Utilitarianism Study Guide
Utilitarianism Study Guide

Utilitarianism Study Guide

Source: Open Book Publishers

Student Price: Free with Top Hat Pro Subscription

A study guide on introductory concepts in philosophy.

Utilitarianism Study Guide

​Utilitarianism remains a living theory and retains hedonistic and non-hedonistic advocates, as well as supporters of both act and rule formulations. The core insight that consequences matter gives the theory some intuitive support even in the light of hypothetical cases that pose serious problems for utilitarians. The extent to which the different versions of Utilitarianism survive their objections is very much up to you as a critically-minded philosopher to decide.

Key Terminology

  • Normative
  • Relativistic
  • Teleological
  • Consequentialist
  • Principle of Utility
  • Agent-Neutrality
  • Hedonic Calculus
  • Utility
  • Intrinsic

Is there anything that would improve your life that cannot be reduced to either pleasure or preference satisfaction?


Would you enter Nozick’s experience machine if you knew you would not come out? Would you put someone you care about into the machine while they were asleep, so that they never had to make the decision?


Can pleasure be measured? Does Bentham go about this task correctly?


Which is the most serious problem facing Bentham’s Act Utilitarianism? Can it be overcome?


Does Mill successfully improve Bentham’s Act Utilitarianism in any way?


Are you ever told to stop watching television and do something else? Is this good for you? Why?


Look at the quote at the start of the chapter by Dara Ó Briain — is it possible that some pleasures are inferior in value to others?


Do you have convictions or beliefs you would not want to sacrifice for the greater good, should you ever be forced to?


Why do utilitarians not give up on the idea of maximizing pleasure and just talk in terms of promoting sufficient pleasure? Would this solve or raise problems?


Is Weak Rule Utilitarianism merely Act Utilitarianism by another name?


Does Strong Rule Utilitarianism deserve to be labelled as a utilitarian theory?


If your preferences change after psychotherapy, did the original preferences ever matter?

© 2017 Mark Dimmock and Andrew Fisher

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0). 

This license allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work; to adapt the work and to make commercial use of the work providing attribution is made to the author (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). Attribution should include the following information:

Mark Dimmock and Andrew Fisher,Ethics for A-Level. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2017,https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0125

Further details about CC BY licenses are available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/