utilitarianism

noun
util·i·tar·i·an·ism | \(ˌ)yü-ˌti-lə-ˈter-ē-ə-ˌni-zəm \

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 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 In particular, Canavan dissected the philosophical errors that have led contemporary culture not only to embrace radical individualism but also take it to its logical conclusion in utilitarianism. Nr Interview, National Review, "Capturing a Spiritual Father’s Freedom and Wisdom," 12 Jan. 2018 Schur even drew on his own experience when crafting Eleanor’s initial reaction to learning about utilitarianism in Season 1. Elizabeth Yuko, The Atlantic, "How The Good Place Goes Beyond ‘The Trolley Problem’," 21 Oct. 2017 In the penultimate episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s third season, the protagonist Kimmy takes a college philosophy class, learns about the trolley problem, and becomes obsessed with utilitarianism. Elizabeth Yuko, The Atlantic, "How The Good Place Goes Beyond ‘The Trolley Problem’," 21 Oct. 2017

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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More Definitions for utilitarianism

utilitarianism

noun

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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