“Utilitarianism as Secondary Ethic” serves as an adequate primer on classical utilitarianism.
This essay provides an overview of utilitarianism, highlights its problematic nature, and classifies utilitarianism as a secondary ethic — an ethic meant to serve the end of some primary ethic.
Without the firm definition of an end-in-itself utilitarianism is left to flounder in its pursuit of the subjective: happiness. However, if happiness is replaced with the ultimate end of a primary ethic, utilitarianism can be a useful tool in analyzing day-to-day decisions and choices, when taken together, serve the purposes of the primary ethic.
Paper as originally submitted – Yale Divinity School, 2006