action .

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