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

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 But their animating philosophy is really utilitarianism: the idea that doing good means maximising the overall level of happiness. The Economist, "Don’t shrink the role of markets—expand it," 10 May 2018 Stinson notes that many computer scientists have an implicit orientation to utilitarianism, an ethical theory that aims to maximize happiness for the greatest number by adding up each action’s costs and benefits. Molly Driscoll, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ turns 50: Why HAL endures," 3 Apr. 2018 Melding crafts and fine art with an emphasis on simplicity and utilitarianism, the Bauhaus movement helped define the modernist aesthetic. Oliver Sava, Chicago Reader, "Arts / Dance Hedwig Dances brings Bauhaus utilitarianism to the stage," 5 Apr. 2018 Leaders in advanced countries are not obligated to practice global utilitarianism or lift up the global poor at the expense of their working and middle classes. William A. Galston, WSJ, "The Case for Responsible Nationalism," 27 Mar. 2018 And yet, psychologically and philosophically, those attachments are as central to human life as the individualist, rationalist, universalist values of classic Enlightenment utilitarianism. Alison Gopnik, The Atlantic, "When Truth and Reason Are No Longer Enough," 17 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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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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behavior toward others

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