Encyclopedia of Business and Professional Ethics

Living Edition
| Editors: Deborah C Poff, Alex C. Michalos


  • Deborah C. PoffEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-23514-1_400-1



Sometimes defined as the greatest good for the greatest number where everyone is to count as one and no one as more than one. The purpose here is to maximize average utility or good outcomes. An ethical theory that argues that what is morally good is related to the consequences of following actions or rules whose purpose is to minimize harm while maximizing good outcomes to persons or other sentient beings. Good is variously defined as pleasure while harm is defined as pain. This definition was the initial definition by Bentham. Mill later articulated various higher and lower (by quality and quantity) types of good or types of happiness.


Utilitarianism is one of the strongest and most popular ethical theories in contemporary moral thought (the other main contenders being Deontology and Virtue Ethics). Utilitarianism is most closely identified with Jeremy Bentham and John Stewart Mill,...

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  1. Bentham J (1789) An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation. Clarendon Press, Oxford, p 1907Google Scholar
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  3. Mill JS (2014) eBooks@Adelaide. The University of Adelaide LibraryGoogle Scholar
  4. Smart JJC, Williams B (1973) Utilitarianism: for & against. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leading with IntegrityOttawaCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Deborah C. Poff
    • 1
  1. 1.Leading with IntegrityOttawaCanada