Utilitarianism is a universal teleological system
It calls for the maximization of goodness in
society - that is, the greatest amount of
goodness for the greatest number of peopleand not merely the good of the agent
Two Types of Ethical Systems
From the Greek word deon
meaning “duty” and logos meaning “logic”. The
center of value is the act or kind of act; certain
features in the act itself have intrinsic value.
Teleological ethics: From the Greek word
telos meaning “goal directed”. The center of
value is the outcome or consequences of the act.
He invented a scheme for measuring pain and
pleasure that he called the hedonic calculus.
According to Bentham, one should maximize
pleasure and minimize suffering.
Two Main Features of
The consequentialist principle : the rightness or
wrongness of an act is determined by the
goodness or badness of the results that flow from
The utility or hedonist principle : the only thing
that is good in itself is some specific type of state
(ie. pleasure, happiness, welfare)
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
Mill wanted to distinguish happiness from
He defines happiness in terms of a higher order
of pleasures or satisfactions.
Higher or more refined pleasure are superior to
Act- and Rule-Utilitarianism
An act is right if and only if
it results in as much good as any available
An act is right if it is
required by a rule that is itself a member of a set
of rules whose acceptance would lead to greater
utility for society than any available alternative.
The Strengths of Utilitarianism
A single principle, an absolute system with a
potential answer for every situation.
It seems to get at the substance of morality
because it has a material core: promoting human
(and possibly animal) flourishing and reduce
Well-suited to address the problem of posterity
Criticism of Utilitarianism
Problems with Formulating
How do you
measure the term “greatest”?
The greatest number of people over the
greatest amount of happiness –how to define?
What about those who are not in the greatest
Is it total or general happiness?
The Comparative Consequences
do not know the long term
consequences of all of our actions.
Consequences go on into the infinite future, so
we really cannot know them.
Calculation is impossible.
Two kinds of Consequences
1) Actual consequences of an act
2) Consequences that could reasonably have
been expected to occur
1) Absolutely right if it has the best actual
(as per consequence 1)
2) Objectively right if it is reasonable to expect
that it will have the best consequences
(as per consequence 2)
The Consistency Objection to
When pushed to its logical limits, it must either
become a deontological system or transform
itself into act-utilitarianism
The No-Rest Objection
We always have an infinite set of possible acts to
choose from, and even if I can be excused
from considering all of them, I can be fairly
sure that there is often a preferable act that I
could be doing.
The Publicity Objection
Moral principles must be known to all, but
utilitarians do not claim everyone should act
like a utilitarian.
The Relativism Objection
It seems to endorse different rules in different
Also, the more serious worry is that it might
become so plastic that it justifies any moral
Criticism of the Ends Justifying
1) If a moral theory justifies actions that we
universally deem impermissible, then that
moral theory must be rejected
2) Utilitarianism justifies actions that we
universally deem impermissible
3) Therefore, utilitarianism must be rejected
The Lying Objection
It leads to the counterintuitive endorsement of
lying when it serves the greater good
The Integrity Objection
Personal integrity can be violated by
commanding that we violate our most central
and deeply held principles
The Justice Objection
Utilitarians could consider actions that go
against standards of justice that most of us
think should never be dispensed with