What Is the Utilitarian Approach?

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The utilitarian approach, also called utilitarianism, is essentially a moral principle that asserts that morally correct actions are those that provide the greatest volume of benefits over harms for the majority of people. Those people who ascribe to the theory of utilitarianism believe that in virtually all situations, the morally just route is one that provides the most benefits to groups of people, even if the benefits derive from socially unacceptable actions such as lies, coercion and use of excess force.

Moral reasoning is used in many ways by individuals and groups every day. Actions and decisions that classify as utilitarianism are explained as the rationale behind the decisions that people make when compelled to perform a moral duty. Utilitarian decisions are those that ultimately produce a significant benefit, or common good, when performed. Although it is not embraced by all people, the utilitarian approach has been used by humans for many years. The origins of this principle date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, beginning with the writings of the English legal reformer named Jeremy Bentham. Bentham believed that English law and policy should be created based on the assumption that they would ultimately bring benefits to society, even though some harm may come about as a result of their implementation.