Which theory of ethics says that we should make decisions that produce “the greatest good for the greatest number”?

The theory of ethics which states that we should make decisions that produce “the greatest good for the greatest number” is known as utilitarianism (Moseley ,2020). This type of ethical decision-making is based on the premise that actions taken should result in maximum benefit to society while minimizing any possible harm or negative impact.(Moseley , 2020).

Utilitarianism can be broken down into two components: maximize utility and minimize disutility. Utility refers to pleasure, happiness or satisfaction experienced by individuals while disutility refers to pain, suffering or dissatisfaction (Moseley , 2020). As such, this approach suggests that when faced with a moral dilemma one should take action which maximizes happiness and minimizes any potential for unhappiness .

In practice this means considering all possible outcomes and then selecting option which produces most desirable results according collective welfare. For instance if developing new drug would save five lives but cause debilitating side effects another individual – according utilitarian analysis – it would likely still be seen as beneficial overall since more people would benefit from its release ( Moseley ,2020 ). 

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Ultimately thus by following utilitarian principles decision makers can ensure their choices are based on logic rather than emotion helping create a better world where everyone can live relatively happy lives. 


Moseley A. Utilitarian Ethics [Updated]. The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy 33 : 1–8

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