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Related to Utilitarians: deontologists, Kantians


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.
References in periodicals archive ?
In each experiment, those who reported lower levels of compassion and concern for other people - a key aspect of empathy - picked the utilitarian over the non-utilitarian response.
Modest successes were achieved here and there in changing the curriculum along utilitarian lines.
Utilitarians must reject this appeal, however, because it leads to lesser deterrent levels compared to those expected under a properly utilitarian system of punishment.
These restrictions and requirements imposed significant burdens upon the utilitarians.
Second, even if utilitarian institutions coincide with the institutions favored by ordinary intuition, it does not follow that utilitarianism itself (applied to acts) cannot require, say, "imposed sacrifices.
Weinstein concedes that Spencer's absolute utilitarianism collapses into empirical utilitarianism, which makes Spencer more of a utilitarian and less of a libertarian than he would have recognized, and it makes the defense of absolute rights with the stringency Spencer requires much more problematic.
For this reason, moral rights have been characterized as "trump cards" against utilitarian arguments.
Administration officials have tried to justify the war ex post facto entirely on utilitarian grounds--that is, that the war will lead to the democratization or modernization of the Arab region.
But if this is the basis of Audi's distinction, it is unclear why utilitarians must be externalists.
If we look at their arguments, we see that utilitarians look to the future, while the Natural Law looks to the present moment.
Epstein, the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, sets out to peel off the bumper sticker and replace it with a more nuanced depiction of classical liberalism, one that resurrects some ideas well understood and studied by Scottish philosopher David Hume, utilitarians like Jeremy Bentham, students of spontaneous order like F.
If we remain strictly rationalists, utilitarians, that implies we can arrange everything according to our pleasure.