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Philosophy & Religious Studies   >   Utilitarianism

Introduction to Utilitarianism

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Utilitarianism is the belief that the right action is the one that maximises happiness. The philosophy theory has its origins in the hedonism of Aristippus and Epicurus, though reached its most well-known form in the writings of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. The more sophisticated account was that of Mill, who introduced the ideas of ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ pleasures, as well as offering a ‘proof’ of the principle of utility. This course examines the history of utilitarianism, its criticisms and potential defences, and contemporary versions of utilitarianism that have emerged and found supporters in more recent times.

Introduction to Utilitarianism

In this module, Claire introduces three basic models for how one should make decisions: deontological ethics (decision-making based on rules or maxims), virtue ethics (decision-making based on what a good person would do), and consequentialism (decision-making based on what achieves the best consequences). After demonstrating some of the advantages of consequentialism over the other decision-making frameworks, she moves onto utilitarianism itself, which is a form of consequentialism. After explaining its key aspects - the right action is the one that maximises utility, which is understood as happiness or pleasure - she then introduces some important attendant slogans that also flavour utilitarianism in its classical formulation.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Benn, C. (2018, August 15). Utilitarianism - Introduction to Utilitarianism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Benn, C. "Utilitarianism – Introduction to Utilitarianism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,


Dr Claire Benn

Dr Claire Benn

Van Leer Jerusalem Institute