What is Utility?

From the Latin utilĭtas, utility is the interest, profit or fruit obtained from something. The term also allows naming the quality of useful (which can serve or be used in some sense).

Something useful serves to satisfy a need. For example, if a person wants to open a bottle, the corkscrew is a useful tool to fulfill his objective. A subject who intends to paint a wall will have the paint and the brush as useful elements for his task. It is possible to distinguish between total utility (the utility provided by the quantity of a good consumed) and marginal utility (the increase in total utility produced by the last unit consumed of that good). Marginal utility is decreasing: As consumption of a good increases, the satisfaction produced by each new unit is less than that produced by the previous good.

This can be clearly seen in the case of food. A person who is hungry will feel great satisfaction from eating the first slice of pizza. The second portion will generate less satisfaction, and so on until the moment when the subject will be satisfied and the good (the pizza) will no longer be useful. In the field of computing, the term utility has also been used. In this case, it refers to any type of tool that is used with the sole and clear objective of serving not only to carry out the construction of a given program, but also for its subsequent execution. No less important is the word that we are analyzing in the field of Law. In this case, it is common to speak of what is called the Public Utility Forestry Catalogue. As its name suggests, it is a list of all mountains considered to be of “public service”. In order for a territory of this type to be classified as such, it must significantly contribute to regulating what would be a hydrographic basin, which would palpably reduce rockfall, be declared a protective forest or be fundamental for soil conservation, among other features. In the field of economics and finance, profit is associated with the profit made on a good or an investment. Whoever invests 500 pesos to buy products wholesale and, after reselling them at retail, gets 650 pesos, he has a profit of 150 pesos. That is, in this case, we could determine that the term utility starts to act as a synonym for benefit. Because it would be the difference between the expenses that a particular business has and the income it has obtained. Finally, we must emphasize that in the field of philosophy the word utility also assumes a special role. Specifically, the word utilitarianism does this, which is used to define an ethical doctrine that has as its main maxim that the utility of an action for beings will be that which will determine their morality.

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