In terminology, utility is “pleasure itself, together with exemption from pain” (Epicurus, 300BC + Jeremy Bentham, 1789); “the foundation of morals, which holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness” of which there is “public utility” and “private utility” (John Mill, 1863); a “discredited concept” (Paul Samuelson, 1938); the “measure of what you want [desire]; basically a measure of value or preference” (Tom Siegfried, 2006). [6]

Thermodynamics
In modern human chemical thermodynamics terms, the concept of utility seems to be a groping at what is now quantified by bulk human action directionality defined by coupling theory.

History
The earliest utility models, e.g. as espoused by Richard Cumberland (1631-1718) and John Gay (1699-1745), were theologically-based, utility conceptualized as something that maximizes a god-based moral directionality compass of human actions. [1] Gay, e.g., in 1731, enunciated utility—god sanctioned happiness—as the explanation of human actions. [2]

In 1738, Daniel Bernoulli, supposedly, introduced a “utility” function, which, according to Jing Chen (2016), was the first so-called “utility” function in economics. [8]

In circa 1750, David Hume (1711-1776) elaborated on Gay’s discussions of utility.

This was followed by the elaborations of Jeremy Bentham and John Mill, who, like Epicurus, identified the good with pleasure, holding that people ought to maximize the good, that is, bring about ‘the greatest amount of good for the greatest number’. [1]

Bentham
In 1780, English jurist-philosopher Jeremy Bentham defined utility as follows: [7]

Utility is that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness or to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness.”

Bentham often referred to this “principle of utility” as the “greatest happiness principle”. [5]

Pareto
In 1896, Italian engineer Vilfredo Pareto was paralleling his term “ophelimity” with utility as follows: [3]

“In all treatises on political economy, the main part is formed by the science of ophélimité and utility.”

In 1912, Pareto, in his Treatise on General Sociology, defined utility as one of the properties of social molecules (people defined as molecules), as follows: [4]

“§2079. Organization of the social system. The economic system is made up of certain molecules set in motion by tastes and subject to …” (pg. 1442)

“… and molecules have certain thermic, electrical, and other properties. So a system made up of social molecules also has certain properties that are important to consider. One among them has been perceived, be it in a rough and crude fashion, in every period of history—the one to which with little or no exactness the term ‘utility’ …” (pg. 1456)

“… subsist in certain relationships. The reasonings (derivations), theories, beliefs that are current in the mass of such molecules are taken as manifestations of the [psychic] state of that mass and are studied as facts on a par with other facts that society presents to view. We look for uniformities among them, and try to get back to the facts in which the in turn originate.” (pg. 1919)

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References
1. History of Utilitarianism (2009) – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
2. Smith, Roger. (1997). The Human Sciences (utility, pgs. 254 (Gay), 285-86, 288, 353, 448, 460, 484). W.W. Norton & Co.
3. (a) Pandey, Rajendra. (1989). Mainstream Traditions of Social Stratification Theory: Marx, Weber, Pareto (“human molecules”, pg. 83). Mittal Publications.
(b) Ragendra Pandey (about), in: Sociology of Underdevelopment. Mittal Publications, 1986.
4. Pareto, Vilfredo. (1935). The Mind and Society: Trattato di sociologia generale (Volume Four) (chemistry, 8+ pgs; physics, 4+ pgs; thermodynamics, pg. 1461; molecules, 7+ pgs). AMS Press.
5. Mill, John S. (1863). Utilitarianism (utility, 29+ pgs; Bentham, pg. 5). Parker, Son, and Bourn.
6. (a) Mill, John S. (1863). Utilitarianism (utility, 29+ pgs; Bentham, pg. 5). Parker, Son, and Bourn.
(b) Samuelson, Paul. (1938). “A Note on the Pure Theory of Consumer’s Behaviour” (Ѻ), Economica 5 (Feb):61-71.
(c) Samuelson, Paul. (1938). “A Note on the Pure Theory of Consumer’s Behaviour: An Addendum.” Economica 5 (Aug):353-4.
(d) Siegfried, Tom. (2006). A Beautiful Math: John Nash, Game Theory, and the Modern Quest for a Code of Nature (pg. 30). National Academies Press.
7. (a) Siegfried, Tom. (2006). A Beautiful Math: John Nash, Game Theory, and the Modern Quest for a Code of Nature (pg. 30). National Academies Press.
(b) Bentham, Jeremy. (1780). An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Distributed privately, first published 1789; Clarendon Press, 1907.
8. Chen, Jing. (2016). The Unity of Science and Economics (abs) (pg. 2). Springer.

External links
Utility – Wikipedia.

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