Utilitarianism as Secondary Ethic

“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