Essay on the Rashdall’s Theory of Ideal Utilitarianism

Rashdall calls his theory ideal Utilitarianism because according to him, pleasure is not the completely ultimate good, but only a part of it. In the words of Rashdall, “Morality consists in the promotion of true human good, but a good of which pleasure is only an element.”

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In this way, in Rashdall’s opinion pleasure undoubted by is good but not the ultimate good. It is right to promote one’s own and other’s good and every person should do this but it is not at all permissible if in the process, moral qualities are destroyed. Moral values become the ultimate aim in ideal utilitarianism. Pleasure is secondary to moral values.



Thus, in ideal utilitarianism greater stress is laid on values. Rashdall holds that virtue is the ultimate value. All other values are subordinate to it. On the subject of virtue, Rashdall writes, “That value is the greatest of all values.”

Accordingly knowledge, beauty culture etc. are subordinate to virtue while the ultimate value is an organic whole. In it, all the values have an appropriate place. All these are its parts. A moral life includes all these and all these are synthesized. In this way a moral life is not only an ideal life it also has pleasure, knowledge and beauty. Here Rashdall confirms to Eudimonism. But the fact that knowledge, beauty and pleasure have a place in a moral life does not mean that their values are equal.

Knowledge and beauty have a high value in the hierarchy of values because they pertain to and satisfy the intellectual and sentient aspects of man whereas pleasure satisfies the sensual aspects. Raslidall wrote, “We regard knowledge, culture, enjoyment of beauty, intellectual activity of all kinds, as living a higher values that the pleasure arising from the gratification of the more animal propensities of eating and drinking or the physical exercise or the like.



Rashdall’s moral theory is a kind of utilitarianism, it being propounded by the latter that nothing is good of itself but believed to be good according to its utility.

According to Rashdall’s thinking, moral Judgement is the Judgement of values but these Judgements correspond to the utility of the act. The greater the proportion, afforded by an act, in human welfare or universal welfare, the greater is its value.

In this way, Rashdall does not differ from other utilitarians in looking upon common welfare as good. This general welfare includes moral qualities, knowledge, beauty and is assisted by them.

Right and Wrong:


In this way, that which helps in human welfare is right and that which hinders is wrong. Thus according to Rashdall, the propriety of an action depends upon its results. Right assists good. It would be wrong, it were to hinder. For example, all pleasure cannot be said to be right. Pleasures enhancing human welfare are right while those hindering it are wrong.

Reason is the determinant of good and bad:

But who will decide whether a pleasure of action is assisting human welfare or hindering it ? As with Kant, so with Rashdall, practical reason is Jetenninant of right and wrong. The aim of man is pleasure. Reason knows intritively what is going to enhance and which is going to detract from happiness. The ultimate good is known to it by intuition.

Theories of distribution of pleasure:

When it comes to the distribution of pleasure, Sidywick supports Butler’s theory. According to Butler, there are three criteria of distribution – (i) Rational or self love, (ii) Benevolence and (iii) Justice. Rashdall also accepts these three criteria for the distribution of pleasure.

(i) Rational Self love:

Rational self love is the criterion for the distribution of good in the individual’s life. Its aim is the maximum goods of the individual’s entire life. Thus, it orders the sacrifice of lesser good in the face of greater good. It is theory of prudence.

(ii) Benevolence:

Benevolence is the principle of distribution of good and aims at the maximum good of the society. A benevolent person attaches equal importance to his own and other’s good. If another’s benefit exceeds one’s own, the benevolent person will choose the other’s benefit.

(iii) Justice:

Justice is the principle of equitable distribution of goods between individual and society. According to the principle of Justice, every person has an equal right to a part in good, but this right increases or decreases- as the ability fluctuates. Ability is inclusive of capability relating to happiness and pleasure, knowledge and culture superlative character. These people who have an excess of these, will have a corresponding right to good in equal quantity. The maximum human happiness and welfare can be achieved by the help of these foregoing criteria for the distribution of pleasure.

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