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Etymology: L, utilis, useful, isma, practice
a doctrine of ethics that the purpose of all action should be to bring about the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people and that the value of anything is determined by its utility. The philosophy is often applied in the distribution of health care resources, as in decisions regarding the expenditure of public funds for health services.


The moral philosophy that holds that an action is ethical according to its utility or usefulness in enhancing the welfare, safety, happiness, or pleasure of the community at large. This doctrine is popularly summarized as an action is ethical if it generates the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

act utilitarianism

The moral theory that the best action is the one that enhances the general welfare more than any other available or known alternative. An action is judged in terms of the goodness of its consequences with no consideration of the rules of action.

rule utilitarianism

The moral theory that an action that follows a demonstrably proven ethical formula will necessarily be a good act. The ethical rule is judged to be correct by the amount of good it effects when it is followed.