Utilitarianism is the view that an action is right if and only if it produces the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. As aphilosophical position, it is to be distinguished from consequentialist views more broadly, which hold that the moral status of an action is solely determined by consequences. The difference, then,is that utilitarianism is committed to aparticular conception of right-making consequences that other consequentialist positions may not accept. Be that as it may, the moniker “utilitarianism” is often used rather loosely to demarcate any consequentialist position. This fact speaks to the view’s deep influence in moral debates since its articulate defense by John Stuart Mill in the second half of the nineteenth century. Now, though there are many writers in contemporary philosophy enamored of consequentialist views and who consider themselves, in one guise or another, to be utilitarians, it is the ancestral position that we will focus on here.
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