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Mill Happiness & Pleasure ESSAY

Mill Happiness & Pleasure ESSAY - How does Mill...

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How does Mill think we are to decide which pleasures are more worth having? Is this   method reasonable? Critically discuss. Utilitarianism   was written as a criticism and revision of Bentham’s earlier works, as well as a defence  against other objections to the principle of utilitarianism, most notably from writers such as Kant. Mill  attempts to clearly spell out the means by which one should live; namely that an action should be pursued if  it enhances utility. Early in Chapter 2, Mill explains clearly what it is meant by the term; “Utility, or the  Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness,  wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence  of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure” 1 . But if pleasure promotes happiness, by what  means should we decide which pleasures should be sought?  In order to discuss Mill’s view on the subject, it is important to note his background, or more precisely the  influences under which he grew up. The ideas of Jeremy Bentham, a close friend of Mill’s father, played a  significant role in the way in which the younger Mill was educated. Bentham, a pure hedonist, believed that  any pleasure or pain, no matter whether it be real or abstract, for example a financial loss on an investment  against the act of breaking up with a partner, could be quantified and measured on what one would now  refer to as a cardinal scale. The implication of this is that if a small pleasure could be intensified or  prolonged, then that small pleasure would be preferable to a shorter larger pleasure. Crisp, in   Mill on  Utilitarianism,  gives the example of Haydn and an oyster. If one were given the choice, would one prefer to  be a world renowned composer, responsible for significant advancements of symphonic music, as well as lead  a happy, fulfilled life in the company of many good friends, or would one prefer to be an oyster, leading the  same life day after day, with no memory of the previous day’s events, for a considerably longer period of  time? 2  Through a strict interpretation of Bentham’s ideas, one would have to conclude that he would choose  the life of the oyster, since the accumulation of its pleasure would outweigh that of Haydn, with his much  shorter period of greater pleasure.  Mill however argues that some pleasures are of such value that when faced with a choice between a small 
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