Moral Utilitarianism: Definition and Concept

Utilitarianism has been founded by Jeremy Bentham. Very popular today and probably dominant, this moral philosophy is trying to make happiness the more accessible.

It starts from the simple fact that the brutal and thoughtless sake of pleasure often leads to immoral actions but also results in more pain than joy. Therefore, to serve his interest and pleasure, a reflection and calculate interest. This is the famous “arithmetic of pleasures” that intervenes. To his moral balance, we must literally “calculate” the pleasures of all dimensions:

  • intensity: one must prefer the intense pleasures with warm pleasures
  • duration: avoid the ephemeral pleasures
  • proximity: a pleasure to reach is better than a distant pleasure
  • certainty: we must give up the improbable desires
  • Fertility: A fun creating other pleasures
  • Purity: a pleasure is pure quans it is not mixed with pain
  • scope: the number of people involved in my pleasure

For the calculation of pleasure, Bentham shows that traditional virtues give purer pleasures, more durable, more fruitful, more extensive than the opposite vices.

Critique of utilitarianism

This arithmetic is based on the questionable assumption that “happiness is the greatest amount of pleasure minus the smallest sum of pain in a full life.”

In reality, pleasure and happiness are not homogeneous and comparable data. They are not on the same plane. I can be very unhappy and yet feel pleasure to have a drink with friends. I rather feel happy without feeling any particular pleasures. Moreover, the most unfortunate individuals are they not also those who drown as easily in a quest for pleasures?

Second, Bentham begs the question of compatibility calculations between individuals, thinking that the interests are reconciled spontaneously (near premise of economic liberalism Smith). The mere observation of class conflict sufficient to realize the simplicity of this premise: individuals pursue conflicting interests. The company is a struggle between the interests.

In the end, utilitarian morality monkey morals, it is ultimately a well thought selfishness is past for altruism. Advocate utilitarianism means valuing the pleasure principle at the expense of the reality principle. gold, it seems that morality is the result of a compromise, a balance between the two tendencies of mankind.

John Rawls in A Theory of Justice, also criticized the exorbitant social cost of this theory of justice based on the social utility of the individuals back to différentialiser, create a hierarchy of members of a society, that is to challenge the rights thereof. The individual is sacrificed on the altar of a so-called “common good”.

Cite this article as: Tim, "Moral Utilitarianism: Definition and Concept, March 30, 2015, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, March 30, 2015,

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