Utilitarianism originates from the followers of Epicurus, also known as Epicureanism. It was founded by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham as consequentialism ethics. Utilitarianism generally looks at the effect of the outcome. 

For instance, it is the effects of the actions relevant to good and bad results that they may produce. It desires the greatest good for the most significant number of people. Unlike the divine command theory, specific ethical scenarios may say that killing would be the morally right thing to do. 

According to utilitarianism, actions should always be measured by the number of happiness or pleasure it produces. Why do you ask? That is because satisfaction is what we do everything else for in the end. We are pleasure seekers and pain avoiders.

Thought Monkey on Utilitarianism

Benefits and disbenefits of utilitarianism

Looking at the business side, there are always benefits and disbenefits utilized. For instance, quality can be affected by three different aspects; time, the amount of time one must spend on it for it to be done, costs, the number of money one must spend on it for it to be paid, and scope, the size of the domain or subjective focus that something deals with is relevant. For example, specific system requirements that the team must achieve to meet up to the expectations of the project delivery.

With that being said, certain moral aspects can significantly influence this ‘quality.’ For example, picture yourself as a project manager. Your background is that your father died a few years ago due to a malfunctioning pacemaker.

You are leading a team that is currently working on developing a pacemaker. According to various research, this pacemaker will be the best on the market that guarantees 0% malfunctioning.

As a person, it is your mission to prevent pacemakers from malfunctioning so that no one else has to go through what you went through. As a project manager, you value the quality a lot because what would the best pacemaker in the world be if it lacked quality.

When you are reaching the end of the project, you’re over your budget, and there is no way you can get more money from the higher-ups. However, if you change some numbers in your team’s registration, you will be able to finish the project with a significant risk of anyone ever finding out. What would be morally the right thing for you to do?

Down-to-earth utilitarianism principles

Three basic principles are the foundation for Utilitarianism. A principle is a moral rule or standard of good behavior. For instance, it means that one is true to their word. One can be morally pure or morally dirty, namely when one refuses to do what needs to be done.

In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected.

Charles Dickens

Firstly, that is pleasure or happiness. They are the only thing in our existence that holds intrinsic and essential value. Secondly, actions are right in extent as they promote happiness. Similarly, an effort is considered to be wrong if it manifests unhappiness. Thirdly, it is an essential aspect that everyone’s enjoyment counts equally regarding what they have done.


The Greek philosopher Epicurus was born in 341bc. He spends the majority of time figuring out the following: ‘what makes people happy.’ 

Epicurus wrote over 300 books. He is still widely admired for his dedication to one particular study of happiness.

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham is the founder of utilitarianism. It is said that Bentham began to study Latin at the age of four.

This English philosopher and economist did something that is still shocking to the world: He mummified his skeleton in his own clothes and preserved his head with wax.

He also promoted the universal vote and the decriminalization of homosexuality.

John Stuart Mill

The English philosopher, economist, politician, and activist John Stuart Mill, usually cited as J. S. Mill, was the godfather nephew of Jeremy Bentham. Mill tends to write with long sentences in his work which makes it hard to follow sometimes.

He is prior known for his well-known work On Liberty, regarding freedom. Here he explains the damage of the so-called principle. The freedom of the individual should be restricted only when he or she causes physical harm to others.

The pragmatic hospital example

Picture yourself in a hospital with four people on the edge of dying. Each one of them has a different malfunctioning organ. A visitor comes by to check up on one of them. One doctor grabs the visitor, tranquilizes him, brings him to the operation table, and starts harvesting his organs to help the other four. by doing that. The other four will remain alive for the sake of one single life. Below is a video that discusses this example more in-depth.

McCombs School of Business explains the hospital example

Utilitarianism not working?

One of the most significant drawbacks of this ethic is that we cannot predict the future. We don’t have a glass sphere that will predict the future for us to know if our choices were, in the end, good or bad. Utilitarianism seems to demand punishing the innocent in certain circumstances, such as these. It is wrong to punish an innocent person because it violates their rights and is just considered an injustice.

Kantianism vs Utilitarianism

Kantianism, which is formed by the philosopher Immanuel Kant, and utilitarianism have different ways of determining whether an act we do is right or wrong. According to Kant, we should look at our intentions regarding a particular action. On the other hand, Utilitarians believe that we should do activities that provide the most tremendous amount of happiness and pleasure in the end.

If you want to know more about how you can beat your SWS, see this article: ‘The Sine Wave Syndrome.’ above is a summary of all different types of ethics if you want to learn all about it. Knowing all kinds of ethics may help you to understand how ‘good’ choices are being made among their different aspects.

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