Principles of Utilitarianism


The basic moral principle of utilitarianism is the principle of utility also termed as the principle of greatest happiness. The principle states that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its utility or usefulness where usefulness in greater sense means how much pleasure or happiness the action can cause to a person (John Pg 5). The basic principle of utility therefore holds that an action can be seen as morally right or wrong depending on the consequences the action can produce. The principle therefore holds that an action is termed as morally right if it results in the greatest amount of good or pleasure for the majority and the smallest amount of pain to the people involved in an action it therefore seeks to maximize general utility which is happiness and minimizes pain (John Pg10).


According to Geoffrey the basic principle of utilitarianism is the principle of utility emphasizes on someone doing actions that results in the greatest amount of pleasure to majority of the people involved and the smallest amount of pain to the people involved. As an individual therefore I should ensure that whatever actions I do should always be for the benefit of a larger group since every person’s happiness counts hence it does require me as an individual to pursue my own happiness at the expense of others (Geoffrey Pg16). This therefore means that me as an individual should always strive to do good for a larger group of people though the nature of human beings assert us to do actions which results in greatest amount of pleasure for ourselves in order to avoid pain (Geoffrey 18).

This principle says that me as an individual should always weigh the various actions in which people may get pleasure or pain from after which I can determine the actions that I should be involved in and the actions should maximizes pleasure and minimize pain to the greatest number of people. Since everyone has his /her interests considered an individual cannot act to give more particular preferences to his/her selfish interests for example to her own family, friends or local interests groups among others without minding others. This principle therefore emphasizes that an individual should always learn to avoid crude or shortsighted decisions since an action is right in the proportion which it promotes happiness and wrong if the action results in the reverse of happiness (John, James & Ernest Pg 13).

The cost–benefit analysis is a version of utilitarianism which is widely used that states that one policy is better than another if it is the least costly compared with the benefits expected oftenly it’s associated with efficiency. Considering the issue of whether to build the barrier or not cost benefit analysis will in the assist in the determination. Firstly the estimation of the number of lives likely to be saved by the suicide barrier will be estimated and a monetary value given to each life. After which the estimation of the negative effect of building the barrier would be estimated in terms of financial cost (John Pg 16). After all this has been estimated the negative aesthetic effect will be estimated not only by counting the number of lost aesthetic experiences but also calculating their value. At the end of the process the barrier would be built only if the building of the barrier will increase the human happiness by reducing pain through reducing number of people losing their lives on the bridge (John, James & Ernest Pg 15)

The principle of utility as consequentialist terms an action as morally right or wrong based on given consequences that the particular action produces thus it states that an action is termed as morally right if only it results in a greatest amount of good to the greatest number of people which means it emphasizes the maximization of pleasure and minimization of pain. In addition it emphasizes on an action which causes a great harm to given smaller number of persons at the sometime giving a greater benefit to a larger number of people. On the other hand the non-consequentialist moral theory on the other hand makes its judgement whether an action is morally right or wrong based on the properties of intrinsic to the action and not its consequences. This theory therefore has its emphasizes on libertarianism where people should be free to do what they like so long as they respect the freedom of others in doing their actions. The theory therefore advocates for ones freedom to do his /her actions so longer the actions do not cause harm to another person nor affect other people’s freedom (Geoffrey Pg 23).


The nature of Human beings permits them to act in a way the benefit everyone rather than their selfish interests. Consequentialist and a non-consequentialist or deontological argues that a person should make sacrifices beyond their personal interests. A person should not volunteer to receive a utility benefit nor should they volunteer for them to get monetary contribution for them to be more efficient rather they should be nonmonetary, nonrational motivated and community-minded. They therefore encourage that a person should act for the benefit of all by putting aside his/her interests (John 26).

Works cited

John Stuart Mill; Utilitarianism; Published by Parker, Son and Bourn,2nd edition Pg 5-26 (1864).

Geoffrey Scarre; Utilitarianism, Published by Routledge, (Pg 16-23) 1996.

John S, James M, &Ernest S, Mill’s Utilitarianism: text and criticism; Published by Wadsworth Pub. Co. (Pg 13-15) 1969.