RSS

Utilitarianism

TagLast edit: 29 May 2021 14:33 UTC by Pablo

Utilitarianism is the family of moral theories according to which the rightness of actions is determined solely by the sum total of wellbeing they produce.

Elements of utilitarianism

All ethical theories belonging to the utilitarian family share four defining elements:

  1. Consequentialism is the view that the moral rightness of actions (or rules, policies, etc.) depends on, and only on, the value of their consequences.

  2. Welfarism is the view that only the welfare (also called wellbeing) of individuals determines how good a particular state of the world is.

  3. Impartiality is the view that the identity of individuals is irrelevant to the value of an outcome.

  4. Additive Aggregationism is the view that the value of the world is given by the sum of the values of its parts, where these parts are some kind of local phenomena such as experiences, lives, or societies.

Classical utilitarianism

The original and most influential version of utilitarianism is classical utilitarianism. Classical utilitarianism accepts hedonism as a theory of welfare, the view that wellbeing consists of positive and negative conscious experiences. Moreover, classical utilitarianism accepts the total view of population ethics, according to which one outcome is better than another if and only if it contains a greater sum total of wellbeing, where wellbeing can be increased either by making existing people better off or by creating new people with good lives.

Acting on utilitarianism

Utilitarianism has important implications for how we should think about leading an ethical life. Because utilitarianism weighs the wellbeing of everyone equally, it implies that we should make helping others a very significant part of our lives. In helping others, we should try to use our resources to do the most good, impartially considered, that we can. Since not all ways of helping others are equally effective, utilitarianism implies that we should carefully choose which problems to work on and by what means.

To do the most good they can, in practice, many utilitarians donate a significant portion of their income to address the world’s most pressing problems, devote their careers to doing good, and aspire to high degrees of cooperativeness, personal integrity and honesty.

Objections and responses to utilitarianism

To be completed.

The rights objections

The demandingness objection

The equality objection

Influential utilitarians

Bibliography

Greenberg, Spencer (2021) Episode 042: Utilitarianism and its flavors with Nick Beckstead, Clearer Thinking, May 15.

Lazari-Radek, Katarzyna de & Peter Singer (2017) Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

MacAskill, William & Darius Meissner (2020) Introduction to Utilitarianism: An Online Textbook, Oxford.

Related entries

axiology | consequentialism | demandingness of morality | fabianism

Launch­ing Utili­tar­i­anism.net: An In­tro­duc­tory On­line Text­book on Utilitarianism

Darius_Meissner9 Mar 2020 17:13 UTC
82 points
27 comments7 min readEA link

What I be­lieve, part 1: Utili­tar­i­anism | Sunyshore

evelynciara10 Jan 2021 17:58 UTC
10 points
1 comment4 min readEA link
(sunyshore.substack.com)

some con­cerns with clas­si­cal utilitarianism

nil14 Nov 2020 9:29 UTC
23 points
17 comments26 min readEA link

Act util­i­tar­i­anism: crite­rion of right­ness vs. de­ci­sion procedure

Askell18 Jan 2017 23:49 UTC
32 points
6 commentsEA link

Timeline Utilitarianism

Bob Jacobs9 Oct 2020 20:12 UTC
14 points
12 comments2 min readEA link

Meta-Prefer­ence Utilitarianism

Bob Jacobs5 Feb 2020 19:14 UTC
10 points
2 comments1 min readEA link

[Link] “Aver­age util­i­tar­i­anism im­plies solip­sis­tic ego­ism” (Tarsney 2020)

Milan_Griffes29 Apr 2020 20:54 UTC
14 points
0 comments1 min readEA link

EA read­ing list: util­i­tar­i­anism and consciousness

richard_ngo7 Aug 2020 19:32 UTC
16 points
3 comments1 min readEA link

Effec­tive Altru­ism and Utilitarianism

Tom_Ash30 Jan 2015 11:18 UTC
8 points
56 commentsEA link

Harsanyi’s sim­ple “proof” of utilitarianism

Ben_West20 Feb 2020 15:27 UTC
48 points
38 comments4 min readEA link

Pod­cast: Sharon He­witt Rawlette on metaethics and utilitarianism

Gus Docker29 Aug 2020 17:07 UTC
15 points
3 comments1 min readEA link
(anchor.fm)

3-hour pod­cast about the meta-ethics of util­i­tar­i­anism and much else with philoso­pher Tor­b­jörn Tännsjö

Gus Docker24 Nov 2020 17:25 UTC
18 points
0 comments1 min readEA link

[3-hour pod­cast] Michael Hue­mer on episte­mol­ogy, metaethics, EA, util­i­tar­i­anism and in­finite ethics

Gus Docker27 Mar 2021 9:04 UTC
30 points
2 comments1 min readEA link

[Question] Does Utili­tar­ian Longter­mism Im­ply Directed Pansper­mia?

Ahrenbach24 Apr 2020 18:15 UTC
3 points
14 comments1 min readEA link

[Question] How do most util­i­tar­i­ans feel about “re­place­ment” thought ex­per­i­ments?

richard_ngo6 Sep 2019 11:14 UTC
20 points
39 comments1 min readEA link

Jeff Sebo: A util­i­tar­ian case for an­i­mal rights

EA Global18 Oct 2019 18:05 UTC
8 points
0 comments1 min readEA link
(www.youtube.com)

Some solu­tions to util­i­tar­ian problems

Stijn14 Jul 2019 10:04 UTC
4 points
5 comments1 min readEA link

In­ter­view with Chris­tine M. Kors­gaard: An­i­mal Ethics, Kan­ti­anism, Utilitarianism

Erich_Grunewald8 May 2021 11:44 UTC
15 points
11 comments1 min readEA link
(www.erichgrunewald.com)