• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Utilitarianism represents an old and distinguished tradition in moral philosophy, the influence of which extends to law, economics, public policy, and other realms and is evident in much of our everyday moral thinking. Two fundamental ideas underlie utilitarianism: first, that the results of our actions are the key to their moral evaluation and, second, that one should assess and compare those results in terms of the happiness or unhappiness they cause (or, more broadly, in terms of their impact on people's well-being). Both these ideas have been around for a long time; one can glimpse hints of them in philosophical and religious writings going back thousands of years. However, as an explicitly and self-consciously formulated ethical theory, utilitarianism is just over 200 years old.

By the ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles