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Utilitarianism - (FREE Audiobook Included!)

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Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, specifically defined as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering. Classic utilitarianism, as advocated by two influential contributors, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, is hedonistic. It is now generally taken to be a form of consequentialism, although when Anscombe 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. 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."

Utilitarianism can be characterized as a quantitative and reductionist approach to ethics. It is a type of naturalism. It can be contrasted with deontological ethics, which does not regard the consequences of an act as a determinant of its moral worth; virtue ethics, which primarily focuses on acts and habits leading to happiness; pragmatic ethics; as well as with ethical egoism and other varieties of consequentialism.

Utilitarianism has often been considered the natural ethic of a democracy operating by simple majority without protection of individual rights, even though also protecting individual rights would maximize happiness, thus it falls under the scope of Utilitarianism to also protect those rights.


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