Many utilitarians accept Bentham's view that to argue for the principle of utility is as ‘impossible as it is needless'. They take utilitarianism as a first principle which one either accepts or does not. They do, of course, defend utilitarianism against objections, and make objections to other ethical positions; but the principle of utility itself, they hold, must stand on its own merits. In this article we use a different approach. We introduce a principle, which we call ‘Weak Majority Preference', which we believe likely to be accepted by many who do not consider themselves utilitarians. We then show that from this principle it is possible to derive the general principle of utility.