Utilitarianism is the family of moral theories according to which the rightness of actions is determined solely by the sum total of wellbeing they produce.

Elements of utilitarianism

All ethical theories belonging to the utilitarian family share four defining elements:

  1. Consequentialism is the view that the moral rightness of actions (or rules, policies, etc.) depends on, and only on, the value of their consequences.
  2. Welfarism is the view that only the welfare (also called wellbeing) of individuals determines how good a particular state of the world is.
  3. Impartiality is the view that the identity of individuals is irrelevant to the value of an outcome.
  4. Additive Aggregationism is the view that the value of the world is given by the sum of the values of its parts, where these parts are some kind of local phenomena such as experiences, lives, or societies.

Classical utilitarianism

The original and most influential version of utilitarianism is classical utilitarianism. Classical utilitarianism accepts hedonism as a theory of welfare, the view that wellbeing consists of positive and negative conscious experiences. Moreover, classical utilitarianism accepts the total view of population ethics, according to which one outcome is better than another if and only if it contains a greater sum total of wellbeing, where wellbeing can be increased either by making existing people better off or by creating new people with good lives....

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