Utilitarianism is a philosophical theory that seeks to understand the foundations of ethics and morals from the consequences of actions . Utilitarianism definition
In this case, utilitarianism consists of the idea that an action can only be considered morally correct if its consequences promote collective well-being . If the result of the action is negative for the majority, it is classified as morally reprehensible.
Based on this reasoning, utilitarianism presents itself as opposed to selfishness, as the consequences of actions must be focused on the happiness of a group and not on particular and individual interests.
The utilitarian theory was defended, as an ethical doctrine, mainly by the English philosophers and economists John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham , during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, the utilitarian thought was already explored since ancient Greece, mainly through the Greek philosopher Epicurus.
Because it is based on consequences, utilitarianism does not take into account the agent’s motives (whether it is good or bad), since an agent’s actions that are considered negative can trigger positive consequences and vice versa. Utilitarianism definition
There are some debates about the obligation of utilitarianism to cover only consequences that are directly linked to human beings or to all sentient beings, that is, that have the capacity to feel pain and pleasure, like some animals, for example.
The principles of utilitarian thinking are applied in different areas of life in society, such as the political system, justice, economy, laws and so on.
The main basic principles of utilitarianism are:
- Principle of well-being: the objective of moral action must be well-being at all levels (intellectual, physical and moral).
- Consequentialism: the morality of actions is judged by the consequences they generate.
- Aggregation principle: takes into account the majority of individuals, discarding or “sacrificing” the “minorities” that did not benefit in the same way as the majority. This “sacrificial” content is often questioned by opponents of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism definition
- Optimization principle: the maximization of well-being is interpreted as a duty.
- Impartiality and universalism: there is no distinction between the suffering or happiness of individuals, all being equal in terms of utilitarianism.
There are several theories and lines of thought that criticize the principles of utilitarianism. The concept of the “Categorical Imperative” developed by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, for example, questions the capacity of utilitarianism not to be linked to a selfish attitude, as all actions and consequences generated would depend on personal inclinations. Utilitarianism definition