Utilitarianism Glossary

a posteriori

In contrast with "a priori," this philosophical term denotes knowledge which is arrived at as a consequence of experience.

a priori

A philosophical term denoting knowledge which is arrived at independently of experience.


a god or goddess, or divine being


not in harmony


a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church, political party, or other group


A system of philosophy based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, founded around 307 BCE. Epicurus believed pleasure was the greatest good, but derived from modest living within one's limits.


A branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge and how we come to know things.


the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history


A notion which Mill distinguishes from utility in that expediency solely focuses on the promotion of pleasure and mitigation of pain for the agent of a given action, as opposed to the total sum pleasure or pain brought about by the action.


The right of individuals to behave without obstruction so long as that behavior does not impinge upon any other rights of individuals.

idée mère

a fundamental idea or guiding principle, seen as giving rise to something (French)


Traditionally in Mill's framework, the division of moral imperatives which form the basis for law.


a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct


A branch of philosophy concerned with the fundamental structure of reality.


The division of our mind which allows us to form coherent and logical structures of thought by which we are able to analyze and understand things in a more sophisticated manner than we could by our sentiments alone.


Moral prescriptions or prohibitions toward individuals, derivative of justice.

summum bonum

The highest good (Latin)


A school of Hellenistic philosophy centered on the believe that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgement.


Transcendentalism is a religious and philosophical movement that developed during the late 1820s and '30s in the United States. One of the movement's core beliefs was the inherent goodness of both people and nature, and the corruptive powers of institutions.


The quality of an action which tends to increase pleasure and/or mitigate pain.