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Examples distinguishing classical utilitarianism from preference utilitarianism and act utilitarianism from rule utilitarianism[edit]

This was a completely backwards example illustrating the difference between preference utilitarianism and hedonistic utilitarianism. A preference utilitarian could theoretically justify gang rape if the aggregated preferences of the gang rapists outweighed the victim's preference not to be raped. It's virtually guaranteed that a classical utilitarian will condemn gang rape in practice since 1) the aggregated pleasure of the gang rapists do not outweigh the pain of the victim, in terms of both intensity and duration, and 2) even if it did, raping someone could not be the only possible way for them to achieve that same amount of benefit, if there are any alternative actions that would cause more happiness and/or less suffering, the classical utilitarian has to prefer them.

The example distinguishing act from rule utilitarianism is also somewhat flawed. An act utilitarian would concede that the irresponsible shooting of the man was the right decision to make (assuming that he couldn't have prevented the prospective serial killer from massacring those people without killing him) but his intention was not to do so and he should still be criticized for his willingness to endanger the welfare of other people, not because he 'deserves' punishment, but because if he was willing to do it once he'll probably be willing to do it again. A rule utilitarian would also have to concede that unintentionally behaving in a way that usually maximizes happiness would also be the right decision to make.

I've edited both with what I think are better examples that clarify the difference between the 4.

Bentham absolutely was a utilitarian. Why the reversion? Researcher 13:55, 27 November 2008 (EST)

Real world example[edit]

I don't think it's a great example. It looks like it's been added just to make a point about sex education, which is probably better expressed elsewhere on RW, and it's a bit misleading as an illustration of utilitarianism. For one thing, I don't think utilitarians believe in "evil", only benefit and harm. Also, the example states that the utilitarian "accepts that abortion is bad, and that it's worse than a society posessed of looser sexual mores". But a utilitarian wouldn't be thinking like that: s/he would believe that the ethics of an abortion should be determined by considering the suffering it would cause (to mother and the aborted child) against the potential problems which could be caused by having an unplanned child instead of the abortion. I'm sure this can be replaced by a much clearer example. weaseLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 16:50, 15 December 2008 (EST)

I've taken it out for now. I think utilitarians would generally support thorough sex education for something similar to the reasons given, but suggesting that utilitarians are necessarily pro-life (as this implied) is a bit rocky, as there are utilitarians on both sides of the abortion issue. I think this should either be reworded or replaced with a more clear-cut example. I'll try to think of one. weaseLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 15:58, 18 December 2008 (EST)

Utilitarian Critcism[edit]

I see this argument everywhere: utilitarians could push some morally corrupt system such as the slavery example here. What they aren't realising is that slavery MAKES PEOPLE FEEL BAD due to being immoral, and this stands directly opposed to the utilitarian ideal. If it makes people uncomfortable, it is likely not the best course of action, and enslaving a race would lead to a very uncomfortable breach in morality. This makes it invalid by utilitarianism. Sorry I don't have an account, but I can't really be bothered to make one tbh. — Unsigned, by: / talk / contribs 14:16, 27 March 2010 (UTC)

You have it backwards. You are right that "slavery makes people feel bad due to being immoral" is directly opposed to utilitarianism, since utilitarianism dictates that things are immoral because they make people feel bad. WēāŝēīōīďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 22:04, 27 March 2010 (UTC)
Please remember that utilitarianism is about net benefits. Slavery makes people feel bad, but what if not practicing slavery leads to a smaller net benefit than practicing slavery? A utilitarian would choose to have slaves in that case. Therefore, I think the analogy still stands. Tyrone8934 (talk) 08:24, 9 February 2019 (UTC)

There seems little point in presenting the 'criticism' in this article since it all concerns the effects of applying utilitarian ethics. A review of arguments that actually try to prove that utilitarianism itself is invalid would be far more usefull.-- (talk) 20:33, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

Weaseloid is the one that has is backwards, in my view. Humans have innate moral intuitions - as Mill argued in his book about this moral philosophy - and they would feel bad regardless of what utilitarians said. People have feelings regardless of any moral philosophy, and that is taken into account. — Unsigned, by: / talk / contribs (signed by bot) 01:43, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

Classical Utilitarism vs. all the rest[edit]

It seems to me there are several flaws in the article. First of all i am not sure wether it is quite correct to assume that util. "grew out of the enlightenment".


There are a lot [and i mean a lot] of utilitarian "traditions". They have in common that they are all in one way or another consequentialistic. Most of wich is in the article is not wrong if one is looking at the bentham/mill style of util. But they certainly do not apply to all of them.

One example is: "Utilitarianism considers only the effects of actions, and places no judgement on a person's motivations and whether they have "good intentions"."

Thats incorrect. there are utilitarian philosophers who deny this.

Also [and much more important] the "good" is not always some sort of happiness or another [perhaps not even when it comes to Mill]. Most utilitarians [as far as i can tell] today [prominently Singer] favor "preferences" that need to be satisfied [and the satisfaction maximised].

My point is this: It should be made clear to what "version" of utilitarism the claim refer, by either splitting the article up or making this visible in any other clever way [could have done that myself if i knew how :)]

Lets continue: "Utilitarianism does not uphold absolute moral values" That is [in most cases] just plain wrong. The absolute value is [again in most cases] the "use" of an action. Admitedly there are some philosophers who could be considered both utilitarians and relativists. Richard Mervyn Hare for example held the view that there are possibly several "moral viewpoints" including an amoral viewpoint, still he was a largely utilitarian.


The Criticism section should ürpbably contain the following:

[1] Util. is a naturalistic fallacy G.E. Moore for example [also sidgwick] accused util. of reducing the question of what ought to be done to what is done [to put it simple]. And that it could still be asked if good is identified with "pleasurable" why pleasura is good without making it nonsensical

[If that has been done one could of course also cite several metaethic schools, claiming that a naturalistic statement is per se wrong for one reason or another]

Thanks for reading :)

Well I for one agree, but I am not exactly an expert. I tried to cover preference and classical, but that still leaves negative act/rule, average/total... You seem knowledgable, did I get it right?CentimeterINCHES 14:33, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

Interesting evidence-based research[edit]

That I currently see no obvious reason to include these in this article, but I'll link them in case anyone disagrees.

Criticism Section Full of Weasel Words[edit]

Many criticisms are on the basis of absolute moral standards other than those proposed in utilitarian thought.

Which criticisms?

Some forms of utilitarianism consider only the effects of actions and place no judgement on a person's motivations and whether they have "good intentions."

Which forms?

Although utilitarianism seems very logical, it can lead to some questionable moral statements,[5][6] and many see the need to correct it.


Some argue that the philosophy lacks attention to the individual and have proposed ethical egoism as an alternative.

You've got to be kidding me.

Others see equality as the problem and have proposed Prioritarianism and strict egalitarianism as alternatives.


Yet others say that Utilitarianism doesn't have enough Goddidit, but that is probably just bullshit.


Those are just ones I noticed. I suspect there might be more. MrNubNub (talk) 03:39, 4 July 2018 (UTC)

I think the entire article might be weasel words, along with the egoism article. Because I just read both of them and they seem to be saying the exact same thing in different words, while claiming to be philosophically in opposition to each other. RW is clearly awesome but these articles are not very good. — Unsigned, by: / talk