Utilitarianism - Jeremy Bentham

HideShow resource information

What is Utilitarianism?

The justification of actions of it being 'the greatest good'. It is a teleological theory or ethics (looks at the consequences - the result of an action - to decide whether it is right or wrong)

The theory of utilitarianism began with Jeremy Bentham as a working out how good or bad the consequences of an action are. He thought of the idea when he came across 'the greatest good for the greatest number' in Joseph Priestley's An Essay on the Principle of Government 1768.

Bentham was very concerned with social and legal reform and he wanted to develop an ethical thoery which established whether something was good or bad according to its benefit for the majority of people. Bentham called it the principle of utility. Utility here means the usefulness of the RESULTS of the action. It is often expressed as 'the greatest good for the greatest number'.

'Good' is defined in terms of pleasure and happiness - the good act is the most pleasurable. Bentham's theory is quantative because of the way it considers a pleasure as a quantafiable entity. 


The idea that 'good' is defined in terms of pleasure and happines makes utilitarianism a hedonistic theory.

Greek philosophers, who thought along similar lines, introduced the term eudamonia, which is best translated as the harmonius well-being of lifeEpicureans stressed 'pleasure' as the


No comments have yet been made

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all utilitarianism resources »