Utilitarianism is defined as believing that actions are right if they are useful or benefit the majority. In today’s day and age many subscribe to such a doctrine yet naively forget the limitations of what it means to be human.
Though we may like to think otherwise, none of us have the omnipotent power of knowing what the best is for the majority. Saying so presupposes knowledge of all needs of all individuals and an objective way of calculating which needs are more important than others. This however is utterly impossible.
As we can provide neither the knowledge of all needs nor a calculus to use with such knowledge we are left with the simple fact that we do not know. We simply do not know what is the best for the majority. We cannot objectively quantify needs of individuals(good luck finding people who have anything close to a decent understanding of their own needs let alone trying to quantify the needs themselves, but that is for another piece) and thus we have no way to compare other than by simply “feeling” one need is more important than another. With that being the case this may seem like a logical point to count out utilitarianism as a practical philosophy, however in truth this just pushes away the useless subjective bickering many utilitarians fall into.
Now that we have identified the prevalent utilitarian perspective as the shallow train of thought which it is, how about we look at the big picture and hopefully come closer to the truth of the matter. Since we as humans cannot forcefully decide what is best for the majority without being obtusely ignorant, the only resolution for a person true to his/her own principles is to help craft an environment in which each individual of the majority is able to decide what is best for they themselves. This in turn enables us to reach the consequence of arriving at what is best for the majority.
Specifically this means that each individual must have the freedom to choose whatever they want, while at the same time obviously taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions. These consequences work as a natural mechanism for the individual to discover what their needs are as well as what methods are best for fulfilling those needs. He/she will forever be the only one with enough information to adequately design a life and make choices that fulfills all of their own needs. Sure they won’t always be right, but the consequences always serve as a counteracting mechanism to steer the individual back to pursue choices that benefit them, and thus in the grand scheme of things, the majority.
As such the almost seemingly ironic logical outcome of utilitarianism is individualism. Simply restricted by being mortal we can offer no better way to benefit the majority than to allow the majority to live their lives and create what they want of themselves. Some may not be fans of such a realization, but I personally think it is utterly empowering for us all. We have the power to make what we want of the short years we have the gracious splendor of enjoying being alive in. What more could we ask for?