John_Stuart_Mill_Utilitarianism_Notes REV - Mills...

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Mill’s Utilitarian Ethics1John Stuart Mill: Utilitarianism1.The purpose of the school of Utilitarianism is an attempt for an objective principledetermining when a given action is right or wrong. This principle is also seen inMill’s writing “On Liberty”. It is called thePrinciple of Utility:It is proper to state that I forgo any advantage, which could be derived, to myargument from the idea of abstract right as a thing independent of utility.I regardutility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in thelargest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of man as a progressive being.”2.The principle inUtilitarianismby Mill states:The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the GreatestHappiness principle, holds that certain actions are right in proportion asthey tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to promote the reverse ofhappiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; byunhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure. To give a clear view of themoral standard set up by the theory, much more requires to be said; inparticular, what things it includes in the ideas of pain and pleasure, and towhat extent this left an open question. But these supplementary explanationsdo not affect the theory of life on which this theory of morality is grounded-namely, that pleasure and freedom from pain are the only things desirable asends; and that all desirable things (which are as numerous in the utilitarianas in any other scheme) are desirable either for pleasure inherent inthemselves or as a means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention ofpain.”3.Both Mill and his predecessor Bentham interpret this principle as a form of Hedonism(Gk.hedone: pleasure) by identifying happiness with pleasure. And this principle canbe traced back as far as Plato. But its chief proponent in antiquity was Epicurus,hence the name Epicureanism as a euphemism for the pleasurable, sensible life.However, Epicurus himself was not an epicurean in this sense!4.In the modern terminology this is called “psychological hedonism”, the belief thatmen seek pleasure and avoid pain”.As in the chapter 28,Psychological HedonismbyJoel Feinberg, reasons can be shown immediately that this view is false, because wedo desire and seek other things than just immediatesensualpleasures.5.The principle as Mill and Bentham state is that an action isright (moral)if it producesthe greatest amount of pleasure (happiness) forthe greatest number; otherwise it iswrong (immoral). However, both Mill and Bentham have different accounts of thisprinciple as we will note.6.Generally speaking, Utilitarianism lays stress uponthe effects or consequences(ends) which an action has. Simply put, if an action produces an excess of beneficial(pleasure/happy) consequences (effects) over harmful (painful/unhappy) ones, then itis right (moral); otherwise it is immoral (wrong).

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Term
Spring
Professor
Jubinski
Tags
greatest number

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