util·​i·​tar·​i·​an·​ism | \ (ˌ)yü-ˌti-lə-ˈter-ē-ə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce utilitarianism (audio) \

Definition of utilitarianism

1 : a doctrine that the useful is the good and that the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences specifically : a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number
2 : utilitarian character, spirit, or quality

Examples of utilitarianism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web If architecture, like art, reflects a civilization’s values, then the House of One represents the victory of functional utilitarianism over transcendence. Joseph D’hippolito, WSJ, "Berlin’s New Church of Nothing," 8 Apr. 2021 This will push them closer to utilitarianism, and an equal concern for all. Tyler Cowen, Star Tribune, "More vaccines would be even better," 7 Mar. 2021 The constraints of the pandemic have given us few reasons to carry a handbag outside of pure utilitarianism. Willow Lindley, Vogue, "Holding Value: Inspired by The V&A’s New Exhibition, These Are the Bags To Invest In Now," 14 Dec. 2020 While there are plenty of covetable Chelseas on the market, Bottega Veneta’s Daniel Lee has once again acted as Midas, and created a fleet of Chelsea boots that balance utilitarianism, sleekness, and modernity. Rachel Besser, Vogue, "The Covetable Chelsea Boots Well Worth the Investment," 4 Nov. 2020 This was the opposite of utilitarianism, or the suggestion that what was good was that which would benefit the greatest number of people. Kim Phillips-fein, The New Republic, "The Lost Rebellious Spirit of Keynes," 9 June 2020 The classic example – often used to critique utilitarianism – is whether you should be required to kill another person if doing so would save a greater number of lives. Lee Mcintyre, The Conversation, "Everyday ethics: Should I visit my mother?," 21 May 2020 In layman’s terms, a utilitarianism approach would maximize overall health by directing care toward those most likely to benefit the most from it. Austin Frakt, New York Times, "Who Should Be Saved First? Experts Offer Ethical Guidance," 24 Mar. 2020 Arriving in the wake of the boho-chic early aughts, the utilitarianism of the post-recession days and the sentimental softness of the mid-2010s, these designers are building an aesthetic language for now: sly, assertive and somewhat unhinged. Meara Sharma, New York Times, "The New Shape of Fashion," 14 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'utilitarianism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of utilitarianism

1827, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of utilitarianism was in 1827

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Last Updated

12 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Utilitarianism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utilitarianism. Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of utilitarianism

philosophy : the belief that a morally good action is one that helps the greatest number of people

More from Merriam-Webster on utilitarianism

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about utilitarianism

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