Meaning of Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism holds that proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility such as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering. This theory was first put forward by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), British philosopher and social reformer modified the ideas of Adam Smith and introduced the philosophy of utilitarianism.  He is now regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.

He argued that people should judge ideas, institutions, and actions on the basis of their utility, or usefulness. The government should try to promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people. According to Bentham, in general the individual should be free to pursue his or her own advantage without interference from the state. At the same time, a government policy was only useful if it promoted this goal.

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) is called the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century. He led the utilitarian movement in the 1800s.

Mill questioned the unregulated capitalism and said that it was wrong that workers should lead deprived lives. His theory sought to help ordinary working people with policies that would lead to a more equal division of profits.

He favored a cooperative system of agriculture and women’s rights, including the right to vote. He called for the government to do away with great differences in wealth and carry out reforms in legal systems.

The Problems with Capitalism – Socialist View

Capitalism in its modern form has developed from Mercantilism of the 16th–18th Centuries via Industrialism, Communism and Neoliberalism. Capitalism is an economic system in which capital assets are privately owned and items are brought to market for profit.

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