Post last updated on March 6, 2023
Utilitarianism is a philosophy that, broadly speaking, teaches that men ought to pursue whatever course of action brings the greatest good. Of course, the idea of “the good” will mean different things to different people, a fact that eventually led to criticisms and modifications in the philosophy. Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) is considered the founder of modern utilitarianism, but John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) is commonly attached to the idea.
Oliver O’Donovan (like others) writes that the philosophy of utilitarianism is more properly named as “consequentialism,” O’Donovan, however, orders his objection by explaining that utilitarianism describes a way of decision making that first imagines the best possible outcome and then works backward from that postulation to individual decisions. In this connection, O’Donovan adds that John Stuart Mill’s fault lies in the pretense that moral action is justified by the anticipations that a man creates. (A man first imagines an outcome and then acts to achieve it.) As such, a man’s self-created anticipation of outcome is prioritized over God’s promise, which reduces the idea of prudence to the anticipation of consequences.1See discussion in Oliver O’Donovan, Finding and Seeking, vol. 2, Ethics as Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 201-02.
Notes & References
|↑1||See discussion in Oliver O’Donovan, Finding and Seeking, vol. 2, Ethics as Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 201-02.|