Other Thinkers Associated with Utilitarianism


For Machiavelli, the highest purpose of social-political life is to attain and hold power. Moral rules, then, are practical rules about how to gain and hold power over others. Thus, you should break a contract whenever it benefits you, because otherwise the other person (who by human nature is wicked), will break his contract with you. You should keep your contracts only when they help you gain and hold power over others.

Real Politics: It is politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral and ethical premises. (Teleological approach)

Machiavelli is the first major thinker to judge actions solely in terms of their consequences. An action is good not because God commands it, nor because it comes from virtue, but because its consequences are the attainment and keeping of power.

Application of teleology

At the individual level

  • The state should have a minimal role in regulating people’s affairs.
  • Individual freedom/liberty promotes risk-taking ability and teaches independence rather than dependence and defensiveness.
  • Pleasure-seeking attitude has resulted in experiencing innovations and change in Western society at a faster pace. Pleasure-seeking attitude led to respect for the similar attitude of others; hence western society experienced more liberty in social aspects of human life like LGBTQ, nuclear families, weekend families, live-in relations, hook-ups, single-parent families, no-kid families etc.

At the societal level

Most of the traditions in society are being continued because they have some utility for that society in one way or another, for example, the caste system, patriarchy, class system, monarchy, democracy etc.

For economy

Business is based on

  • freedom of choice- anyone chooses his profession at any point in time irrespective of his birth, caste, race, religion, region etc., which led to industrial revolutions in the West.
  • profit maximisation- it motivates to invest in the expansion of the business instead of expanding it on luxury. That’s why most of the unicorn companies are in the West.
  • Efficiency-it is the core of the business; otherwise, it can’t sustain; it means employees can be hired or fired as per the requirement of the company. That’s why the west attracts more investment than the Eastern world, where labour laws are rigorous and complex, restricting employers’ freedom. That is how we can see that the Western economy emerged as a capitalist economy based on utilitarian philosophy because it gave them a moral backing for starting a business of their own choice and that business brought profit, ultimately to pleasure.

At the government level

  • In liberal flourishing democracies, govt intervenes least for the pleasure of its citizens, while in the case of banana democracies, governments tend to regulate the behaviour of its citizens.
  • Most of the laws and govt. Policies aim to maximise the good of a larger population like the Ayushman Bharat scheme, Ujjwala scheme, PMJDY…


  1. It becomes more of seeking physical pleasure, which is a lesser good, not chief good, for humans.
  2. It makes people materialistic, selfish, and desirous, which leads to the growth of many unethical practices like materialism, consumerism, the commodification of women, crony capitalism, corruption etc.
  3. It promoted greed which led to the loss of societal values; that’s why there is a rise in old age homes in Western society.
  4. It makes people money oriented, which leads to unending competition and race, which in turn disrupt mental peace that’s why we can see the rise in suicide cases in the Western world.
  5. Pleasure resulted in greed, which led to compromising means which gave rise to the menace of crony capitalism. That’s why Kant criticised this philosophy and gave a new philosophy where the means are more important than the ends.
  6. If every individual start seeking his pleasure without considering the interest of others, then there will be no order in society.
  7. Its cost-benefit analysis is more about immediate benefits rather than long-term benefits like the world is facing the challenge of climate change due to the short-sightedness of the West in the past.
  8. The philosophy of greatest good to greatest number may lead to
    • Majoritarianis
    • Ignoring the minorities
    • Promotion of survival of the fittest, which may lead to ignorance of weaker people and hence their will, we have no justice in society. That’s why John Rawls criticised this philosophy and gave the theory of justice, which emphasises justice in society.
  9. Furthermore, for utilitarianism, an act is ethical if it provides maximum pleasure to the greatest number of people. As a result, even the most violent action is moral for a utilitarian if it brings the greatest good to the greatest number of people. In addition, the Hedonic calculus is not very useful in emergency or emergent situations because all consequences cannot be anticipated all of the time. Simply put, when making quick moral decisions, you may not have the time to weigh all of the pleasures and pains of all of the people involved and apply the hedonic calculus.


Even if utilitarian philosophy has many weaknesses and criticisms, it is still relevant not only for individuals in terms of freedom but also for society in terms of the greatest good to the greatest number of people.

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