Happiness pump

a thought experiment in ethics

A happiness pump is an idea in philosophy. A happiness pump is someone who will do anything to make other people happy even if it makes them very unhappy themselves.[1] They have turned themselves into a machine (a "pump") that makes happiness.

The happiness pump is a way of showing problems in utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a moral philosophy. It is a way of deciding which actions are good and which are bad. In utilitarianism, actions that make more happiness or stop pain are good. Actions that stop happiness or make pain are bad. In utilitarianism, it does not matter who is becoming happier or feeling less pain. That means that, in utilitarianism, helping strangers is good. The happiness pump is a person who has taken utilitarianism too far and will give themselves lots of pain so long as they believe it makes other people somewhere in the world much happier.[1]

The happiness pump is only an idea. Philosopher Joshua David Greene says it is almost impossible to be a happiness pump for real. People who even tried would give up.[2]


A happiness pump character is on one episode of the television show The Good Place.[3]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Kimberly S. Engels (2020). The Good Place and Philosophy: Everything is Forking Fine!. John Wiley & Sons. p. 19. ISBN 9781119633280. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  2. Joshua David Greene (2013). Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them. Penguin Press. p. 257. ISBN 9780143126058. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  3. Richard Fisher (November 19, 2020). "The intelligent monster that you should let eat you". BBC. Retrieved December 26, 2020.