Originally developed as a programme for societal reform, utilitarianism has exerted a great influence upon all social sciences. The basic principle of the programme is the idea that the ultimate goal of social action is the pursuit of maximum happiness. Although the roots of this tradition of thought stretch back to ancient times, utilitarianism is an original creation of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), an English philosopher and jurist and a steadfast advocate of personal and economic liberty, separation of Church and State, equal rights for women and abolition of slavery. The book describes Bentham's doctrine, its subsequent revision by John Stuart Mill, and utilitarianism's development as a moral theory; it identifies its constituent features and reviews its variants from the 19th century to the present day.
Massimo Reichlin teaches Moral Philosophy at the San Raffaele University in Milan.