Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness", by whatever means necessary. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can only weigh the morality of an action after knowing all its consequences. The most influential contributors to this theory are considered to be Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

Utilitarianism was described by Bentham as "the greatest happiness principle".[1]

Utilitarianism can be characterised as a quantitative and reductionist approach to ethics. It is a type of naturalism.[2] It can be contrasted with deontological ethics (which do not regard the consequences of an act as a determinant of its moral worth), pragmatic ethics, virtue ethics (which focuses on character) and deontological varieties of libertarianism, as well as with ethical egoism and other varieties of consequentialism.


Types of utilitarianism