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Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


E thics, political philosophy, philosophy of social science A major modern ethical theory, advanced by Bentham , J. S. Mill, Sidgwick , and many others, which suggests, broadly speaking, that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its utility , that is, the good (pleasant or happy) or bad (painful or evil) consequences it produces. The morally right action that one should choose is the one that will provide the greatest pleasure and least pain of all the alternatives. Because utilitarianism judges actions in terms of their consequences, it is a major representative of consequentialism. There are many species of utilitarianism, based on different understandings of action and consequences. There is a distinction between act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism; the former judges in terms of the consequences of particular actions, and the latter in terms of the consequence of adopting some general rules for sorts of actions. There is a distinction between egoistic and universalistic utilitarianism; the former considers the goodness or badness of the consequences for the agent himself, and the latter for all individuals involved. There is also a distinction between hedonistic and ideal utilitarianism; the former takes the goodness or badness of a consequence to depend only on its pleasure or pain, and the latter (represented by G. E. Moore ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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