Utilitarianism as Moral Theory

Mill developed such a concept as the principle of the greatest happiness or the principle of utility. This phenomenon consists of the fact that happiness is the highest criterion for determining what is moral and what is not. Thus, following this concept, an ideal moral society implies the correctness of actions, which is determined to what extent they contribute to happiness. Wrongness, in turn, is formed according to the degree of the negative influence of people’s actions and decisions.

Utilitarianism is one of the most well-known and moral theories that pursues the view that actions’ moral rightness or wrongness depends on their consequences. In other words, the happiness of a society should be determined by the poor or good results of the functioning of its members (Scarre, 2020). In the theory of utilitarianism, three principles prevail. The first is the establishment of two concepts of pleasure and happiness, which represent the only value. Further, the point of view asserts that actions are right if they contribute to happiness. The third principle is the rule that the happiness of every person is of equal importance to everyone.

The main criticism I agree with is the fact that human happiness cannot be measured. Moreover, I do not consider the theory convincing since the criterion of morality cannot be taken to measure the correctness and wrongness of actions because this concept is characterized by partial subjectivism. In addition, motivation is not taken into account, and the aggregate measure of happiness is not considered distributive.

One of the differences between Bentham’s theory of utilitarianism is considering only the amount of pleasure. Mills, in turn, concentrated on the qualitative and quantitative components. Moreover, another difference can be considered that Bentham’s theory was the utilitarianism of action, and the Mile was considered the utilitarianism of the rule. Thus, the first figure applied the principle of utility directly to individual actions and situations.

Utilitarianism of action differs because it only considers the results or consequences of a specific action. That is, killing a person is considered wrong and leads to unhappiness, as it decreases the level of pure utility in society. On the other hand, the rule of utilitarianism considers the consequences that result from following a rule of behavior. An example of this concept is the justification of negative actions if their pleasure outweighs the harm caused.


Scarre, G. (2020). Utilitarianism. Routledge.

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