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 there are plenty of variations on the trolley problem that suggest there's more than pure utilitarianism involved in the decision-making. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 15 Apr. 2022 By denying individual dignity and freedom, communism leaves no basis for moral judgment other than a brutal utilitarianism. Eugene Kontorovich, WSJ, 23 Mar. 2022 His thinking can be traced to the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham, the Enlightenment-era English legal philosopher and reformer. Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, 28 Feb. 2022 Chapters focus on major theories, such as utilitarianism, Kant’s ethics of duty, Aristotle’s virtue ethics and Sartre’s existentialism. Julian Baggini, WSJ, 3 Feb. 2022 If the pandemic has caused any single identifiable outcome for fashion, it’s that utilitarianism has been replaced with a spirit of experimentation. Isabel Slone, Harper's BAZAAR, 1 Nov. 2021 These women took artistic license to write their own beauty narrative, one that refused to be boxed in by the utilitarianism of blue-collar work. Charles Harbison, The Atlantic, 16 Sep. 2021 There is just too little daylight now between secular utilitarianism and liberal Catholicism in its political and partisan form. Ross Douthat New York Times, Star Tribune, 24 June 2021 Their products’ ubiquity transcends mere utilitarianism and pushes into the broader social consciousness. Steven Aquino, Forbes, 19 May 2021 See More

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.

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

24 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Utilitarianism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utilitarianism. Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on utilitarianism

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about utilitarianism


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