Business Ethics Theory Taxonomy
Dr. Scott Hauert
University of Phoenix
Description of Theory
British philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill developed the
philosophy of utilitarianism, which is the belief in "the greatest good for the greatest
number of people” (Six Ethical Properties, ¶ 3). The Greek philosopher, Plato, is often
credited with the first accounting of utilitarianism in his writing, the Republic (Is Plato’s
republic, 1937). In utilitarianism, various consequences of an act are imagined, and the
outcome that helps the most people is the best choice under the circumstances. He wrote
about this philosophy in 1776 and later in "As a social scientist, Bentham was an
empiricist who advocated the use of quantitative methods in social observation and the
development of a value free language devoid of emotional and ambiguous terms"
(Martin, 1997, ¶5)."In the spring of 1776, in his first substantial (though anonymous)
publication, A Fragment on Government, Jeremy Bentham affirms in that the guiding
light of legislators must not be the will of the superior (the sovereign), or abstract appeals
to such notions as contract, but rather to the principle of utility. The principle of "utility"
applied to legislation, according to Bentham, requires that the "greatest happiness"
principle be the guiding light and the proper test of any proposed law is its utility to that
end"(Martin, 1997, 18)."To a utilitarian, the choice that yields the greatest benefit to the
most people is the choice that is ethically correct" (Rainbow, 2002).
"The most widely repeated retributivist argument against the utilitarian theory of
punishment is that utilitarianism permits punishment of the innocent. While defenders of...