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John Stuart Mill: Utilitarianism

Page history last edited by cAmz 13 years, 11 months ago

 

TITLE: Contemporary Moral Problems: Utilitarianism (Chapter 5)

AMAZON LINK: http://www.amazon.com/Contemporary-Moral-Problems-James-White/dp/0534584306

QUOTATION: "Happiness is not an abstract idea but a concrete whole."

LEARNING EXPECTATIONS:

-          I want to know about utilitarianism.

-          I want to understand the concept of principle of utility.

-          I want to further deepen knowledge on what are the things that I need to know in different aspect of moral issues.

REACTION:

Principle of utility is to recognize the fact, that some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others. It would be absurd that while, in estimating all other things, quality is considered as well as quantity, the estimation of pleasures should be supposed to depend on quantity alone. Proposes that all punishment involves pain and is therefore evil; it ought only to be used so far as it promises to exclude some greatest evil. 

The charged could not be gainsaid, but would then no longer imputation; for if the sources of pleasure were precisely the same to human beings and to swine, the rule of life which is good enough for the one would be good enough for the other. The comparison of the Epicurean life to that of beast is felt a degrading, precisely because a beast pleasures do not satisfy a human beings conceptions of happiness. 

According to the author If he was asked what he mean by difference of quality in pleasures, or what makes one pleasures, or what makes one pleasure more valuable than the other, merely as pleasure, except it’s being greater in amount, there is but one possible answer. Of two pleasures if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the mere desirable pleasure. 

Happiness is not an obstacle idea, but a concrete whole; and these are some of its parts. And the utilitarian standard sanctions and approves their being so. Life would be poor thing, very ill provided with source of happiness, if there were not this provision of nature, by which things are originally indifferent, but conductive to, or otherwise associated with the satisfaction of our primitive desire, becomes in themselves sources of pleasures both in a permanency in the space of human existence that they are capable of covering and even in intensity.

Mill defines "happiness" to be both intellectual and sensual pleasure. He argues that we have a sense of dignity that makes us prefer intellectual pleasures to sensual ones. He adds that the principle of utility involves assessing an action's consequences, and not the motives or character traits of the agent. Mill argues that the principle of utility should be seen as a tool for generating secondary moral principles, which promote general happiness. Thus most of our actions will be judged according to these secondary principles. He feels that we should appeal directly to the principle of utility itself only when faced with a moral dilemma between two secondary principles.

Mill's proof for the principle of utility notes that no fundamental principle is capable of a direct proof. Instead, the only way to prove that general happiness is desirable is to show man's desire for it. His proof is as follows: If X is the only thing desired, then X is the only thing that ought to be desired. Thus if general happiness is the only thing desired, therefore general happiness is the only thing that ought to be desired. Mill recognizes the controversy of this and therefore anticipates criticisms.

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED:

-          I learned the principle of utility.

-          I have examined the different views of Mill about utilitarianism.

INTEGRATIVE QUESTIONS:

  1. What is Principle of Utility?
  2. What is Happiness?
  3. What is lower pleasure?
  4. What is higher pressure?
  5. What is utilitarianism?

REVIEW QUESTIONS:

  1. State and explain the Principle of Utility. Show how it could be used to justify actions that are conventionally viewed as wrong, such as lying and stealing.

Principle of utility is to recognize the fact, that some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others. It would be absurd that while, in estimating all other things, quality is considered as well as quantity, the estimation of pleasures should be supposed to depend on quantity alone. Proposes that all punishment involves pain and is therefore evil; it ought only to be used so far as it promises to exclude some greatest evil. 

 

 

 

  1. How does Mill reply to the objection that Epicureanism is a doctrine worthy only of swine?

The charged could not be gainsaid, but would then no longer imputation; for if the sources of pleasure were precisely the same to human beings and to swine, the rule of life which is good enough for the one would be good enough for the other. The comparison of the Epicurean life to that of beast is felt a degrading, precisely because a beast pleasures do not satisfy a human beings conceptions of happiness. 

  1. How does Mill distinguish between higher and lower pleasures?

According to the author If he was asked what he mean by difference of quality in pleasures, or what makes one pleasures, or what makes one pleasure more valuable than the other, merely as pleasure, except it’s being greater in amount, there is but one possible answer. Of two pleasures if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the mere desirable pleasure. 

  1. According to Mill, whose happiness must be considered?

Happiness is not an obstacle idea, but a concrete whole; and these are some of its parts. And the utilitarian standard sanctions and approves their being so. Life would be poor thing, very ill provided with source of happiness, if there were not this provision of nature, by which things are originally indifferent, but conductive to, or otherwise associated with the satisfaction of our primitive desire, becomes in themselves sources of pleasures both in a permanency in the space of human existence that they are capable of covering and even in intensity.

Mill defines "happiness" to be both intellectual and sensual pleasure. He argues that we have a sense of dignity that makes us prefer intellectual pleasures to sensual ones. He adds that the principle of utility involves assessing an action's consequences, and not the motives or character traits of the agent. Mill argues that the principle of utility should be seen as a tool for generating secondary moral principles, which promote general happiness. Thus most of our actions will be judged according to these secondary principles. He feels that we should appeal directly to the principle of utility itself only when faced with a moral dilemma between two secondary principles.

 

5.       Carefully reconstruct Mill’s proof of the Principle of Utility.

Mill's proof for the principle of utility notes that no fundamental principle is capable of a direct proof. Instead, the only way to prove that general happiness is desirable is to show man's desire for it. His proof is as follows: If X is the only thing desired, then X is the only thing that ought to be desired. Thus if general happiness is the only thing desired, therefore general happiness is the only thing that ought to be desired. Mill recognizes the controversiality of this and therefore anticipates criticisms. A critic might argue that besides happiness, there are other things, such as virtue, which we desire. Responding to this, Mill says that everything we desire becomes part of happiness. Thus, happiness becomes a complex phenomenon composed of many parts, such as virtue, love of money, power, and fame.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1.       Is happiness nothing more than pleasure and absence of pain?

I dearly believe in this quote “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” I think it is really happiness that matters in any aspect. It is the aspect because it can encompass all the things in the world and nothing is important and great with happiness.

 

2.       Does Mill convince you that the higher pleasures are better than the lower ones? What about the person of experience who prefers the lower?

“He proffers a distinction (one not found in Bentham) between higher and lower pleasures, with higher pleasures including mental, aesthetic, and moral pleasures. When we are evaluating whether or not an action is good by evaluating the happiness that we can expect to be produced by it, he argues that higher pleasures should be taken to be in kind (rather than by degree) preferable to lower pleasures. This has led scholars to wonder whether Mill’s utilitarianism differs significantly from Bentham’s and whether Mill’s distinction between higher and lower pleasures creates problems for our ability to know what will maximize aggregate happiness.”

With these blocks of statements, it convinces me that higher pleasures are better than the lowers. I cannot blame those people who prefers lower because

 

3.       Mill says "In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of ethics of utility." True or not?

I do think so that what Mill says is true because the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth to achieve that a man must act in whatever way every other man should act when in that situation.

 

4.       Many commentators have thought that Mill's proof of the principle of utility is defective. Agree?

I think so because he did not consider the individuality of a person. Mill disregarded the aspects that utility is not to be applied as a whole.

 

 

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