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Utilitarianism | Glossary


consequentialism: any theory of morality that evaluates actions according to their consequences. Mill's utilitarianism is a consequentialist moral theory.

Greatest Happiness Principle: according to Mill, the foundation of morality. Actions are moral to the extent that they promote or produce pleasure, and are wrong to the extent that they produce or promote pain.

happiness: according to Mill, the equivalent of pleasure

Hedonism: the ancient Greek ethical theory, developed by Epicurus, that advocated the pursuit of pleasure as the goal of life. Epicurus argued that a life of moderation, and in particular a life free of psychological distress, is a happy or good life.

justice: a component of utility involving duties that must be respected. Mill declares justice as "a name for a certain class of moral rules" that obligate absolutely.

principle of utility: the idea that an action is permissible if, and only if, its consequences are at least as good as any other the agent could take

right: that to which one has a legitimate claim on society to protect

utilitarianism: a moral theory that evaluates actions according to their conformity to utility. For Mill, utilitarianism is the creed that holds utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, as the foundation of morality.

utility: Mill's term for pleasure, and the absence of pain. More generally, utility is that which produces some benefit or good.

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