A Brief Analysis of John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism Essay
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This work has probably received more analysis than any other work on utilitarianism available. However, I seek to do here what many others have been unable to accomplish so far. I hope to, in five paragraphs, cover each of the chapters of Utilitarianism in enough depth to allow any reader to decide whether or not they subscribe to Mill's doctrine, and if so, which part or parts they subscribe to. I do this with the realization that much of Mill's deliberation in the text will be completely gone. I suggest that anyone who seeks to fully understand Mill's work should read it at length.
In the first chapter, Mill remarks on society's need for a simple defined foundation for our morals which should be based on personal experiences. He…show more content…
How does one, for example, compare the admiration of a painting to the admiration of music? Mill goes on to state that utilitarianism is not concerned as much with the pleasure of the individual as it is with the pleasure of society in general. He observes the objection that this demands a motivation to promote the greatest happiness for all, but counters by removing motivation from the picture. Utilitarianism is not concerned with motivations, but with ends. Another objection concerns the inability to determine all possible outcomes of all possible choices in a given situation. Mill means to apply utilitarianism to rules, not to individual situations (unless a precedent has not been established). Mill also responds to a number of objections which are unanswerable by many philosophies, including utilitarianism's godlessness, the infirmities of human nature, and whether happiness is attainable or necessary. Mill only states that these objections apply equally well to other philosophies, and does not directly address them.
Mill dedicates his third chapter to the consequences for rejecting utility. Mill divides these consequences into external sanctions, which take the form of peer pressure or religious motivation, and internal sanctions, which take the form of discomfort of the conscience. Mill asserts that any person can be raised to cultivate certain internal sanctions (e.g., utilitarianism). However, Mill distinguishes utilitarianism
One of the most important nineteenth-century schools of thought, Utilitarianism propounds the view that the value or rightness of an action rests in how well it promotes the welfare of those affected by it, aiming for ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was the movement’s founder, as much a social reformer as a philosopher. His greatest interpreter, John Stuart Mill (1806-73), set out to humanize Bentham’s pragmatic Utilitarianism by balancing the claims of reason and the imagination, individuality and social well-being in essays such as ‘Bentham’, ‘Coleridge’ and, above all, Utilitarianism. The works by Bentham and Mill collected in this volume show the creation and development of a system of ethics that has had an enduring influence on moral philosophy and legislative policy.
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