components to a good life than just two? Why not family, friends, and a good job for example? Why think that there are a lot of common elements to what make’s different people happy? What if people are more different than similar in regards to what they take pleasure in. The purpose of this question is to get you to think critically about the concept of happiness in regards to Mill’s theory. Slide #10
Mill’s theory of right and wrong will be easier to apply in practice if it turns out to be the case that what makes people happy and what causes them pain is fairly predictable and is largely the same from person to person. The more variation that there is from person to person the more difficult it is to figure out how to act in accord with the principle of utility. I can not act to maximize happiness if I do not understand what makes others happy. I will not say anything about 2(b) and 2(c) here, as these are also more like “reflection questions” that serve to get you to think about the nature of happiness. Slide #11 Let us look at 2(d). Mill argues that people who are “tolerably fortunate in their outward lot” but still fail to be happy usually fail because of selfishness. According to Mill, selfish people tend to be unhappy because they do not have a lot of interests outside of themselves that excite them. This prevents them from being made happy by other’s accomplishments and joys or by events in the world at large. They might even be likely to resent others happiness and accomplishments. This passage is significant in relation to Mill’s theory of right and wrong because every such theory has to answer the question “why should I sacrifice for others”? This is a significant part of Mill’s own answer to this question. Basically, one is most likely to find happiness themselves by tying their own personal happiness in with what Mill calls “the interests of mankind”. Therefore, one maximizes their odds of attaining personal happiness by becoming genuinely interested in the general welfare of others and the world at large. Once one has taken this step, then there will be occasions when one will want to sacrifice for others. Question #3: Some More Thoughts on Sacrifice
Slide 12 In the first full paragraph on p. 15, Mill talks about “the possibility and the obligation to do without happiness.” It is an obvious fact that our standard moral intuitions often demand self-sacrifice from us. We are, after all, usually supposed to refrain from lying, cheating, and stealing. There are obligations to defend one’s family, friends, and society against various threats. Furthermore, among the most noble human beings in history are persons that sacrificed everything for others. This does not contradict the principle of utility as long as their actions were for the promotion of other’s happiness (which remember Mill thinks of in terms of pleasure) and the minimization of the pain of others. Indeed, on Mill’s theory there are times when we have a duty to sacrifice ourselves for others because of the overall good that results.
- Fall '13