Utilitarianism

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Related to Utilitarian ethics: Kantian ethics, Deontological ethics

Utilitarianism

The philosophy holding that moral actions must provide the greatest good to the greatest number of persons. Utilitarianism emphasizes the consequences of actions when evaluating their morality. For example, a utilitarian may regard a lie to a regulator as moral if it saves 2,000 jobs. Critics of utilitarianism contend that consequences are unknowable and argue that it could be used to defend atrocities. Utilitarians, on the other hand, argue that their philosophy is the best way to improve happiness in the aggregate.
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Utilitarian ethics may be summarized by the following flow chart.
Utilitarian ethics contains some structural defects that cannot be overcome by merely fine- tuning the theory.
Hoppe (37) argues that efficiency can be maximized only with a strong property rights regime, and that economic efficiency can be justified, but on the basis of property rights rather than utilitarian ethics, a conclusion with which Norton (38) and Knight (39) would agree.
The contrast between utilitarian ethics and rights based ethics has also permeated literature.
As long as a utilitarian ethic, in which the needs of different patients were balanced against each other, was applied consistently, neither physicians nor patients nor patient's families seemed much concerned about the abandonment of a fiduciary ethic.
To Koop, to allow such "quality of life" concerns into the medical decision process not only defies the word of God but is--like abortion--a first step onto the slippery slope of the kind of utilitarian ethics that led to Nazi death camps.
I strongly agree with Roth's conclusion concerning the nature of utilitarian ethics.