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Utilitarianism Is a Form Of What Broader Kind Of Ethical Theory




Ethical theories are frameworks for understanding and evaluating moral decision-making. They provide guidelines for determining what is right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust, and what actions or behaviors should be taken to achieve those values. One of the most influential ethical theories is utilitarianism, which is a consequentialist theory that focuses on the consequences of actions in determining their moral value. This essay will explore the key features of utilitarianism, its historical development, and its criticisms.

Utilitarianism As A Form Of Consequentialism:

Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism, which means that it evaluates the morality of actions based on their outcomes. According to utilitarianism, the best action is the one that maximizes overall happiness or pleasure and minimizes overall suffering or pain. This principle is known as the principle of utility, and it is the foundation of utilitarianism. The principle of utility assumes that happiness or pleasure is the ultimate goal of human action and that it can be measured and compared between individuals.

Historical Development Of Utilitarianism:

The origin of utilitarianism can be traced back to the Enlightenment era in Europe, when philosophers began to challenge the traditional moral and political systems based on religion and tradition. One of the most influential early utilitarians was Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), who developed the principle of utility and applied it to law and politics. Bentham believed that laws and policies should be evaluated based on their ability to promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) is another important figure in the development of utilitarianism. He refined Bentham's ideas and expanded the scope of utilitarianism to include not only individual happiness but also the well-being of society as a whole. Mill argued that happiness should be understood in terms of higher pleasures, such as intellectual and moral pursuits, rather than just physical pleasures. He also emphasized the importance of individual liberty and the need to protect minority rights, even if it goes against the majority's interests.

Types Of Utilitarianism:

There are two main types of utilitarianism: act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism evaluates each individual action based on its consequences and chooses the action that leads to the greatest overall happiness. This approach requires making calculations for every action, which can be time-consuming and impractical.
Rule utilitarianism, on the other hand, evaluates actions based on the general rules or principles that lead to the greatest overall happiness when followed consistently. This approach allows for more efficient decision-making and is more practical in real-life situations.

Criticisms Of Utilitarianism:

Despite its widespread influence, utilitarianism has faced a number of criticisms from various quarters. Some of the most significant criticisms are:
Problem of measuring happiness: One of the key assumptions of utilitarianism is that happiness or pleasure can be measured and compared between individuals. However, this assumption has been challenged by some critics who argue that happiness is a subjective and complex phenomenon that cannot be reduced to a simple formula.
Ignoring individual rights: Utilitarianism prioritizes the overall happiness of the majority over the interests of individual minorities. This can lead to situations where individual rights and freedoms are sacrificed for the greater good, which some argue is unjust.
Lack of consideration for justice: Utilitarianism focuses solely on the consequences of actions and does not consider the justice or fairness of the process by which those consequences were achieved. This can lead to situations where unjust or unfair means are used to achieve desirable outcomes.


Utilitarianism is a consequentialist ethical theory that evaluates the morality of actions based on their outcomes. It assumes that the goal of human action is to maximize overall happiness or pleasure and minimize overall suffering or pain

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