Any human being is characterized by his/her actions. Their character determines the motifs of a person and proves his/her intentions. However, the given approach gives rise to a number of critical issues related to the subjectivity of the evaluation of any action. Numerous philosophers have sought to outline the main criteria that highlight the character of a certain action and its hidden motifs. The debates related to the issue promoted the appearance of various schools of thought and philosophical movements suggesting their own vision of the character and nature of human behavior. Utilitarianism also belongs to them as it tends to provide a clear basis for the determination of the nature of the action.
The above-mentioned theory appeared at the end of the 18th century due to the debates of various philosophers. That period of time could be characterized by numerous attempts to find the essence of happiness, benefit, use, etc. For this reason, thinkers were interested in what actions could promote the further evolution of the society and contribute to the increase in the general level of happiness. In this context, the need for the new ground for peoples behavior became obvious.
Thinkers understood that to attain success and initiate vigorous debates in society, it was crucial to creating the new philosophical movement providing the basis for new ideas. The combination of these reasons triggered the blistering development of utilitarianism.
There were several outstanding thinkers who could be taken as the founders of the school. John Stuart Mill was one of them. His vision of utilitarianism conditioned its further evolution and contributed to the significant increase in its relevance. He defined it as the theory which is based on the idea that any action is right if it tends to promote happiness, and it is wrong if it produces the reverse of happiness (Rachels and Rachels 28). This idea became the basic one for the movement. As it comes from the definition, happiness is another concern crucial for utilitarianism as it serves as the indicator of the character of the action. This concept provided the ground for numerous discussions.
Mill defines happiness as the absence of any pain and continuous pleasure (Rachels and Rachels 30). He is sure that there are no degrees of pleasure, and it could not differ in quality and quantity. In this regard, it becomes obvious that, according to Mill, any action that does not result in pain could be considered the utilitarian one (Rachels and Rachels 31). This assumption was the main sticking point as other philosophers did not recognize Mills perspective on happiness. However, if to accept his idea of utilitarianism, its focus on the promotion of happiness and pleasure is the major concern of the movement. Furthermore, its approach to the character of action contributes to the creation of numerous moral concerns.
To summarize, the main distinctive feature of utilitarianism is its attempt to classify numerous acts, happiness and provide a credible rationale for this classification. The given school adheres to the idea that only action aimed at the promotion of happiness could be taken as the right one. Mill is also sure that the major concerns of utilitarianism coincide with the core aspects of human nature (Rachels and Rachels 34). For this reason, if society embraces the movement, it will move towards the improvement of its moral standards and reconsideration of the main principles of its functioning.
Rachels, James and Stuart Rachels. The Right Thing To Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print.