Consequentialist ethical theories, including utilitarianism, judge the rightness or wrongness of an action solely on the basis of the consequences it produces. Utilitarianism asserts that the moral quality of an action is determined exclusively by its usefulness, its utility, in producing good consequences for the parties it affects. Under utilitarianism, there is only one binding moral principle, the principle of utility, which holds that one should always act so as to maximize the good consequences resulting from one's action.

There are as many versions of utilitarianism as there are theories of the good. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, who first articulated the modern utilitarian theory, believed that the good was identifiable as pleasure and, thus, that moral action required one to act so as to ...

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