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Synopsis

Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes overall "happiness". It is now generally taken to be a form of consequentialism, although when Anscome first introduced that term it was to distinguish between ‘old-fashioned Utilitarianism’ and consequentialism. According to utilitarianism the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome although there is debate over how much consideration should be given to actual consequences, foreseen consequences and intended consequences. Two influential contributors to this theory are Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. In A Fragment on Government Bentham says ‘it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong’ and describes this as a fundamental axiom. In An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation he talks of ‘the principle of utility’ but later prefers “the greatest happiness principle"

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