Utilitarianism is a theory of moral philosophy that believes that the best action is the one that maximizes utility or overall well-being. It is a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome. Utilitarianism holds that an action can be considered morally good if it produces the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people (or minimizes the amount of harm). Utilitarianism is a complex ethical theory and has been the subject of much debate since its inception in the 19th century (Singer, 2010).

Utilitarianism has been influential in the fields of economics, public policy, and ethics. It is often used as a tool to evaluate the efficacy of public policies, such as economic policies and healthcare policies. Utilitarianism is also used in business ethics to determine the morality of corporate decisions.

At its core, utilitarianism is based on the belief that it is possible to objectively quantify the utility of an action or policy. This is often done through cost-benefit analysis, which attempts to measure the costs and benefits of a given policy in terms of both money and human welfare. Utilitarianism argues that the best action is the one that produces the greatest amount of good or minimizes the amount of harm (Gardner, 2017).

Utilitarianism is often contrasted with deontology, which is an ethical theory that does not take into account the outcome of an action. Deontology holds that certain actions are simply right or wrong, regardless of their outcome. Utilitarianism, on the other hand, is a consequentialist ethical theory that focuses on the outcome of an action.

Utilitarianism has been criticized for its lack of attention to individual rights and its disregard for individual autonomy. Some argue that utilitarianism ignores the importance of individual liberty and fails to take into consideration the long-term effects of a decision. Others argue that utilitarianism is too focused on the collective good and fails to take into account the individual’s needs and wants.

Despite its criticisms, utilitarianism remains an influential ethical theory. It is often used in public policy, economics, and business ethics to determine the morality of a given decision. While utilitarianism has its critics, it remains an important and widely used ethical theory.


Gardner, M. (2017). Utilitarianism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/utilitarianism/

Singer, P. (2010). Utilitarianism. Oxford University Press.

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