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Updated: Dec 27, 2022

Ever wondered what makes an act right or wrong? Who decides whether any action is good or bad? The concept that is used in this matter is termed Act Utilitarianism.

Act utilitarianism refers to the outcomes of an act that determines the nature of the act, whether it is right or wrong. Every act has consequences whether good or bad. The overall consequences decide the act is right but if the outcome goes bad the act is wrong.

For example, if any lethal dose of a drug helps a patient to recover it is a good act but if it fails to help the patient it is considered wrong. The outcome brings the moral value of the act.


Act utilitarianism is better understood in the light of moral values. The act is judged by the outcome and it motivates the overall well-being, so it is the motivation of acts that hold good moral values. The motive behind the act of utilitarianism encourages behavior that is good for others.

This could be ethically challenging. Suppose an act performed with selfish motives result in the well-being of an individual, although the act was selfish it resulted in well-being, so it is considered right.

For example, the nurse gives a medicine that was not prescribed and it was a medical error but the particular drug helped the patient anyway. So, the act is considered right because morally it added good value.

A similar concept is presented in a series called ‘The Good Place. People who died are judged based on the motivation for their actions. Our behaviors are influenced by motivation. There are several motivating factors behind our actions such as hunger, thirst, sex, hormones, the hypothalamus, past experiences, reward, and punishment.

Self-awareness is important for understanding motives. The more we connect to ourselves the more we get a clear picture of our needs, wants, and behaviors.

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