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Utilitarianism is a family of
normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as bad or undesirable or impermissible. A norm Nor ...
ethical theories Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'"Ethics"/ref> The field of ethics, alo ...
that prescribe actions that maximize
happiness The term ''happiness'' is used in the context of Mental health, mental or emotional states, including positive or Pleasure, pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. It is also used in the context of life satisfaction, subj ...

happiness
and
well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life'', refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative ''to'' someone. So the well-being of a person is what is ultimately good ''for'' this person, what is in the ...
for all affected individuals. Although different varieties of utilitarianism admit different characterizations, the basic idea behind all of them is to in some sense maximize
utility As a topic of economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within thos ...

utility
, which is often defined in terms of well-being or related concepts. For instance,
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S._4_February_1747.html" ;"title="Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title="nowiki/>Old Style and New Style dates">O.S. 4 February 1747">Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.htm ...

Jeremy Bentham
, the founder of utilitarianism, described ''utility'' as "that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness...
r
r
to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness to the party whose interest is considered." Utilitarianism is a version of
consequentialism Consequentialism is a class of normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as bad ...
, which states that the consequences of any action are the only standard of right and wrong. Unlike other forms of consequentialism, such as
egoism Egoism is the philosophy concerned with the role of the self The self is an individual person as the object of its own reflective consciousness. Since the ''self'' is a reference by a subject to the same subject, this reference is necessar ...
and
altruism Altruism is the principle A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a s ...
, utilitarianism considers the interests of all humans equally. Proponents of utilitarianism have disagreed on a number of points, such as whether actions should be chosen based on their likely results (''
act utilitarianism Act utilitarianism is a utilitarian Utilitarianism is a family of normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life' ...
''), or whether agents should conform to rules that maximize utility (''
rule utilitarianism Rule utilitarianism is a form of that says an action is right as it conforms to a rule that leads to the greatest good, or that "the rightness or wrongness of a particular action is a function of the correctness of the rule of which it is an inst ...
''). There is also disagreement as to whether total (''
total utilitarianism Average and total utilitarianism (also called averagism and totalism) are variants of utilitarianism that seek to maximize the average or total amount of utility; following Henry Sidgwick's question, "Is it total or average happiness that we seek to ...
''), average ('' average utilitarianism'') or minimum utility should be maximized. Though the seeds of the theory can be found in the
hedonists Hedonism refers to a family of theories, all of which have in common that ''pleasure'' plays a central role in them. ''Psychological'' or ''motivational hedonism'' claims that our behavior is determined by desires to increase pleasure and to decr ...
Aristippus Aristippus of Cyrene Cyrene may refer to: Antiquity * Cyrene (mythology), an ancient Greek mythological figure * Cyrene, Libya, an ancient Greek colony in North Africa (modern Libya) ** Crete and Cyrenaica, a province of the Roman Empire ** Cyr ...

Aristippus
and
Epicurus Epicurus, ''Epíkouros'', "ally, comrade" (341–270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded Epicureanism Epicureanism is a system of founded around 307 BC based upon the teachings of the . Epicureanism was originally ...

Epicurus
, who viewed happiness as the only good, and in the work of the medieval Indian philosopher
Śāntideva Shantideva (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. ...
, the tradition of modern utilitarianism began with
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S._4_February_1747.html" ;"title="Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title="nowiki/>Old Style and New Style dates">O.S. 4 February 1747">Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.htm ...

Jeremy Bentham
(1748-1832), and continued with such philosophers as
John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873), also cited as J. S. Mill, was an English philosopher, Political economy, political economist, Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) and civil servant. One of the most i ...
,
Henry Sidgwick Henry Sidgwick (; 31 May 1838 – 28 August 1900) was an English utilitarian Utilitarianism is a family of normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness' ...

Henry Sidgwick
, R. M. Hare, and
Peter Singer Peter Albert David Singer (born 6 July 1946) is an Australian moral philosopher Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy) ...

Peter Singer
. The concept has been applied towards social welfare economics, the dropping of the atomic bombs in World War II, the crisis of global
poverty Poverty is the state of having little material possessions or income In microeconomics, income is the Consumption (economics), consumption and saving opportunity gained by an entity within a specified timeframe, which is generally expresse ...

poverty
, the ethics of raising animals for food, and the importance of avoiding existential risks to humanity.


Etymology

''Benthamism'', the utilitarian philosophy founded by
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S._4_February_1747.html" ;"title="Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title="nowiki/>Old Style and New Style dates">O.S. 4 February 1747">Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.htm ...

Jeremy Bentham
, was substantially modified by his successor
John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873), also cited as J. S. Mill, was an English philosopher, Political economy, political economist, Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) and civil servant. One of the most i ...
, who popularized the term ''utilitarianism''. In 1861, Mill acknowledged in a footnote that, though Bentham believed "himself to be the first person who brought the word 'utilitarian' into use, he did not invent it. Rather, he adopted it from a passing expression" in
John Galt John Galt () is a character in Ayn Rand Ayn Rand (; born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum;,  – March 6, 1982) was a Russian-American writer and philosopher. She is known for her two best-selling novels, '' The Fountainhead'' and '' Atl ...
's 1821 novel ''
Annals of the Parish ''Annals of the Parish'' (full title: ''Annals of the parish: or, The chronicle of Dalmailing; during the ministry of the Rev. Micah Balwhidder, written by himself'') is an 1821 novel of Scottish country life by John Galt. Micah Balwhidder, consid ...

Annals of the Parish
''. However, Mill seems to have been unaware that Bentham had used the term ''utilitarian'' in his 1781 letter to George Wilson and his 1802 letter to Étienne Dumont.


Historical background


Pre-modern formulations

The importance of
happiness The term ''happiness'' is used in the context of Mental health, mental or emotional states, including positive or Pleasure, pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. It is also used in the context of life satisfaction, subj ...

happiness
as an end for humans has long been recognized. Forms of
hedonism Hedonism refers to a family of theories, all of which have in common that ''pleasure Pleasure refers to experience that feels good, that involves the enjoyment of something. It contrasts with pain Pain is a distressing feeling often cau ...
were put forward by
Aristippus Aristippus of Cyrene Cyrene may refer to: Antiquity * Cyrene (mythology), an ancient Greek mythological figure * Cyrene, Libya, an ancient Greek colony in North Africa (modern Libya) ** Crete and Cyrenaica, a province of the Roman Empire ** Cyr ...

Aristippus
and
Epicurus Epicurus, ''Epíkouros'', "ally, comrade" (341–270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded Epicureanism Epicureanism is a system of founded around 307 BC based upon the teachings of the . Epicureanism was originally ...

Epicurus
;
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Aristotle
argued that ''
eudaimonia Eudaimonia (Ancient Greek, Greek: :Wiktionary:εὐδαιμονία, εὐδαιμονία ; sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia, ) is a Greek word literally translating to the state or condition of 'good spirit', and which is commonl ...
'' is the highest human good; and wrote that "all men agree in desiring the last end, which is happiness." Happiness was also explored in depth by
Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas (; it, Tommaso d'Aquino, lit=Thomas of Aquino, Italy, Aquino; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican Order, Dominican friar, Philosophy, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. An immensely influential ...

Thomas Aquinas
, in his ''
Summa Theologica The ''Summa Theologiae'' or ''Summa Theologica'' (), often referred to simply as the ''Summa'', is the best-known work of Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas (; it, Tommaso d'Aquino, lit=Thomas of Aquino, Italy, Aquino; 1225 – 7 March 1274 ...
''. Meanwhile, in medieval India, the 8th Century Indian philosopher
Śāntideva Shantideva (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. ...
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." Different varieties of
consequentialism Consequentialism is a class of normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as bad ...
also existed in the ancient and medieval world, like the state consequentialism of
Mohism Mohism or Moism () was an ancient Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was character ...
or the political philosophy of
Niccolò Machiavelli Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (; ; rarely rendered Nicholas Machiavel (see below See or SEE may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Music: ** See (album), ''See'' (album), studio album by rock band The Rascals *** "See", song by ...
. Mohist consequentialism advocated
communitarian Communitarianism is a philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philo ...
moral goods, including
political stability A failed state is a political body that has disintegrated to a point where basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old ...
,
population growth Population growth is the increase in the number of people in a population Population typically refers the number of people in a single area whether it be a city or town, region, country, or the world. Governments typically quantify the size ...
, and
wealth Wealth is the abundance of valuable financial asset A financial asset is a non-physical asset whose value is derived from a contractual claim, such as deposit (finance), bank deposits, bond (finance), bonds, and participations in companies' sh ...

wealth
, but did not support the utilitarian notion of maximizing individual happiness.


18th century

Utilitarianism as a distinct ethical position only emerged in the 18th century, and although it is usually thought to have begun with
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S._4_February_1747.html" ;"title="Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title="nowiki/>Old Style and New Style dates">O.S. 4 February 1747">Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.htm ...

Jeremy Bentham
, there were earlier writers who presented theories that were strikingly similar.


Hutcheson

Francis Hutcheson first introduced a key utilitarian phrase in ''An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue'' (1725): when choosing the most moral action, the amount of
virtue Virtue ( la, virtus ''Virtus'' () was a specific virtue in Ancient Rome. It carries connotations of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth, perceived as masculine strengths (from Latin ''vir'', "man"). It was thus a fr ...

virtue
in a particular action is proportionate to the number of people such brings happiness to. In the same way,
moral evil Moral evil is any morality, morally negative event caused by the intentional action or inaction of an Agency (philosophy), agent, such as a person. An example of a moral evil might be murder, war or any other evil event for which someone can be hel ...
, or ''
vice A vice is a practice, behaviour, or habit A habit (or wont as a humorous and formal term) is a routine of behavior Behavior (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English ...
'', is proportionate to the number of people made to suffer. The best action is the one that procures the greatest happiness of the greatest numbers—and the worst is the one that causes the most misery. In the first three editions of the book, Hutcheson included various mathematical algorithms "to compute the Morality of any Actions." In doing so, he pre-figured the hedonic calculus of Bentham.


Gay

Some claim that
John Gay John Gay (30 June 1685 – 4 December 1732) was an English poet and dramatist and member of the Scriblerus Club. He is best remembered for ''The Beggar's Opera'' (1728), a ballad opera. The characters, including Captain Macheath and Polly Peachu ...
developed the first systematic theory of utilitarian ethics. In ''Concerning the Fundamental Principle of Virtue or Morality'' (1731), Gay argues that: This pursuit of happiness is given a
theological Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity ...
basis:


Hume

In ''
An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals ''An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals'' (''EPM'') is a book by Scottish enlightenment philosopher David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund ...
'' (1751),
David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999999 or triple nine most often refers to: * 999 (emergency telephone number) 250px, A sign on a beach ...

David Hume
writes:


Paley

Gay's theological utilitarianism was developed and popularized by
William Paley William Paley (July 174325 May 1805) was an English clergyman, Christian apologetics, Christian apologist, philosopher, and Utilitarianism, utilitarian. He is best known for his natural theology exposition of the teleological argument for the ex ...
. It has been claimed that Paley was not a very original thinker and that the philosophical part of his
treatise A treatise is a formal Formal, formality, informal or informality imply the complying with, or not complying with, some set theory, set of requirements (substantial form, forms, in Ancient Greek). They may refer to: Dress code and events * For ...
on ethics is "an assemblage of ideas developed by others and is presented to be learned by students rather than debated by colleagues." Nevertheless, his book ''The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy'' (1785) was a required text at
Cambridge Cambridge ( ) is a university city and the county town In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' ...
and Smith (1954) says that Paley's writings were "once as well known in American colleges as were the readers and spellers of and
Noah Webster Noah Webster Jr. (October 16, 1758 – May 28, 1843) was an American lexicographer Lexicography is the study of lexicon A lexicon is the of a or branch of (such as or ). In , a lexicon is a language's inventory of s. The word ''le ...

Noah Webster
in the elementary schools." Schneewind (1977) writes that "utilitarianism first became widely known in England through the work of William Paley." The now forgotten significance of Paley can be judged from the title of 's 1874 work ''Modern Utilitarianism or the Systems of Paley, Bentham and Mill Examined and Compared''. Apart from restating that happiness as an end is grounded in the nature of God, Paley also discusses the place of rules, writing:


Classical utilitarianism


Jeremy Bentham

Bentham's book '' An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation'' was printed in 1780 but not published until 1789. It is possible that Bentham was spurred on to publish after he saw the success of Paley's ''Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy''.Rosen, Frederick. 2003. ''Classical Utilitarianism from Hume to Mill''. Routledge. p. 132. Though Bentham's book was not an immediate success, his ideas were spread further when Pierre Étienne Louis Dumont translated edited selections from a variety of Bentham's manuscripts into French. ''Traité de législation civile et pénale'' was published in 1802 and then later retranslated back into English by Hildreth as ''The Theory of Legislation'', although by this time significant portions of Dumont's work had already been retranslated and incorporated into Sir
John Bowring Sir John Bowring ( Chinese translated name: 寶寧, 寶靈 (for Mandarin speakers) or 包令 (for Cantonese)) (Thai: พระยาสยามมานุกูลกิจ สยามมิตรมหายศ) (17 October 1792 – 23 Novem ...
's edition of Bentham's works, which was issued in parts between 1838 and 1843. Perhaps aware that Francis Hutcheson eventually removed his algorithms for calculating the greatest happiness because they "appear'd useless, and were disagreeable to some readers," Hutcheson, Francis. 1726. "Introduction." In ''An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue''. Bentham contends that there is nothing novel or unwarranted about his method, for "in all this there is nothing but what the practice of mankind, wheresoever they have a clear view of their own interest, is perfectly conformable to." Rosen (2003) warns that descriptions of utilitarianism can bear "little resemblance historically to utilitarians like Bentham and
J. S. Mill John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873), also cited as J. S. Mill, was an English philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as ...
" and can be more "a crude version of
act utilitarianism Act utilitarianism is a utilitarian Utilitarianism is a family of normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life' ...
conceived in the twentieth century as a
straw man A straw man (sometimes written as strawman) is a form of argument In logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic ...
to be attacked and rejected." It is a mistake to think that Bentham is not concerned with rules. His seminal work is concerned with the principles of legislation and the hedonic calculus is introduced with the words "Pleasures then, and the avoidance of pains, are the ends that the legislator has in view." In Chapter VII, Bentham says: "The business of government is to promote the happiness of the society, by punishing and rewarding.… In proportion as an act tends to disturb that happiness, in proportion as the tendency of it is pernicious, will be the demand it creates for punishment."


Principle of utility

Bentham's work opens with a statement of the principle of utility:


Hedonic calculus

In Chapter IV, Bentham introduces a method of calculating the value of pleasures and pains, which has come to be known as the hedonic calculus. Bentham says that the value of a pleasure or pain, considered by itself, can be measured according to its intensity, duration, certainty/uncertainty and propinquity/remoteness. In addition, it is necessary to consider "the tendency of any act by which it is produced" and, therefore, to take account of the act's fecundity, or the chance it has of being followed by sensations of the same kind and its purity, or the chance it has of not being followed by sensations of the opposite kind. Finally, it is necessary to consider the extent, or the number of people affected by the action.


Evils of the first and second order

The question then arises as to when, if at all, it might be legitimate to break the law. This is considered in ''The Theory of Legislation'', where Bentham distinguishes between evils of the first and second order. Those of the first order are the more immediate consequences; those of the second are when the consequences spread through the community causing "alarm" and "danger."
It is true there are cases in which, if we confine ourselves to the effects of the first order, the good will have an incontestable preponderance over the evil. Were the offence considered only under this point of view, it would not be easy to assign any good reasons to justify the rigour of the laws. Every thing depends upon the evil of the second order; it is this which gives to such actions the character of crime, and which makes punishment necessary. Let us take, for example, the physical desire of satisfying hunger. Let a beggar, pressed by hunger, steal from a rich man's house a loaf, which perhaps saves him from starving, can it be possible to compare the good which the thief acquires for himself, with the evil which the rich man suffers?… It is not on account of the evil of the first order that it is necessary to erect these actions into offences, but on account of the evil of the second order.


John Stuart Mill

Mill was brought up as a Benthamite with the explicit intention that he would carry on the cause of utilitarianism. Mill's book ''
Utilitarianism Utilitarianism is a family of normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as ba ...
'' first appeared as a series of three articles published in ''
Fraser's Magazine ''Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country'' was a general and literary journal A journal, from the Old French ''journal'' (meaning "daily"), may refer to: *Bullet journal, a method of personal organizations *Diary, a record of what happened over the ...
'' in 1861 and was reprinted as a single book in 1863.


Higher and lower pleasures

Mill rejects a purely quantitative measurement of utility and says: The word ''utility'' is used to mean general well-being or happiness, and Mill's view is that utility is the consequence of a good action. Utility, within the context of utilitarianism, refers to people performing actions for social utility. With social utility, he means the well-being of many people. Mill's explanation of the concept of utility in his work, Utilitarianism, is that people really do desire happiness, and since each individual desires their own happiness, it must follow that all of us desire the happiness of everyone, contributing to a larger social utility. Thus, an action that results in the greatest pleasure for the utility of society is the best action, or as
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S._4_February_1747.html" ;"title="Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title="nowiki/>Old Style and New Style dates">O.S. 4 February 1747">Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.htm ...

Jeremy Bentham
, the founder of early Utilitarianism put it, as the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Mill not only viewed actions as a core part of utility, but as the directive rule of moral human conduct. The rule being that we should only be committing actions that provide pleasure to society. This view of pleasure was hedonistic, as it pursued the thought that pleasure is the highest good in life. This concept was adopted by Bentham and can be seen in his works. According to Mill, good actions result in pleasure, and that there is no higher end than pleasure. Mill says that good actions lead to pleasure and define good
character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk * ''Characters'' (Theophrastus), a classical Greek set of character sketches attributed to Theophrastus M ...
. Better put, the justification of character, and whether an action is good or not, is based on how the person contributes to the concept of social utility. In the long run the best proof of a good character is good actions; and resolutely refuse to consider any mental disposition as good, of which the predominant tendency is to produce bad conduct. In the last chapter of Utilitarianism, Mill concludes that justice, as a classifying factor of our actions (being just or unjust) is one of the certain moral requirements, and when the requirements are all regarded collectively, they are viewed as greater according to this scale of "social utility" as Mill puts it. He also notes that, contrary to what its critics might say, there is "no known
Epicurean Epicureanism is a system of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Ph ...
theory of life which does not assign to the pleasures of the intellect…a much higher value as pleasures than to those of mere sensation." However, he accepts that this is usually because the intellectual pleasures are thought to have circumstantial advantages, i.e. "greater permanency, safety, uncostliness, &c." Instead, Mill will argue that some pleasures are intrinsically better than others. The accusation that
hedonism Hedonism refers to a family of theories, all of which have in common that ''pleasure Pleasure refers to experience that feels good, that involves the enjoyment of something. It contrasts with pain Pain is a distressing feeling often cau ...
is a "doctrine worthy only of swine" has a long history. In ''
Nicomachean Ethics The ''Nicomachean Ethics'' (; grc, Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια, ) is the name normally given to 's best-known work on . The work, which plays a role in defining , consists of ten books, originally separate scrolls, and is understood to be ...
'' (Book 1 Chapter 5),
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Aristotle
says that identifying the good with pleasure is to prefer a life suitable for beasts. The theological utilitarians had the option of grounding their pursuit of happiness in the will of God; the hedonistic utilitarians needed a different defence. Mill's approach is to argue that the pleasures of the intellect are intrinsically superior to physical pleasures.
Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals, for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast's pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they are with theirs.… A being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy, is capable probably of more acute suffering, and certainly accessible to it at more points, than one of an inferior type; but in spite of these liabilities, he can never really wish to sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence.… It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be
Socrates Socrates (; ; –399 BC) was a Greek philosopher from Athens Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is the capital city, capital and List of cities in Greece, largest city of Greece. Athens domi ...

Socrates
dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question…
Mill argues that if people who are "competently acquainted" with two pleasures show a decided preference for one even if it be accompanied by more discontent and "would not resign it for any quantity of the other," then it is legitimate to regard that pleasure as being superior in quality. Mill recognizes that these "competent judges" will not always agree, and states that, in cases of disagreement, the judgment of the majority is to be accepted as final. Mill also acknowledges that "many who are capable of the higher pleasures, occasionally, under the influence of temptation, postpone them to the lower. But this is quite compatible with a full appreciation of the intrinsic superiority of the higher." Mill says that this appeal to those who have experienced the relevant pleasures is no different from what must happen when assessing the quantity of pleasure, for there is no other way of measuring "the acutest of two pains, or the intensest of two pleasurable sensations." "It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low, has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly-endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constitute, is imperfect." Mill also thinks that "intellectual pursuits have value out of proportion to the amount of contentment or pleasure (the mental state) that they produce." 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. We will become bored and depressed." Mill claims that gratification from petty pleasures only gives short-term happiness and, subsequently, worsens the individual who may feel that his life lacks happiness, since the happiness is transient. Whereas, intellectual pursuits give long-term happiness because they provide the individual with constant opportunities throughout the years to improve his life, by benefiting from accruing knowledge. Mill views intellectual pursuits as "capable of incorporating the 'finer things' in life" while petty pursuits do not achieve this goal. Mill is saying that intellectual pursuits give the individual the opportunity to escape the constant depression cycle since these pursuits allow them to achieve their ideals, while petty pleasures do not offer this. Although debate persists about the nature of Mill's view of gratification, this suggests bifurcation in his position.


'Proving' the principle of utility

In Chapter Four of ''
Utilitarianism Utilitarianism is a family of normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as ba ...
'', Mill considers what proof can be given for the principle of utility: It is usual to say that Mill is committing a number of
fallacies A fallacy is the use of invalid or otherwise faulty reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of ...
: *
naturalistic fallacy In philosophical ethics, the term naturalistic fallacy was introduced by British philosopher G. E. Moore in his 1903 book '' Principia Ethica''. Moore argues it would be fallacious to explain that which is good reductively, in terms of natural p ...
: Mill is trying to deduce what people ought to do from what they in fact do; * equivocation fallacy: Mill moves from the fact that (1) something is desirable, i.e. is capable of being desired, to the claim that (2) it is desirable, i.e. that it ought to be desired; and * the
fallacy of composition The fallacy of composition is an that arises when one that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole. A trivial example might be: "This tire is made of rubber, therefore the vehicle of which it is a ...
: the fact that people desire their own happiness does not imply that the aggregate of all persons will desire the general happiness. Such allegations began to emerge in Mill's lifetime, shortly after the publication of ''Utilitarianism'', and persisted for well over a century, though the tide has been turning in recent discussions. Nonetheless, a defence of Mill against all three charges, with a chapter devoted to each, can be found in Necip Fikri Alican's ''Mill's Principle of Utility: A Defense of John Stuart Mill's Notorious Proof'' (1994). This is the first, and remains the only, book-length treatment of the subject matter. Yet the alleged fallacies in the proof continue to attract scholarly attention in journal articles and book chapters. Hall (1949) and Popkin (1950) defend Mill against this accusation pointing out that he begins Chapter Four by asserting that "questions of ultimate ends do not admit of proof, in the ordinary acceptation of the term" and that this is "common to all first principles." Therefore, according to Hall and Popkin, Mill does not attempt to "establish that what people do desire is desirable but merely attempts to make the principles acceptable." The type of "proof" Mill is offering "consists only of some considerations which, Mill thought, might induce an honest and reasonable man to accept utilitarianism." Having claimed that people do, in fact, desire happiness, Mill now has to show that it is the ''only'' thing they desire. Mill anticipates the objection that people desire other things such as virtue. He argues that whilst people might start desiring virtue as a ''means'' to happiness, eventually, it becomes part of someone's happiness and is then desired as an end in itself.


Henry Sidgwick

Sidgwick's book The Methods of Ethics has been referred to as the peak or culmination of classical utilitarianism. His main goal in this book is to ground utilitarianism in the principles of ''common-sense morality'' and thereby dispense with the doubts of his predecessors that these two are at odds with each other. For Sidgwick, ethics is about which actions are objectively right. Our knowledge of right and wrong arises from common-sense morality, which lacks a coherent principle at its core. The task of philosophy in general and ethics in particular is not so much to create new knowledge but to systematize existing knowledge. Sidgwick tries to achieve this by formulating ''methods of ethics'', which he defines as rational procedures "for determining right conduct in any particular case". He identifies three methods:
intuitionism In the philosophy of mathematics Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient ...
, which involves various independently valid moral principles to determine what ought to be done, and two forms of ''hedonism'', in which rightness only depends on the pleasure and pain following from the action. Hedonism is subdivided into ''egoistic hedonism'', which only takes the agent's own well-being into account, and ''universal hedonism'' or ''utilitarianism'', which is concerned with everyone's well-being. Intuitionism holds that we have intuitive, i.e. non-inferential, knowledge of moral principles, which are self-evident to the knower. The criteria for this type of knowledge include that they are expressed in clear terms, that the different principles are mutually consistent with each other and that there is expert consensus on them. According to Sidgwick, commonsense moral principles fail to pass this test, but there are some more abstract principles that pass it, like that "what is right for me must be right for all persons in precisely similar circumstances" or that "one should be equally concerned with all temporal parts of one’s life". The most general principles arrived at this way are all compatible with ''utilitarianism'', which is why Sidgwick sees a harmony between ''intuitionism'' and ''utilitarianism''. There are also less general intuitive principles, like the duty to keep one's promises or to be just, but these principles are not universal and there are cases where different duties stand in conflict with each other. Sidgwick suggests that we resolve such conflicts in a utilitarian fashion by considering the consequences of the conflicting actions. The harmony between intuitionism and utilitarianism is a partial success in Sidgwick's overall project, but he sees full success impossible since egoism, which he considers as equally rational, cannot be reconciled with utilitarianism unless ''religious assumptions'' are introduced. Such assumptions, for example, the existence of a personal God who rewards and punishes the agent in the afterlife, could reconcile egoism and utilitarianism. But without them, we have to admit a "dualism of practical reason" that constitutes a "fundamental contradiction" in our moral consciousness.


Developments in the 20th century


Ideal utilitarianism

The description of ideal utilitarianism was first used by
Hastings Rashdall Hastings Rashdall (24 June 1858 – 9 February 1924) was an English philosopher, theologian, historian, and Anglican priest. He expounded a theory known as Utilitarianism#Ideal utilitarianism, ideal utilitarianism, and he was a major historian ...
in ''
The Theory of Good and Evil ''The Theory of Good and Evil'' is a 1907 book about ethics by the English philosopher Hastings Rashdall. The book, which has been compared to the philosopher G. E. Moore's ''Principia Ethica'' (1903), is Rashdall's best known work, and is consider ...
'' (1907), but it is more often associated with G. E. Moore. In ''Ethics'' (1912), Moore rejects a purely
hedonistic utilitarianism Hedonism refers to a family of theories, all of which have in common that ''pleasure Pleasure refers to experience that feels good, that involves the enjoyment of something. It contrasts with pain or suffering, which are forms of feeling bad. ...
and argues that there is a range of values that might be maximized. Moore's strategy was to show that it is intuitively implausible that pleasure is the sole measure of what is good. He says that such an assumption:Moore, G. E. (1912). ''Ethics'', London: Williams and Norgate, Ch. 7 Moore admits that it is impossible to prove the case either way, but he believed that it was intuitively obvious that even if the amount of pleasure stayed the same a world that contained such things as beauty and love would be a better world. He adds that, if a person was to take the contrary view, then "I think it is self-evident that he would be wrong."


Act and rule utilitarianism

In the mid-20th century, a number of philosophers focused on the place of rules in utilitarian thought.Bayles, M. D., ed. 1968. ''Contemporary Utilitarianism''. Doubleday:
Anchor Books Vintage Books is a trade paperback publishing imprint established in 1954 by Alfred A. Knopf. The company was purchased by Random House publishing in April 1960, and is a subdivision of Random House. In 1990, Vintage UK was set up in the Unite ...
.
It was already accepted that it is necessary to use rules to help you choose the right action because the problems of calculating the consequences on each and every occasion would almost certainly result in you frequently choosing something less than the best course of action. Paley had justified the use of rules and Mill says: However, rule utilitarianism proposes a more central role for rules that was thought to rescue the theory from some of its more devastating criticisms, particularly problems to do with justice and promise keeping. Smart (1956) and McCloskey (1957) initially use the terms ''extreme'' and ''restricted'' utilitarianism but eventually everyone settled on the prefixes ''act'' and ''rule'' instead. Likewise, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, articles were published both for and against the new form of utilitarianism, and through this debate the theory we now call ''rule utilitarianism'' was created. In an introduction to an anthology of these articles, the editor was able to say: "The development of this theory was a
dialectic Dialectic or dialectics ( grc-gre, διαλεκτική, ''dialektikḗ''; related to dialogue Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States Engli ...
al process of formulation, criticism, reply and reformulation; the record of this process well illustrates the co-operative development of a philosophical theory." The essential difference is in what determines whether or not an action is the right action. ''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. In 1956, Urmson (1953) published an influential article arguing that Mill justified rules on utilitarian principles. From then on, articles have debated this interpretation of Mill. In all probability, it was not a distinction that Mill was particularly trying to make and so the evidence in his writing is inevitably mixed. A collection of Mill's writing published in 1977 includes a letter that seems to tip the balance in favour of the notion that Mill is best classified as an ''act utilitarian''. In the letter, Mill says: Some school level textbooks and at least one British examination board make a further distinction between strong and weak rule utilitarianism. However, it is not clear that this distinction is made in the academic literature. It has been argued that rule utilitarianism collapses into act utilitarianism, because for any given rule, in the case where breaking the rule produces more utility, the rule can be refined by the addition of a sub-rule that handles cases like the exception. This process holds for all cases of exceptions, and so the "rules" have as many "sub-rules" as there are exceptional cases, which, in the end, makes an agent seek out whatever outcome produces the maximum utility.


Two-level utilitarianism

In ''Principles'' (1973), R. M. Hare accepts that
rule utilitarianism Rule utilitarianism is a form of that says an action is right as it conforms to a rule that leads to the greatest good, or that "the rightness or wrongness of a particular action is a function of the correctness of the rule of which it is an inst ...
collapses into
act utilitarianism Act utilitarianism is a utilitarian Utilitarianism is a family of normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life' ...
but claims that this is a result of allowing the rules to be "as specific and un-general as we please." He argues that one of the main reasons for introducing rule utilitarianism was to do justice to the general rules that people need for moral education and character development and he proposes that "a difference between act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism can be introduced by limiting the specificity of the rules, i.e., by increasing their generality." This distinction between a "specific rule utilitarianism" (which collapses into act utilitarianism) and "general rule utilitarianism" forms the basis of Hare's ''two-level utilitarianism''. When we are " playing God or the ideal observer," we use the specific form, and we will need to do this when we are deciding what general principles to teach and follow. When we are " inculcating" or in situations where the biases of our human nature are likely to prevent us doing the calculations properly, then we should use the more general rule utilitarianism. Hare argues that in practice, most of the time, we should be following the general principles: In ''Moral Thinking'' (1981), Hare illustrated the two extremes. The "archangel" is the hypothetical person who has perfect knowledge of the situation and no personal biases or weaknesses and always uses critical moral thinking to decide the right thing to do. In contrast, the "prole" is the hypothetical person who is completely incapable of critical thinking and uses nothing but intuitive moral thinking and, of necessity, has to follow the general moral rules they have been taught or learned through imitation. It is not that some people are
archangel An archangel is an angel of high Christian angelic hierarchy, rank. The word "archangel" itself is usually associated with the Abrahamic religions, but beings that are very similar to archangels are found in a number of religious traditions. T ...

archangel
s and others proles, but rather that "we all share the characteristics of both to limited and varying degrees and at different times." Hare does not specify when we should think more like an "archangel" and more like a "prole" as this will, in any case, vary from person to person. However, the critical moral thinking underpins and informs the more intuitive moral thinking. It is responsible for formulating and, if necessary, reformulating the general moral rules. We also switch to critical thinking when trying to deal with unusual situations or in cases where the intuitive moral rules give conflicting advice.


Preference utilitarianism

Preference utilitarianism entails promoting actions that fulfil the preferences of those beings involved. The concept of preference utilitarianism was first proposed in 1977 by
John Harsanyi John Charles Harsanyi ( hu, Harsányi János Károly; May 29, 1920 – August 9, 2000) was a Hungarian- American Nobel Prize laureate economist An economist is a practitioner in the social sciences, social science discipline of economics. Th ...
in ''Morality and the Theory of Rational Behaviour'', Harsanyi, John C.
977 Year 977 ( CMLXXVII) was a common year starting on Monday A common year starting on Monday is any non-leap year A leap year (also known as an intercalary year or year) is a that contains an additional day (or, in the case of a , a month) ...
1982. "Morality and the theory of rational behaviour." Pp. 39–62 in ''Utilitarianism and Beyond'', edited by and . Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press (CUP) is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge , mottoeng = Literal: From here, light and sacred draughts. Non literal: From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowled ...
. .
however the concept is more commonly associated with R. M. Hare,
Peter Singer Peter Albert David Singer (born 6 July 1946) is an Australian moral philosopher Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy) ...

Peter Singer
, and
Richard Brandt Richard Booker Brandt (17 October 1910 – 10 September 1997) was an American philosopher working in the utilitarian tradition in moral philosophy. Education and career Brandt was originally educated at Denison University, a Baptist institution he ...
. Harsanyi claims that his theory is indebted to: *
Adam Smith Adam Smith ( 1723 – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist, philosopher as well as a moral philosopher Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and ...

Adam Smith
, who equated the moral point of view with that of an impartial but sympathetic observer; *
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about r ...

Immanuel Kant
, who insisted on the criterion of universality, which may also be described as a criterion of
reciprocity Reciprocity may refer to: Law and trade * Reciprocity (Canadian politics), free trade with the United States of America ** Reciprocal trade agreement, entered into in order to reduce (or eliminate) tariffs, quotas and other trade restrictions on ...
; * the classical utilitarians who made maximizing social utility the basic criterion of morality; and * "the modern theory of rational behaviour under risk and uncertainty, usually described as
Bayesian Thomas Bayes (/beɪz/; c. 1701 – 1761) was an English statistician, philosopher, and Presbyterian minister. Bayesian () refers to a range of concepts and approaches that are ultimately based on a degree-of-belief interpretation of probability, ...

Bayesian
decision theory Decision theory (or the theory of choice not to be confused with choice theory) is the study of an agent's choices. Decision theory can be broken into two branches: normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normati ...
." Harsanyi rejects
hedonistic utilitarianism Hedonism refers to a family of theories, all of which have in common that ''pleasure Pleasure refers to experience that feels good, that involves the enjoyment of something. It contrasts with pain or suffering, which are forms of feeling bad. ...
as being dependent on an outdated psychology saying that it is far from obvious that everything we do is motivated by a desire to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. He also rejects ideal utilitarianism because "it is certainly not true as an empirical observation that people's only purpose in life is to have 'mental states of intrinsic worth'." According to Harsanyi, "preference utilitarianism is the only form of utilitarianism consistent with the important philosophical principle of preference autonomy. By this I mean the principle that, in deciding what is good and what is bad for a given individual, the ultimate criterion can only be his own wants and his own preferences." Harsanyi adds two caveats. Firstly, people sometimes have
irrational Irrationality is cognition, thinking, talking, or acting without inclusion of rationality. It is more specifically described as an action or opinion given through inadequate use of reason, or through emotional distress or cognitive deficiency. Th ...
preferences. To deal with this, Harsanyi distinguishes between "manifest" preferences and "true" preferences. The former are those "manifested by his observed behaviour, including preferences possibly based on erroneous factual beliefs, or on careless logical analysis, or on strong emotions that at the moment greatly hinder
rational choice Rational choice theory, also known as theory of rational choice, choice theory or rational action theory, is a framework for understanding and often formally modeling social and economic behavior. It dictates that every person, in order to dete ...
;" whereas the latter are "the preferences he would have if he had all the relevant factual information, always reasoned with the greatest possible care, and were in a state of mind most conducive to rational choice." It is the latter that preference utilitarianism tries to satisfy. The second caveat is that antisocial preferences, such as
sadism Sadism may refer to: * Sadomasochism Sadomasochism ( ) is the giving and receiving of pleasure from acts involving the receipt or infliction of pain or humiliation. Practitioners of sadomasochism may seek sexual gratification from their acts. ...
,
envy Envy (from Latin ''invidia'') is an emotion which occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it. Aristotle defined envy as pain at the sight of anothe ...

envy
, and
resentment Resentment (also called ranklement or bitterness) is a complex, multilayered that has been described as a mixture of , , , and . Other psychologists consider it a or as a secondary emotion (including cognitive elements) that can be elicited i ...

resentment
, have to be excluded. Harsanyi achieves this by claiming that such preferences partially exclude those people from the moral community:


Negative utilitarianism

In ''
The Open Society and its Enemies ''The Open Society and Its Enemies'' is a work on political philosophy by the philosopher Karl Popper, in which the author presents a "defence of the open society against its enemies", and offers a critique of theories of teleology, teleological hi ...
'' (1945),
Karl Popper Sir Karl Raimund Popper (28 July 1902 – 17 September 1994) was an Austrian-British philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as tho ...

Karl Popper
argues that the principle "maximize pleasure" should be replaced by "minimize pain." He believes that "it is not only impossible but very dangerous to attempt to maximize the pleasure or the happiness of the people, since such an attempt must lead to totalitarianism." He claims that: The actual term ''negative utilitarianism'' itself was introduced by R. N. Smart as the title to his 1958 reply to Popper in which he argues that the principle would entail seeking the quickest and least painful method of killing the entirety of humanity. In response to Smart's argument, Simon Knutsson (2019) has argued that classical utilitarianism and similar
consequentialist Consequentialism is a class of normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as bad ...
views are roughly equally likely to entail killing the entirety of humanity, as they would seem to imply that one should kill existing beings and replace them with happier beings if possible. Consequently, Knutsson argues: Furthermore, Knutsson notes that one could argue that other forms of consequentialism, such as classical utilitarianism, in some cases have less plausible implications than negative utilitarianism, such as in scenarios where classical utilitarianism implies it would be right to kill everyone and replace them in a manner that creates more suffering, but also more well-being such that the sum, on the classical
utilitarian calculus The felicific calculus is an algorithm of an algorithm (Euclid's algorithm) for calculating the greatest common divisor (g.c.d.) of two numbers ''a'' and ''b'' in locations named A and B. The algorithm proceeds by successive subtractions in two ...
, is net positive. Negative utilitarianism, in contrast, would not allow such killing. Some versions of negative utilitarianism include: * Negative ''total'' utilitarianism: tolerates suffering that can be compensated within the same person.Fabian, Fricke. 2002. "Verschiedene Versionen des negativen Utilitarismus." '''' 15(1): p. 14. * Negative ''preference'' utilitarianism: avoids the problem of moral killing with reference to existing preferences that such killing would violate, while it still demands a justification for the creation of new lives. A possible justification is the reduction of the average level of preference-frustration. * Some see negative utilitarianism as a branch within modern
hedonistic utilitarianism Hedonism refers to a family of theories, all of which have in common that ''pleasure Pleasure refers to experience that feels good, that involves the enjoyment of something. It contrasts with pain or suffering, which are forms of feeling bad. ...
, which assigns a higher weight to the avoidance of suffering than to the promotion of happiness. The moral weight of suffering can be increased by using a "compassionate" utilitarian metric, so that the result is the same as in
prioritarianism Prioritarianism, or the priority view, is a view within ethics and political philosophy that holds that the goodness of an outcome is a function of overall well-being across all individuals with extra weight given to worse-off individuals. Prioritar ...
. * Pessimistic representatives of negative utilitarianism, which can be found in the environment of
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
.


Motive utilitarianism

Motive utilitarianism was first proposed by
Robert Merrihew Adams Robert Merrihew Adams (born 1937) is an American Analytic philosophy, analytic philosopher, specializing in metaphysics, philosophy of religion, ethics, and the history of philosophy, history of early modern philosophy. Life and career Adams ...
in 1976. Whereas
act utilitarianism Act utilitarianism is a utilitarian Utilitarianism is a family of normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life' ...
requires us to choose our actions by calculating which action will maximize
utility As a topic of economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within thos ...

utility
and
rule utilitarianism Rule utilitarianism is a form of that says an action is right as it conforms to a rule that leads to the greatest good, or that "the rightness or wrongness of a particular action is a function of the correctness of the rule of which it is an inst ...
requires us to implement rules that will, on the whole, maximize utility, ''motive utilitarianism'' "has the utility calculus being used to select motives and dispositions according to their general felicific effects, and those motives and dispositions then dictate our choices of actions."Goodin, Robert E. "Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy." ''Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Public Policy''. Cambridge University Press. The arguments for moving to some form of motive utilitarianism at the personal level can be seen as mirroring the arguments for moving to some form of rule utilitarianism at the social level. Adams (1976) refers to observation that "Happiness (general as well as individual) is likely to be better attained if the extent to which we set ourselves consciously to aim at it be carefully restricted."Adams, Robert Merrihew. 1976. "Motive Utilitarianism. ''
The Journal of Philosophy ''The Journal of Philosophy'' is a monthly Peer review, peer-reviewed academic journal on philosophy, founded in 1904 at Columbia University. Its stated purpose is "To publish philosophical articles of current interest and encourage the interchange ...
'' 73(14).
Trying to apply the utility calculation on each and every occasion is likely to lead to a sub-optimal outcome. Applying carefully selected rules at the social level and encouraging appropriate motives at the personal level is, so it is argued, likely to lead to a better overall outcome even if on some individual occasions it leads to the wrong action when assessed according to act utilitarian standards. Adams concludes that "right action, by act-utilitarian standards, and right motivation, by motive-utilitarian standards, are incompatible in some cases." The necessity of this conclusion is rejected by Fred Feldman who argues that "the conflict in question results from an inadequate formulation of the utilitarian doctrines; motives play no essential role in it… nd that ecisely the same sort of conflict arises even when MU is left out of consideration and AU is applied by itself." Instead,
Feldman Feldman is a German language, German and Ashkenazi Jewish surname. Notable people with the surname include: Academics * Arthur Feldman (born 1949), American cardiologist * David B. Feldman, American psychologist * David Feldman (historian), Americ ...
proposes a variant of act utilitarianism that results in there being no conflict between it and motive utilitarianism.


Criticisms

Because utilitarianism is not a single theory, but rather a cluster of related theories that have been developed over two hundred years, criticisms can be made for different reasons and have different targets.


Quantifying utility

A common objection to utilitarianism is the inability to quantify, compare, or measure happiness or well-being. Ray Briggs writes in the ''
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy The ''Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' (''SEP'') combines an online encyclopedia An online encyclopedia, also called an Internet encyclopedia, or a digital encyclopedia, is an encyclopedia An encyclopedia or encyclopaedia (British E ...
'': Utility understood this way is a personal preference, in the absence of any objective measurement.


Utility ignores justice

As Rosen (2003) has pointed out, claiming that act utilitarians are not concerned about having rules is to set up a "
straw man A straw man (sometimes written as strawman) is a form of argument In logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic ...
." Similarly, R. M. Hare, R.M. Hare refers to "the crude caricature of act utilitarianism which is the only version of it that many philosophers seem to be acquainted with." Given what Bentham says about second order evils, it would be a serious misrepresentation to say that he and similar act utilitarians would be prepared to punish an innocent person for the greater good. Nevertheless, whether they would agree or not, this is what critics of utilitarianism claim is entailed by the theory.


"Sheriff scenario"

A classic version of this criticism was given by Henry John McCloskey, H. J. McCloskey in his 1957 "sheriff scenario:" By "extreme" utilitarian, McCloskey is referring to what later came to be called Act utilitarianism, ''act'' utilitarianism. He suggests one response might be that the sheriff would not frame the innocent negro because of another rule: "do not punish an innocent person." Another response might be that the riots the sheriff is trying to avoid might have positive utility in the long run by drawing attention to questions of race and resources to help address tensions between the communities. In a later article, McCloskey says:


''The Brothers Karamazov''

An older form of this argument was presented by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his book ''The Brothers Karamazov'', in which Ivan challenges his brother Alyosha to answer his question:
Tell me straight out, I call on you—answer me: imagine that you yourself are building the edifice of human destiny with the object of making people happy in the finale, of giving them peace and rest at last, but for that you must inevitably and unavoidably torture just one tiny creature, [one child], and raise your edifice on the foundation of her unrequited tears—would you agree to be the architect on such conditions?... And can you admit the idea that the people for whom you are building would agree to accept their happiness on the unjustified blood of a tortured child, and having accepted it, to remain forever happy?


Predicting consequences

Some argue that it is impossible to do the calculation that utilitarianism requires because consequences are inherently unknowable. Daniel Dennett describes this as the "Three Mile Island accident, Three Mile Island effect". Dennett points out that not only is it impossible to assign a precise utility value to the incident, it is impossible to know whether, ultimately, the near-meltdown that occurred was a good or bad thing. He suggests that it would have been a good thing if plant operators learned lessons that prevented future serious incidents. Russell Hardin (1990) rejects such arguments. He argues that it is possible to distinguish the moral impulse of utilitarianism (which is "to define the right as good consequences and to motivate people to achieve these") from our ability to correctly apply rational principles that, among other things, "depend on the perceived facts of the case and on the particular moral actor's mental equipment." The fact that the latter is limited and can change does not mean that the former has to be rejected. "If we develop a better system for determining relevant causal relations so that we are able to choose actions that better produce our intended ends, it does not follow that we then must change our ethics. The moral impulse of utilitarianism is constant, but our decisions under it are contingent on our knowledge and scientific understanding." From the beginning, utilitarianism has recognized that certainty in such matters is unobtainable and both Bentham and Mill said that it was necessary to rely on the ''tendencies'' of actions to bring about consequences. G. E. Moore, writing in 1903, said:


Demandingness objection

Act utilitarianism not only requires everyone to do what they can to maximize utility, but to do so without any favouritism. Mill said, "As between his own happiness and that of others, utilitarianism requires him to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator." Critics say that this combination of requirements leads to utilitarianism making unreasonable demands. The well-being of strangers counts just as much as that of friends, family or self. "What makes this requirement so demanding is the gargantuan number of strangers in great need of help and the indefinitely many opportunities to make sacrifices to help them." As Shelly Kagan says, "Given the parameters of the actual world, there is no question that...(maximally)...promoting the good would require a life of hardship, self-denial, and austerity...a life spent promoting the good would be a severe one indeed." Hooker (2002) describes two aspects to the problem: act utilitarianism requires ''huge'' sacrifices from those who are relatively better off and also requires sacrifice of your own good even when the aggregate good will be only ''slightly'' increased. Another way of highlighting the complaint is to say that in utilitarianism, "there is no such thing as morally permissible self-sacrifice that goes above and beyond the call of duty." Mill was quite clear about this, "A sacrifice which does not increase, or tend to increase, the sum total of happiness, it considers as wasted." One response to the problem is to accept its demands. This is the view taken by
Peter Singer Peter Albert David Singer (born 6 July 1946) is an Australian moral philosopher Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy) ...

Peter Singer
, who says:
No doubt we do instinctively prefer to help those who are close to us. Few could stand by and watch a child drown; many can ignore the avoidable deaths of children in Africa or India. The question, however, is not what we usually do, but what we ought to do, and it is difficult to see any sound moral justification for the view that distance, or community membership, makes a crucial difference to our obligations.
Others argue that a moral theory that is so contrary to our deeply held moral convictions must either be rejected or modified. There have been various attempts to modify utilitarianism to escape its seemingly over-demanding requirements. One approach is to drop the demand that utility be maximized. In ''Satisficing Consequentialism'', Michael Slote argues for a form of utilitarianism where "an act might qualify as morally right through having good enough consequences, even though better consequences could have been produced." One advantage of such a system is that it would be able to accommodate the notion of Supererogation, supererogatory actions. Samuel Scheffler takes a different approach and amends the requirement that everyone be treated the same. In particular, Scheffler suggests that there is an "agent-centered prerogative" such that when the overall utility is being calculated it is permitted to count our own interests more heavily than the interests of others. Kagan suggests that such a procedure might be justified on the grounds that "a general requirement to promote the good would lack the motivational underpinning necessary for genuine moral requirements" and, secondly, that personal independence is necessary for the existence of commitments and close personal relations and that "the value of such commitments yields a positive reason for preserving within moral theory at least some moral independence for the personal point of view." Robert Goodin takes yet another approach and argues that the demandingness objection can be "blunted" by treating utilitarianism as a guide to public policy rather than one of individual morality. He suggests that many of the problems arise under the traditional formulation because the conscientious utilitarian ends up having to make up for the failings of others and so contributing more than their fair share. Gandjour specifically considers market situations and analyses whether individuals who act in markets may produce a utilitarian optimum. He lists several demanding conditions that need to be satisfied: individuals need to display instrumental rationality, markets need to be perfectly competitive, and income and goods need to be redistributed. Harsanyi argues that the objection overlooks the fact that "people attach considerable utility to freedom from unduly burdensome moral obligations... most people will prefer a society with a more relaxed moral code, and will feel that such a society will achieve a higher level of average utility—even if adoption of such a moral code should lead to some losses in economic and cultural accomplishments (so long as these losses remain within tolerable limits). 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."


Aggregating utility

The objection that "utilitarianism does not take seriously the distinction between persons" came to prominence in 1971 with the publication of John Rawls' ''A Theory of Justice''. The concept is also important in animal rights advocate Richard D. Ryder, Richard Ryder's rejection of utilitarianism, in which he talks of the "boundary of the individual," through which neither pain nor pleasure may pass. However, a similar objection was noted in 1970 by Thomas Nagel, who claimed that
consequentialism Consequentialism is a class of normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as bad ...
"treats the desires, needs, satisfactions, and dissatisfactions of distinct persons as if they were the desires, etc., of a mass person;" and even earlier by David Gauthier, who wrote that utilitarianism supposes that "mankind is a super-person, whose greatest satisfaction is the objective of moral action.... But this is absurd. Individuals have wants, not mankind; individuals seek satisfaction, not mankind. A person's satisfaction is not part of any greater satisfaction." Thus, the aggregation of utility becomes futile as both pain and happiness are intrinsic to and inseparable from the consciousness in which they are felt, rendering impossible the task of adding up the various pleasures of multiple individuals. A response to this criticism is to point out that whilst seeming to resolve some problems it introduces others. Intuitively, there are many cases where people do want to take the numbers involved into account. As Alastair Norcross has said:
[S]uppose that Homer Simpson, Homer is faced with the painful choice between saving Barney Gumble, Barney from a burning building or saving both Moe Szyslak, Moe and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Apu from the building...it is clearly better for Homer to save the larger number, precisely because it is a larger number.... Can anyone who really considers the matter seriously honestly claim to believe that it is worse that one person die than that the entire Sentience, sentient population of the universe be severely mutilated? Clearly not.
It may be possible to uphold the distinction between persons whilst still aggregating utility, if it accepted that people can be influenced by empathy. This position is advocated by Iain King, who has How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time, suggested the evolutionary basis of empathy means humans can take into account the interests of other individuals, but only on a one-to-one basis, "since we can only imagine ourselves in the mind of one other person at a time." King uses this insight to adapt utilitarianism, and it may help reconcile Bentham's philosophy with Deontological ethics, deontology and virtue ethics. Philosopher John Taurek also argued that the idea of adding happiness or pleasures across persons is quite unintelligible and that the numbers of persons involved in a situation are morally irrelevant. Taurek's basic concern comes down to this: we cannot explain what it means to say that things would be five times worse if five people die than if one person dies. "I cannot give a satisfactory account of the meaning of judgments of this kind," he wrote (p. 304). He argues that each person can only lose one person's happiness or pleasures. There is not five times more loss of happiness or pleasure when five die: who would be feeling this happiness or pleasure? "Each person's potential loss has the same significance to me, only as a loss to that person alone. because, by hypothesis, I have an equal concern for each person involved, I am moved to give each of them an equal chance to be spared his loss" (p. 307). Derek Parfit (1978) and others have criticized Taurek's line, and it continues to be discussed.


Calculating utility is self-defeating

An early criticism, which was addressed by Mill, is that if time is taken to calculate the best course of action it is likely that the opportunity to take the best course of action will already have passed. Mill responded that there had been ample time to calculate the likely effects: More recently, Hardin has made the same point. "It should embarrass philosophers that they have ever taken this objection seriously. Parallel considerations in other realms are dismissed with eminently good sense. Lord Devlin notes, 'if the reasonable man "work-to-rule, worked to rule" by perusing to the point of comprehension every form he was handed, the commercial and administrative life of the country would creep to a standstill. It is such considerations that lead even act utilitarians to rely on "rules of thumb", as J. J. C. Smart, Smart (1973) has called them.


Special obligations criticism

One of the oldest criticisms of utilitarianism is that it ignores our special obligations. For example, if we were given the choice between saving two random people or our mother, most would choose to save their mothers. According to utilitarianism, such a natural action is immoral. The first to respond to this was an early utilitarian and friend of
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S._4_February_1747.html" ;"title="Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title="nowiki/>Old Style and New Style dates">O.S. 4 February 1747">Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.htm ...

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. Applying the utilitarian principle "that life ought to be preferred which will be most conducive to the general good" to the choice of saving one of two people, either "the illustrious Archbishop of Cambray" or his chambermaid, he wrote:
Supposing the chambermaid had been my wife, my mother or my benefactor. That would not alter the truth of the proposition. The life of [the Archbishop] would still be more valuable than that of the chambermaid; and justice, pure, unadulterated justice, would still have preferred that which was most valuable.


Criticisms of utilitarian value theory

Utilitarianism's assertion that well-being is the only thing with Intrinsic value (ethics), intrinsic moral value has been attacked by various critics. Karl Marx, in ''Das Kapital'', criticises Bentham's utilitarianism on the grounds that it does not appear to recognise that people have different joys in different socioeconomic contexts:
With the driest naivete he takes the modern shopkeeper, especially the English shopkeeper, as the normal man. Whatever is useful to this queer normal man, and to his world, is absolutely useful. This yard-measure, then, he applies to past, present, and future. The Christian religion, e.g., is "useful," "because it forbids in the name of religion the same faults that the penal code condemns in the name of the law." Artistic criticism is "harmful," because it disturbs worthy people in their enjoyment of Martin Farquhar Tupper, Martin Tupper, etc. With such rubbish has the brave fellow, with his motto, "nulla dies sine linea [no day without a line]", piled up mountains of books.
Pope John Paul II, following his Personalism, personalist philosophy, argued that a danger of utilitarianism is that it tends to make persons, just as much as things, the object of use. "Utilitarianism," he wrote, "is a civilization of production and of use, a civilization of things and not of persons, a civilization in which persons are used in the same way as things are used."


Duty-based criticisms

W. D. Ross, speaking form the perspective of his The Right and the Good#The Right, deontological pluralism, acknowledges that there is a duty to promote the maximum of aggregate good, as utilitarianism demands. But, Ross contends, this is just one besides various other duties, like the duty to keep one's promises or to make amends for wrongful acts, which are ignored by the simplistic and reductive utilitarian outlook. Roger Scruton was a deontologist, and believed that utilitarianism did not give duty the place that it needed inside our ethical judgements. He asked us to consider the dilemma of Anna Karenina, who had to choose between her love of Vronsky and her duty towards her husband and her son. Scruton wrote, "Suppose Anna were to reason that it is better to satisfy two healthy young people and frustrate one old one than to satisfy one old person and frustrate two young ones, by a factor of 2.5 to 1: ergo I am leaving. What would we think, then, of her moral seriousness?"


Baby farming

In ''Innocence and Consequentialism'' (1996), Jacqueline Laing, a critic of utilitarianism, argues that utilitarianism has insufficient conceptual apparatus to comprehend the very idea of innocence, a feature central to any comprehensive ethical theory. In particular,
Peter Singer Peter Albert David Singer (born 6 July 1946) is an Australian moral philosopher Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy) ...

Peter Singer
on her view, cannot without contradicting himself reject baby farming (a thought experiment that involves mass-producing deliberately brain-damaged children for live birth for the greater good of organ harvesting) and at the same time hold on to his "personism" a term coined by Jenny Teichman to describe his fluctuating (and Laing says, irrational and discriminatory) theory of human moral value. His explanation that baby farming undermines attitudes of care and concern for the very young, can be applied to babies and the unborn (both 'non-persons' who may be killed, on his view) and contradicts positions that he adopts elsewhere in his work.


Additional considerations


Average versus total happiness

In '' The Methods of Ethics'',
Henry Sidgwick Henry Sidgwick (; 31 May 1838 – 28 August 1900) was an English utilitarian Utilitarianism is a family of normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness' ...

Henry Sidgwick
asked, "Is it total or average happiness that we seek to make a maximum?" Paley notes that, although he speaks of the happiness of communities, "the happiness of a people is made up of the happiness of single persons; and the quantity of happiness can only be augmented by increasing the number of the percipients, or the pleasure of their perceptions" and that if extreme cases, such as people held as slaves, are excluded the amount of happiness will usually be in proportion to the number of people. Consequently, "the decay of population is the greatest evil that a state can suffer; and the improvement of it the object which ought, in all countries, to be aimed at in preference to every other political purpose whatsoever." A similar view was expressed by Smart, who argued that, all other things being equal, a universe with two million happy people is better than a universe with only one million happy people. Since Sidgwick raised the question it has been studied in detail and philosophers have argued that using either total or average happiness can lead to objectionable results. According to Derek Parfit, using total happiness falls victim to the Mere addition paradox, repugnant conclusion, whereby large numbers of people with very low but non-negative utility values can be seen as a better goal than a population of a less extreme size living in comfort. In other words, according to the theory, it is a moral good to breed more people on the world for as long as total happiness rises. On the other hand, measuring the utility of a population based on the average utility of that population avoids Parfit's repugnant conclusion but causes other problems. For example, bringing a moderately happy person into a very happy world would be seen as an immoral act; aside from this, the theory implies that it would be a moral good to eliminate all people whose happiness is below average, as this would raise the average happiness. William Shaw suggests that the problem can be avoided if a distinction is made between potential people, who need not concern us, and actual future people, who should concern us. He says, "utilitarianism values the happiness of people, not the production of units of happiness. Accordingly, one has no positive obligation to have children. However, if you have decided to have a child, then you have an obligation to give birth to the happiest child you can."


Motives, intentions, and actions

Utilitarianism is typically taken to assess the rightness or wrongness of an action by considering just the consequences of that action. Bentham very carefully distinguishes motive from intention and says that motives are not in themselves good or bad but can be referred to as such on account of their tendency to produce pleasure or pain. He adds that, "from every kind of motive, may proceed actions that are good, others that are bad, and others that are indifferent." Mill makes a similar point and explicitly says that "motive has nothing to do with the morality of the action, though much with the worth of the agent. He who saves a fellow creature from drowning does what is morally right, whether his motive be duty, or the hope of being paid for his trouble." However, with intention the situation is more complex. In a footnote printed in the second edition of ''Utilitarianism'', Mill says: "the morality of the action depends entirely upon the intention—that is, upon what the agent wills to do." Elsewhere, he says, "Intention, and motive, are two very different things. But it is the intention, that is, the foresight of consequences, which constitutes the moral rightness or wrongness of the act." The correct interpretation of Mill's footnote is a matter of some debate. The difficulty in interpretation centres around trying to explain why, since it is consequences that matter, intentions should play a role in the assessment of the morality of an action but motives should not. 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." Jonathan Dancy rejects this interpretation on the grounds that Mill is explicitly making intention relevant to an assessment of the act not to an assessment of the agent. An interpretation given by Roger Crisp draws on a definition given by Mill in ''A System of Logic'', where he says that an "intention to produce the effect, is one thing; the effect produced in consequence of the intention, is another thing; the two together constitute the action." Accordingly, whilst two actions may outwardly appear to be the same they will be different actions if there is a different intention. Dancy notes that this does not explain why intentions count but motives do not. A third interpretation is that an action might be considered a complex action consisting of several stages and it is the intention that determines which of these stages are to be considered part of the action. Although this is the interpretation favoured by Dancy, he recognizes that this might not have been Mill's own view, for Mill "would not even allow that 'p & q' expresses a complex proposition. He wrote in his ''System of Logic'' I iv. 3, of 'Caesar is dead and Brutus is alive', that 'we might as well call a street a complex house, as these two propositions a complex proposition'." Finally, whilst motives may not play a role in determining the morality of an action, this does not preclude utilitarians from fostering particular motives if doing so will increase overall happiness.


Other sentient beings

In ''An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation'', Bentham wrote "the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?"An Introduction to the Principals of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham, 1789 ("printed" in 1780, "first published" in 1789, "corrected by the Author" in 1823.) See Chapter I: Of the Principle of Utility. For Bentham on animals, see Ch. XVII Note 122. Mill's distinction between #Higher and lower pleasures, higher and lower pleasures might suggest that he gave more status to humans. However, in his essay "Whewell on Moral Philosophy", Mill defends Bentham's position, calling it a 'noble anticipation', and writing: "Granted that any practice causes more pain to animals than it gives pleasure to man; is that practice moral or immoral? And if, exactly in proportion as human beings raise their heads out of the slough of selfishness, they do not with one voice answer 'immoral', let the morality of the principle of utility be for ever condemned."
Henry Sidgwick Henry Sidgwick (; 31 May 1838 – 28 August 1900) was an English utilitarian Utilitarianism is a family of normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness' ...

Henry Sidgwick
also considers the implications of utilitarianism for nonhuman animals. He writes: "We have next to consider who the 'all' are, whose happiness is to be taken into account. Are we to extend our concern to all the beings capable of pleasure and pain whose feelings are affected by our conduct? or are we to confine our view to human happiness? The former view is the one adopted by Bentham and Mill, and (I believe) by the Utilitarian school generally: and is obviously most in accordance with the universality that is characteristic of their principle ... it seems arbitrary and unreasonable to exclude from the end, as so conceived, any pleasure of any sentient being." Among contemporary utilitarian philosophers, Peter Singer is especially known for arguing that the well-being of all sentience, sentient beings ought to be given equal consideration of interests, equal consideration. Singer suggests that rights are conferred according to the level of a creature's self-awareness, regardless of their species. He adds that humans tend to be speciesism, speciesist (discriminatory against non-humans) in ethical matters, and argues that, in utilitarianism, speciesism cannot be justified as there is no rational distinction that can be made between the suffering of humans and the suffering of nonhuman animals; all suffering ought to be reduced. Singer writes: "The racist violates the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of his own race, when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. Similarly the speciesist allows the interests of his own species to override the greater interests of members of other species. The pattern is the same in each case ... Most human beings are speciesists." In his 1990 edition of ''Animal Liberation (book), Animal Liberation'', Peter Singer said that he no longer ate oysters and mussels, because although the creatures might not suffer, there was a possibility they may and it was easy to avoid eating them in any case. This view still might be contrasted with deep ecology, which holds that an intrinsic value is attached to all forms of life and nature, whether currently assumed to be sentient or not. According to utilitarianism, the forms of life that are unable to experience anything akin to either enjoyment or discomfort are denied moral status, because it is impossible to increase the happiness or reduce the suffering of something that cannot feel happiness or suffer. Singer writes:
The capacity for suffering and enjoying things is a prerequisite for having interests at all, a condition that must be satisfied before we can speak of interests in any meaningful way. It would be nonsense to say that it was not in the interests of a stone to be kicked along the road by a schoolboy. A stone does not have interests because it cannot suffer. Nothing that we can do to it could possibly make any difference to its welfare. A mouse, on the other hand, does have an interest in not being tormented, because it will suffer if it is. If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering—in so far as rough comparisons can be made—of any other being. If a being is not capable of suffering, or of experiencing enjoyment or happiness, there is nothing to be taken into account.
Thus, the moral value of one-celled organisms, as well as some multi-cellular organisms, and natural entities like a river, is only in the benefit they provide to sentient beings. Similarly, utilitarianism places no direct intrinsic value on biodiversity, although the benefits that biodiversity brings to sentient beings may mean that, in utilitarianism, biodiversity ought to be maintained in general. In John Stuart Mill's essay "On Nature" he argues that the wild animal suffering, welfare of wild animals is to be considered when making utilitarian judgments. Tyler Cowen argues that, if individual animals are carriers of utility, then we should consider limiting the predatory activity of carnivores relative to their victims: "At the very least, we should limit current subsidies to nature's carnivores."


Application to specific issues

The concept has been applied towards social welfare economics, the crisis of global
poverty Poverty is the state of having little material possessions or income In microeconomics, income is the Consumption (economics), consumption and saving opportunity gained by an entity within a specified timeframe, which is generally expresse ...

poverty
, the ethics of raising animals for food, and the importance of avoiding existential risks to humanity.


World poverty

An article in the ''American Economic Journal'' has addressed the issue of Utilitarian ethics within Redistribution of income and wealth, redistribution of wealth. The journal stated that taxation of the wealthy is the best way to make use of the disposable income they receive. This says that the money creates utility for the most people by funding government services. Many utilitarian philosophers, including
Peter Singer Peter Albert David Singer (born 6 July 1946) is an Australian moral philosopher Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy) ...

Peter Singer
and Toby Ord, argue that inhabitants of developed countries in particular have an obligation to help to end extreme poverty across the world, for example by regularly donating some of their income to charity. Peter Singer, for example, argues that donating some of one's income to charity could help to save a life or cure somebody from a poverty-related illness, which is a much better use of the money as it brings someone in extreme poverty far more happiness than it would bring to oneself if one lived in relative comfort. However, Singer not only argues that one ought to donate a significant proportion of one's income to charity, but also that this money should be directed to the most cost-effective charities, in order to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number, consistent with utilitarian thinking.Peter Singer: The why and how of effective altruism , Talk Video
TED.com.
Singer's ideas have formed the basis of the modern effective altruism movement.


See also

* Altruism (ethical doctrine) * Applied ethics * Mouvement Anti-Utilitariste dans les Sciences Sociales, Anti-Utilitarianism * Appeal to consequences * Bounded rationality * Charity International * Classical liberalism * Cost–benefit analysis * Decision analysis * Decision theory * Effective altruism * Gross national happiness * List of utilitarians * Pleasure principle (psychology) * Prioritarianism * Probabilistic reasoning * Relative utilitarianism * State consequentialism * Collectivism * Uncertainty * Utility monster * Utilitarian bioethics * Utilitarian cake-cutting


References


Citations


Bibliography

* Robert Merrihew Adams, Adams, Robert Merrihew. 1976. "Motive Utilitarianism." ''The Journal of Philosophy, Journal of Philosophy'' 73(14):467–81. . . * Alican, Necip Fikri. 1994. ''Mill's Principle of Utility: A Defense of John Stuart Mill's Notorious Proof''. Amsterdam: Rodopi (publisher), Editions Rodopi B.V. . * G. E. M. Anscombe, Anscombe, G. E. M. 1958. "Modern Moral Philosophy." ''Philosophy (journal), Philosophy'' 33(124):1–19. . . * Richard Ashcraft, Ashcraft, Richard. 1991. ''John Locke: Critical Assessments''. Routledge. * Bayles, M. D. 1968. ''Contemporary Utilitarianism''. Doubleday:
Anchor Books Vintage Books is a trade paperback publishing imprint established in 1954 by Alfred A. Knopf. The company was purchased by Random House publishing in April 1960, and is a subdivision of Random House. In 1990, Vintage UK was set up in the Unite ...
. * Jeremy Bentham, Bentham, Jeremy. [1789] 2009. '' An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation'' (''Dover Philosophical Classics''). Dover Publications, Dover Publications Inc. . * Bentham, Jeremy, and Etienne Dumont. [1807] 2005. ''Theory of Legislation: Translated from the French of Etienne Dumont'', translated by R. Hildreth. Adamant Media Corporation. . * Bowring, John. [1838–1843] 2001. ''The Works of Jeremy Bentham'' 1. Adamant Media Corporation. . * Richard Brandt, Brandt, Richard B. 1979. ''iarchive:theoryofgood00bran, A Theory of the Good and the Right''. Clarendon Press. . * Bredeson, Dean. 2011. "Utilitarianism vs. Deontological Ethics." In ''Applied Business Ethics: A Skills-Based Approach''. CEngage Learning, Cengage Learning. . * John Broome (philosopher), Broome, John. 1991. ''Weighing Goods''. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. * Jonathan Dancy, Dancy, Jonathan. 2000. "Mill's Puzzling Footnote." ''Utilitas'' 12(2):219. . * Daniel Dennett, Dennett, Daniel. 1995. ''Darwin's Dangerous Idea''. Simon & Schuster. . Internet Archive, Internet Archive ID: iarchive:darwinsdangerous0000denn, darwinsdangerous0000denn. * Fred Feldman (philosopher), Feldman, Fred. 1993. "On the Consistency of Act- and Motive-Utilitarianism: A Reply to Robert Adams." ''Philosophical Studies'' 70(2):201–12. . * David Gauthier, Gauthier, David. 1963. ''Practical Reasoning: The Structure and Foundations of Prudential and Moral Arguments and Their Exemplification in Discourse''. Oxford University Press. . * John Gay (philosopher), Gay, John. 2002. "Concerning the Fundamental Principle of Virtue or Morality." In ''Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant'', edited by J. B. Schneewind.
Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press (CUP) is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge , mottoeng = Literal: From here, light and sacred draughts. Non literal: From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowled ...
. . * Robert E. Goodin, Goodin, Robert E. 1995. ''Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy''. Cambridge University Press. . * Eban Goodstein, Goodstein, Eban. 2011. "Ethics and Economics." Ch. 2 in ''Economics and the Environment''. Wiley (publisher), Wiley. . * Habib, Allen. [2008] 2014.
Promises
" ''
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy The ''Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' (''SEP'') combines an online encyclopedia An online encyclopedia, also called an Internet encyclopedia, or a digital encyclopedia, is an encyclopedia An encyclopedia or encyclopaedia (British E ...
''. * Élie Halévy, Halévy, Élie. 1966. ''The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism''. Beacon Press. . * Everett Hall, Hall, Everett W. 1949. "The 'Proof' of Utility in Bentham and Mill." ''Ethics (journal), Ethics'' 60(1):1–18. . . * Hardin, Russell. 1990. ''Morality within the Limits of Reason''. University of Chicago Press. . * R. M. Hare, Hare, R. M. 1972–1973. "The Presidential Address: Principles." ''Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society'', New Series, 73:1–18. . . * —— 1981. ''iarchive:moralthinkingits0000hare, Moral thinking: its levels, method, and point''. Oxford: Clarendon Press. . * Harsanyi, John C. 1977. "Morality and the theory of rational behavior." ''Social Research (journal), Social Research'' 44 (4):623–56. . ** Reprinted: 1982. "Morality and the theory of rational behaviour." Pp. 39–62 in ''Utilitarianism and Beyond'', edited by and . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . * —— 1975.
Can the Maximin Principle Serve as a Basis for Morality? A Critique of John Rawls's Theory of Justice
" ''American Political Science Review'' 69(2):594–606. . . . * Brad Hooker, Hooker, Brad. 2002. ''Ideal Code, Real World: A Rule-Consequentialist Theory of Morality''. Clarendon Press. . * —— 2011. "The Demandingness Objection." Ch. 8 in ''The problem of moral demandingness: new philosophical essays'', edited by T. Chappell. Palgrave Macmillan. . * David Hume, Hume, David. [1751] 2002. "
An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals ''An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals'' (''EPM'') is a book by Scottish enlightenment philosopher David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund ...
." In ''Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant'', edited by J. B. Schneewind. Cambridge University Press. . * Francis Hutcheson (philosopher), Hutcheson, Francis. [1725] 2002. "The Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue." In ''Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant'', edited by J. B. Schneewind. Cambridge University Press. . * Shelly Kagan, Kagan, Shelly. 1991. ''The Limits of Morality'' (''Oxford Ethics Series''). Clarendon Press. . * —— 1984. "Does Consequentialism Demand too Much? Recent Work on the Limits of Obligation." ''Philosophy & Public Affairs'' 13(3):239–54. . * David Lyons (philosopher), Lyons, David. 1965. ''Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. . * McCloskey, H. J. 1957. "An Examination of Restricted Utilitarianism." ''The Philosophical Review, Philosophical Review'' 66(4):466–85. . * —— 1963. "A Note on Utilitarian Punishment." ''Mind (journal), Mind'' 72(288):599. . . * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* John Broome (philosopher), Broome, John. 1998.
Modern Utilitarianism
. Pp. 651–56 in ''The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and the Law'' 2, edited by Peter Kenneth Newman, P. Newman. London: Macmillan. * Cornman, James, et al. 1992. ''Philosophical Problems and Arguments – An Introduction'' (4th ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Hackett Publishing Co. * Jonathan Glover, Glover, Jonathan. 1977. ''Causing Death and Saving Lives''. Penguin Books. . * Hansas, John. 2008. "Utilitarianism." Pp. 518–19 in
The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism
', edited by Ronald Hamowy, R. Hamowy. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing, SAGE / Cato Institute. . . . . * Harwood, Sterling. 2009. "Eleven Objections to Utilitarianism." Ch. 11 in ''Moral Philosophy: A Reader'' (4th ed.), edited by Louis Pojman, L. P. Pojman and P. Tramel. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. . . * Mackie, J. L. 1991. "Utilitarianism." Ch. 6 in ''Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong''. Penguin Books. . * Martin, Michael. 1970. "A Utilitarian Kantian Principle." ''Philosophical Studies'' 21:90–91. * James Rachels, Rachels, James, and Stuart Rachels. 2012. "The Utilitarian Approach" and "The Debate of Utilitarianism." Ch. 7 & 8 in ''The Elements of Moral Philosophy''. McGraw-Hill Higher Education. . * * Silverstein, Harry S. 1972. "A Defence of Cornman's Utilitarian Kantian Principle." ''Philosophical Studies'' 23:212–15. * * Peter Singer, Singer, Peter. 1981. ''The Expanding Circle: Ethics and Sociobiology''. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. * —— 1993. "Consequentialism" and "The Utility and the Good." Ch. 19 & 20 in ''A Companion to Ethics'' (''Blackwell Companion to Philosophy, Blackwell Companions to Philosophy''). Wiley-Blackwell. . * Eric Stokes (historian), Stokes, Eric. 1959. ''The English Utilitarians and India''. Clarendon Press. * L. W. Sumner, Sumner, L. Wayne. ''Abortion: A Third Way''. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. * * * * Bernard Williams, Williams, Bernard. 1993. "Utilitarianism." Ch. 10 in ''Morality: An Introduction to Ethics''. Cambridge University Press. .


External links


Introduction to Utilitarianism
An introductory online textbook on utilitarianism coauthored by William MacAskill. * * *
Utilitarian.org FAQ
A FAQ by Nigel Phillips on utilitarianism by a web site affiliated to David Pearce (philosopher), David Pearce.
''A Utilitiarian FAQ''
by Ian Montgomerie.
''The English Utilitarians'', Volume l
by Sir Leslie Stephen
''The English Utilitarians'', Volume 2
by Sir Leslie Stephen
Utilitarian Philosophers
Large compendium of writings by and about the major utilitarian philosophers, both classic and contemporary.

A summary of classical utilitarianism, and modern alternatives, with application to ethical issues and criticisms.
Utilitarian Resources
Collection of definitions, articles and links.

A convenient summary of the major points of utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism as Secondary Ethic
A concise review of Utilitarianism, its proponents and critics.
A summary of some little-known objections to utilitarianism
{{Authority control Utilitarianism, Classical liberalism Consequentialism Ethical theories Hedonism Social philosophy Jeremy Bentham