Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the moral action is the one that maximizes utility. Utility is defined in various ways, including as pleasure, economic well-being and the lack of suffering. Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism, which implies that the "end justifies the means". This view can be contrasted or combined with seeing intentions, virtues or the compliance with rules as ethically important.
- By utility is meant that property is any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness(all this in the present case come to the same thing) or (what comes again to the same thing) to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil or unhappiness to the party who whose is considered: if that party be the community in general, then the happiness of the community; if a particular individual; then the happiness of that individual
- Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, 1798.
- The utilitarian behaves sensibly in all that is required for preservation but never takes account of the fact that he must die. He does everything reasonable to put off the day of his death—providing for defense, peace, order, health and wealth —but actively suppresses the fact that the day must come. His whole life is absorbed in avoiding death, which is inevitable, and therefore he might be thought to be the most irrational of men, if rationality has anything to do with understanding ends or comprehending the human situation as such.
- The utilitarian notion... has the fatal limitation that it attempts to assign limits to what is, or may in the future become, useful, in accordance with a more or less arbitrarily restricted standard of what constitutes utility.
- E. W. Hobson, Mathematics, from the points of view of the Mathematician and of the Physicist (1912) an address delivered to the Mathematical and Physical Society of University College London, p. 10.
- I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of man as a progressive being. Those interests, I contend, authorize the subjection of individual spontaneity to external control, only in respect to those actions of each, which concern the interest of other people.
- In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility. To do as one would be done by, and to love one's neighbour as oneself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality.
- Granted that any practice causes more pain to animals than it gives pleasure to man; is that practice moral or immoral? And if, exactly in proportion as human beings raise their heads out of the slough of selfishness, they do not with one voice answer 'immoral,' let the morality of the principle of utility be for ever condemned.
- Hedonism, pessimism, utilitarianism, or eudaemonism, all those modes of thinking which measure the worth of things according to pleasure and pain, ... are plausible modes of thought and naïvetés, which every one conscious of creative powers and an artist’s conscience will look down upon with scorn. ... We regard your seriousness as more dangerous than any kind of levity. ... Well-being, as you understand it—is certainly not a goal; it seems to us ... a condition which at once renders man ludicrous and contemptible.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, § 225 (Helen Zimmern trans.)
- Perfect the Will, the Mind, Feeling, their corporeal organs and their material tools; be useful to yourselves, to your own ones, and to others; and Happiness, insofar as it exists on this earth, will come of itself.
- This utilitarian view of the mind ... is an external view only, which marks the place and conditions of the mind in nature, but neglects its specific essence. ... If the intellect is a device produced in organic bodies to expedite their processes, these organic bodies must have interests and a chosen direction in their life; otherwise their life could not be expedited, nor could anything be useful to it.
- George Santayana, The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy (1967), p. 57
- Utility is the great idol of the age, to which all powers must do service and all talents swear allegiance.
- Friedrich Schiller, The Aesthetic Education of Man, Second Letter.
- Those proud Islanders whom many unduly honour, know no watchword but gain and enjoyment. Their zeal for knowledge is only a sham fight, their worldly wisdom a false jewel, skilfully and deceptively composed, and their sacred freedom itself too often and too easily serves self-interest. They are never in earnest with anything that goes beyond palpable utility. All knowledge they have robbed of life and use only as dead wood to make masts and helms for their life's voyage in pursuit of gain.
- Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers, J. Oman, trans. (1898), pp. 9-10
- It's the flock, the grove, that matters. Our responsibility is to species, not to specimens; to communities, not to individuals.
- Sara Stein, Noah's Garden, 1998.
- Before the age of adulteration it was held that behind each work there stood some conception of its perfect execution. It was this that gave zest to labor and served to measure the degree of success. To the extent that the concept obtained, there was a teleology in work, since the laborer toiled not merely to win sustenance but to see this ideal embodied in his creation. Pride in craftsmanship is well explained by saying that to labor is to pray, for conscientious effort to realize an ideal is a kind of fidelity. The craftsman of old time did not hurry, because the perfect takes no account of time and shoddy work is a reproach to character. But character itself is an expression of self-control, which does not come of taking the easiest way. Where character forbids self-indulgence, transcendence still hovers around.
- When utilitarianism becomes enthroned and the worker is taught that work is use and not worship, interest in quality begins to decline. … There is a difference between expressing one’s self in form and producing quantity for a market with an eye to speculation. Péguy wished to know what had become of the honor of work. It has succumbed to the same forces as have all other expressions of honor.
- Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago: 1948), pp. 73-74