A Doctrine of Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is defined by Merriam-Webster as, A doctrine that the useful is the good and that the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences; a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number. In simpler terms, Mill believed in the aforementioned philosophical theory about right and wrong actions called utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill was a British theorist born May 20, 1806.

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He is often regarded as one of the most influential thinkers in the history of liberalism. Additionally, he contributed greatly to utilitarianism, social theory, and political theory. This theory claims that the best action (morally) is the one that results in the most overall happiness or “utility,” which is used to mean usefulness. To further develop my analysis, I will be focusing mainly on selected chapters from two works by Mill that address and elaborate on his beliefs: his 1859 book On Liberty, and his 1863 book, Utilitarianism.

John Stuart Mill was born on May 20, 1806 in the Pentonville district of Middlesex, England. His father, James Mill, was a Scottish philosopher, historian, and economist. Mill was educated by his father, in conjunction with advice and assistance from Jeremy Bentham and Francis Place. His education was extremely thorough and he was deliberately shielded from any association with children his own age, other than his siblings. His father was both an avid follower of Bentham and a believer in associationism. He aimed to curate a genius intellect that would carry on the cause of utilitarianism and its implementation even after he and Bentham died. Thus, he ensured that his son was educated to his maximum potential.

John Stuart Mill wanted to educate others on the issues that plagued society and methods of resolving and/or alleviating these issues. In On Liberty he writes, The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. By saying that, Mill states that people should not feel forced to behave in any one specific way just because that is what others would like. He believed that no one was owed any explanation about what the intentions or actions of another are unless they pose a threat to others. John Stuart Mill believed in creating a just society. That was essentially his life’s purpose. Mill went through a period of months of sadness and even admittedly contemplated suicide when he was twenty. According to the opening paragraphs of chapter five of his autobiography, one day he asked himself whether or not the creation of a just society, his life’s work, would actually make him happy. He said that his heart answered “no”, and as a result of this, he lost joy in striving towards his goal. Eventually, whilst reading the poetry of William Wordsworth, he said he learned that beauty generates compassion for others and stimulates joy. With this renewed sense of joy he continued working towards creating a just society, but with more passion than he’d had before. He himself considered this to be one of the most pivotal shifts in his thinking.

Mill’s career as a colonial administrator at the British East India Company spanned from when he was 17 years old in 1823 until 1858, when the Company was abolished in favor of direct rule by the British crown over India. In 1836, he was promoted to the Company’s Political Department, where he was responsible for maintaining correspondence pertaining to the company’s relations with the princely states. In 1856, was finally promoted to the position of Examiner of Indian Correspondence.

In Mill’s autobiography, he comments on the significance of On Liberty, “the importance, to man and society, of a large variety in types of character, and of giving full freedom to human nature to expand itself in innumerable and conflicting directions.” Often times in literature there are similarities of theme and concept that make it very easy to draw connections between various pieces of work. On Liberty was written before Utilitarianism but still draws attention to the fact that Mill regards utility as an extremely important concept. In Utilitarianism, Mill defends the theory by both supporting the value of utilitarianism as a moral theory with argument, and responding to the many misconceptions about it. To Mill, utilitarianism is a theory that revolves around the principle that “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.” Mill equates happiness to pleasure and even the absence of pain. He argues that pleasure can differ in quality and quantity, even going in depth to separate higher and lower pleasures. He claims that pleasures that derive from one’s higher faculties should be regarded with more care and more heavily than baser pleasures. Mill also argues that an individual’s achievement of goals, such as virtuous living, should be included as a part of their happiness.

Mill was heavily influenced by past influencers, especially Jeremy Bentham and William Paley, both English Utilitarians who believed in the power of happiness as a method to judge one’s life by. The more happiness one has, the better feel for living that person has and the more they benefit the world. The pleasure one receives in doing things, rather it be helping somebody or pleasure on a lower level, helps keep one happy and morally motivated. Mill defines utilitarianism as a theory based on the principle that “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness” (Ch. II, page 7). He calls this the greatest happiness principle. Mill says, No reason can be given why the general happiness is desirable, except the fact that each person desires his own happiness, so far as he thinks it is attainable. But this is a fact; so we have not only all the proof that could be possibly demanded, that happiness is good.

Utilitarianism defined, is the contention that a man should judge everything based on the ability to promote the greatest individual happiness. In other words Utilitarianism states that good is what brings the most happiness to the most people. Mill’s theory of utilitarianism first arose in 1861 as a series of three articles for Fraser’s Magazine, a journal that, though directed at an educated audience, was by no means a philosophical organ. Mill planned from the beginning a separate book publication, which came to light in 1863. The priority of the text was to popularize the fundamental thoughts of utilitarianism within influential circles. This goal explains the composition of the work. After some general introductory comments, the text defends utilitarianism from common criticisms. Utilitarianism defined, is the contention that a man should judge everything based on the ability to promote the greatest individual happiness.

In other words Utilitarianism states that good is what brings the most happiness to the most people. John Stuart Mill based his utilitarian principle on the decisions that we make. He says the decisions should always benefit the most people as much as possible no matter what the consequences might be. Mill says that we should weigh the outcomes and make our decisions based on the outcome that benefits the majority of the people. John Stuart Mill based his utilitarian principle on the decisions that we make. He says the decisions should always benefit the most people as much as possible no matter what the consequences might be. Mill says that we should weigh the outcomes and make our decisions based on the outcome that benefits the majority of the people. This leads to him stating that pleasure is the only desirable consequence of our decision or actions.

Mill says that ethical decisions should be based on pleasure. It is natural for a person to focus their goals on what will provide happiness. People do not focus on being poor for instance but it does not mean that being rich provides complete happiness. Therefore when he states that pleasure is the sole requirement for happiness, it is questionable because pain indirectly affects happiness. Pain is an indirect factor because it is not the object of one’s happiness but it is an obstacle, which you have to overcome. If you were to avoid all pain, then how would you truly ever know what pleasure feels like? Real pleasure comes only after experiencing pain.

In fact, differences in the quality of a pleasure must be considered as well as differences in quantity. Mill argues that differences in quality are to be measured in preferences rather than quantity. “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 more desirable pleasure. Mill distinguishes between higher and lower pleasures in order to respond to The Philosophy of Swine Objection. However, the distinction between quality and quantity is not new. What is new in Mill’s theory is that he rejects to measure pleasure in any kind of numerical scale. His scale is an ordinal scale, in which pleasures are ordered in terms of preference, i.e. pleasure A is greater than pleasure B and so on.

The problem with that measurement is that it is not transitive, which means that if pleasure A is greater than pleasure B and pleasure B is greater than pleasure C, it does not follow that pleasure A is greater than pleasure C, simply because we are not talking about quantity but quality.
There are many misconceptions about utilitarianism. In his work, Mill attempted to break free of these misconceptions. The misjudgment of utilitarianism originates from a false recognization of joy with satisfaction. Individuals who utilize higher faculties ocf thought and emotion are regularly less content, since they experience a more profound feeling of the constraints of the world. In any case, their pleasure is of a higher character than that of any creature or a human. As Mill writes, “It is smarter to be a person disappointed than a pig fulfilled; preferred to be Socrates disappointed over a trick fulfilled. What’s more, if the trick, or the pig, are of an alternate conclusions, it is on the grounds that they just know their side of the inquiry.” Thus the general population best equipped to pass judgment on a delight’s quality are individuals who have encountered both the higher and the lower joys.

Furthermore, throughout the years, utilitarianism’s critics have frequently disputed that utilitarianism aims to look at things that are basically incommensurable, by artificially numerating the measure of utility they bring. For instance, by lessening the estimation of an ordeal or activity to the utility, or delight, intrinsic in them, utilitarianism “debases” certain encounters: is it reasonable for contrast eating frozen yogurt with perusing War and Peace, in light of the joy each brings? Mill attempts to address this worry. He contends that utility isn’t just an estimation of the mental sentiment of delight; rather, there are diverse characteristics of joy, and that just individuals with an expansive scope of encounters can manage which joys are of a higher quality. In this manner all activities and encounters are not made a decision by one reductive standard, but instead as per a wide range of characteristics of delight in correspondence with the sort of experience. Higher delights would be weighted intensely by utilitarianism, and Mill contends that they are along these lines not degraded by the utility estimation.

Mill argues that it is a fabrication to express that individuals cannot attain happiness. He contends that true bliss, when characterized as snapshots of happiness happening in a real existence disturbed by few agonies, is without a doubt conceivable, and would be workable for nearly everyone if instructive and social courses of action were changed. The real wellsprings of despondency are narrow-mindedness and an absence of mental development. In this way, it is completely inside the vast majority’s capacities to be upbeat, if their instruction supports the proper qualities. Besides, the greater part of the disasters of the world, including destitution and malady, can be reduced by an insightful and vigorous society committed to their disposal.

Mill notes that calculations of the net utility check everybody’s bliss similarly. In contrast to egoists, who guarantee that people ought to expand their very own utility, utilitarians don’t put their own satisfaction over that of others. For instance, vanity prescribes that we affront others if that satisfies us, however utilitarianism does not. For utilitarians, the joy we encounter by offending them is more than adjusted by the damage they persevere. Similarly, looting banks, murdering individuals, and not settling our government obligations may fulfill us, but rather these activities decline the net utility. In this way, utilitarianism does not suggest any of them.

Since the correct activity relies on our appraisal of the outcomes, we should realize what the results of our activities will be. Some question that the hypothesis flops accurately in light of the fact that this is unimaginable. What’s more, the facts confirm that we never know completely what will occur as an outcome of our activity. We may think the result of advancing Jenny some cash will be to perk her up, yet she may very well purchase a weapon and submit homicide. We may figure the result of shooting Paul will be to hurt or slaughter him. Be that as it may, his ensuing loss of motion may fill in as the inspiration for an effective composition vocation! Truth be told, any of our tiny decisions may adjust mankind’s history, yet we are in charge of outcomes we ourselves can sensibly envision. We envision the results as well as can be expected and continue to act in like manner. This is to say, though we can never be sure beyond a shadow of a doubt of the results of an action, this uncertainty does not undermine utilitarianism.

Mill clarifies that just the results matter. You make the best decision by amplifying utility, by sparing your companions from suffocating whether you do it for adoration or monetary gain. All things considered, the net utility is simply the whole of individual utilities, and on the off chance that you are happy, all the better. Why, Mill questions, would it be a good idea for us to perform our responsibility on the off chance that it makes us miserable?

In summary, moral actions are those that create the best outcomes. The best outcomes are those that have the most net utility, at the end of the day, those that expand joy and decline misery. While figuring the net utility everybody’s interests tally similarly. The two key ideas of utilitarianism are happiness and outcomes.

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A Doctrine Of Utilitarianism. (2019, Jul 08). Retrieved October 3, 2022 , from

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