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Utilitarian Ethics and Counselor Decision-Making
Utilitarian ethics and counselor decision-making

Utilitarianism is a Western theory that has a history dating back to the late 1700s (Harris, 2002; Shanahan & Wang, 2003). It has influenced the ethical decision-making in many facets of our lives including state and federal laws as well as professional codes of ethics. Harris stated that “utilitarianism is one of the most powerful and persuasive traditions of moral thought in our culture” (p. 119). Quinton (1973) suggested that “Utilitarianism can be understood as a movement for legal, political and social reform that flourished in the first half of the nineteenth century” (p. 1). Rachels (1998) described utilitarian theory as based in social reform in human behavior, offering an alternative to natural law.

The earliest proponent ...

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