What Are The Main Features Of Utilitarianism As An Ethical Theory?

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Utilitarianism is a teleological theory. This means that an act is judged to be moral, based on its consequences, rather than its motives. It is based on the principle "the greatest good for the greatest number". Therefore, an act is moral if it results in the greater happiness of the majority.

There are three main types of utilitarianism:

Act Utilitarianism: this deals with the consequences of individual acts, and follows no absolute rules, except that the greatest good is produced for the greatest number.

Rule Utilitarianism: This allows certain absolute rules to be followed, (for example 'do not kill') i.e. those that society has established to allow the greatest good to the greatest number.

Preference Utilitarianism: says that you should act in a way that the person involved prefer, unless that preference is outweighed by others.

The pioneer of the utilitarianism theory was Jeremy Bentham. He lived from 1748-1832 and was brought up in a very intellectual family. Both his father and grandfather were lawyers and so he was expected to follow them into law.

While reading Priestly's Essay on Government he found the principle "the greatest good of the greatest number". He decided to apply this principle to all the areas of socia

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