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 Mr Koenig: Silicon Valley is obsessed with utilitarianism. K.n.c., The Economist, "Open Future A cry for freedom in the algorithmic age," 10 Jan. 2020 Darlene's true spiritual foil is Harris (Emma Kenney), a kid whose hardened utilitarianism clashes with Darlene's longstanding ambition. Robyn Bahr, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Conners: Live from Lanford': TV Review," 12 Feb. 2020 Opened just in time for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the Katy Mills store is carefully designed to channel Dickies’ work heritage and utilitarianism, said Perry. Houston Chronicle, "Dickies picks Katy for its second Houston-area store," 26 Nov. 2019 Unlike in many Western countries where more natural makeup looks are in vogue, women across Arab Gulf countries often lean toward bright, eye-catching makeup trends and accessories that offset the utilitarianism of black veils and abayas. Washington Post, "For Huda Kattan, beauty has become a billion-dollar business," 14 Oct. 2019 For that reason, film, television, literature, music, and much else is subjected to a standard of social utilitarianism, meaning that they are not judged on aesthetic criteria but for their value as propaganda, moral instruction, or therapy. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "Everybody Is Tipper Gore Now," 6 Oct. 2019 But such stark utilitarianism sits poorly with how most people view the world, because AVs would still cause a lot of deaths. The Economist, "How do you define “safe driving” in terms a machine can understand?," 10 May 2018 In formal philosophy it is represented by the utilitarianism. Jeffrey Collins, WSJ, "‘Power, Pleasure, and Profit’ Review: Self-Mastery Versus Self-Interest," 5 Oct. 2018 Conversations with MacAskill often turn to radical utilitarianism and audacious plans to save the world. Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, "Is Colonizing Mars the Most Important Project in Human History?," 29 June 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

29 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Utilitarianism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utilitarianism. Accessed 29 Mar. 2020.

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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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