原文第一章，开宗明义地指出“功利原理”的所指：1. 自然把人类置于两位主公——快乐和痛苦——的主宰之下。只有它们才指示我们应当干什么，决定我们将要干什么。是非标准、因果联系，俱由其定夺。凡我们所行、所言、所思，无不由其支配：我们所能做的力图挣脱被支配地位的每项努力，都只会昭示和肯定这一点。一个人在口头上可以声称绝不再受其主宰，但实际上，他将照旧每时每刻对其俯首称臣。功利原理承认这一被支配的地位，把它当作旨在依靠理性和法律之手建造福乐大厦的制度的基础。2. …… 功利原理是指这样的原理：它按照看来势必增大或减小利益有关者之幸福的倾向，亦即促进或妨碍此种幸福的倾向，来赞成或非难任何一项行动。我说的是无论什么行动，因而不仅是私人的每项行动，也是政府的每项措施。
其中第一段的原文：1. Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think: every effort we can make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it. In words a man may pretend to abjure their empire: but in reality he will remain subject to it all the while. The principle of utility recognises this subjection, and assumes it for the foundation of that system, the object of which is to rear the fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and of law.