Encyclopedia of Sciences and Religions

2013 Edition
| Editors: Anne L. C. Runehov, Lluis Oviedo

Utilitarianism

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-8265-8_704

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Description

Utilitarianism is a moral theory or ethical perspective which judges the morality of actions based on an evaluation of consequences (or effects, outcomes). The good consequences of actions (e.g., that people’s preferences are fulfilled, or that they become happier) are weighed against the bad consequences (e.g., any pain or suffering which the action leads to), and the central ethical obligation is to perform the action whose overall consequences are the best (or most beneficial) in a given situation. By implication, actions are considered morally wrong if there was something else which the agent could have done in the situation which would have produced a better outcome. Being a central form of teleological or consequentialist ethics, utilitarianism is commonly contrasted with deontological ethics – which judges the morality of actions based on their adherence to (most often strict)...

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References

  1. Bentham, J. (1970/1789). Introduction to principles of morals and legislation. In J. H. Burns, H. L. A. Hart (Eds.) New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Mill, J. S. (1991/1859). Utilitarianism. In H. B. Acton (Ed.) London: Dent.Google Scholar
  3. Smart, J. J. C., & Williams, B. (1973). Utilitarianism: For and against. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Tännsjö, T. (2008). Understanding ethics (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Linguistics & Theory of ScienceUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden