Philosophy essay on utilitarianism

In reply to the objection that there generally isn't enough time to calculate how a given act might affect the long-term general happiness, Mill sketches a kind of "two-tier" approach to ethics that accords an important place to moral rules in ethical decision-making. Normally we should follow such "secondary principles" without reflecting much on the consequences of our acts.


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As a rule, only when such second-tier principles conflict is it necessary or wise to appeal to the principle of utility directly. In the third chapter, Mill asks what "sanctions" that is, rewards and punishments undergird the obligation to promote the general happiness.

He explores a variety of ways in which both external and internal sanctions — that is, the incentives provided by others and the inner feelings of sympathy and conscience — encourage people to think about how their actions affect the happiness of others. The ultimate sanction, Mill claims, is internal. Humans are social animals who naturally desire "to be in unity with our fellow creatures. In the fourth chapter Mill offers his famous quasi-proof of the greatest-happiness principle. The core of his argument is this:. Many critics have claimed that this argument relies on a dubious assumption about how individual happiness is related to the general happiness.

In such cases, is the general happiness a good to those individuals?

Other critics have questioned whether it makes sense to speak of aggregates as having desires, [13] or whether the fact that something is desired proves that it is desirable. The fifth and longest chapter concludes by discussing what Mill considers "the only real difficulty" [15] with utilitarian ethics: whether it might sometimes license acts of flagrant injustice. Critics of utilitarianism often claim that judging actions solely in terms of their effects on the general happiness is incompatible with a robust respect for individual rights and a duty to treat people as they deserve.

Mill appreciates the force of this objection and argues. Mill's Utilitarianism remains "the most famous defense of the utilitarian view ever written" [16] and is still widely assigned in university ethics courses around the world. Largely owing to Mill, utilitarianism rapidly became the dominant ethical theory in Anglo-American philosophy.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Utilitarianism 1 ed. Retrieved 6 June Indianapolis: Hackett, , p. Originally published in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy , vol. New York: Macmillan, , p. New York: Routledge, , pp.

Buffalo: Prometheus Books, , pp. New York: Oxford, Moore, Principia Ethica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, , p. Here we have part a. The promotion of happiness, however, can be found much earlier in history, in the works of Aristotle, in the Bible, in the teachings of Buddha, in the works of Confucius and elsewhere.

A good, clear introduction, giving precise definititions of key terms see the Glossary on the site!

There is also the preference utilitarianism of Peter Singer. Bentham and Mill each argued respectively for these types of Utilitarianism, and thus their beliefs differ.

Utilitarianism essay.

Bentham was born in London at a time of great scientific and social change. He argued for Act Utilitarianism, and maintained that human beings were motivated by pleasure and by pain.

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He believed that everyone had an equal right to happiness, irrespective of their situation or status in life and argued that everyone counted equally in the assessment of the benefits of an action. His theory is democratic as pleasure cannot be for one person and one person alone. You bring out two key points rather well: that utilitarianism is rationalistic para 1 and that it is democratic each to count as one, and no-one as more than one , thus providing the basis for radical social reform. It is for them alone to point out what we shall do, as well as to determine what we shall do.

It asks us to consider s several factors: a. Intensity b. Duration c. Certainty or uncertainty d. Nearness or remoteness e. Consequences f. Purity g. I would prefer to see the hedonic calculus applied with an example which brings out some of the problems with this sort of idea. If the probable pain of an action outweighs its pleasure then Bentham says that it is morally wrong.

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He believed that this was the way of calculating happiness as a result of the course of an action and by this he was making the basis of deciding whether an action should be considered right or wrong. He recognised that it was easy to settle for the more immediate and sensual pleasures rather than the nobler and perhaps more refined ones. Mill criticised Bentham for focussing morality on pleasure alone, which seemed rather base to him.

Thus, he decided to introduce a theory of utility for the common person , which replaced pleasure with happiness and moved away from mere quantity to the quality of happiness as well. Although he believed that the wellbeing of the individual was of primary concern, happiness is best achieved when it is subject to the rules that protect the common good.

For Mill, happiness was defined as something which is cultural and spiritual rather than just physical, and he distinguished between lower pleasures and higher pleasures.

The Theory of Utilitarianism Essay - Words | Bartleby

Mill, unlike Bentham, suggested a positive place for rules within an overall utilitarianist approach, and thus believed in Rule Utilitarianism. He argued that society needs the basic principles such as truthfulness for without people telling the truth then nobody can be happy.

Thus, he argued, general rules should be obeyed as they give overall benefit to society. However, they may be broken in exceptional circumstances and consequently Mill argued there was strong and weak rule utilitarianism; Strong Utilitarianism is one where one should never break a rule that is established, and Weak Utilitarianism is one where there may be situations when the assessment of the rules in a particular case of a particular act may take precedence over the general rule.

Why not quote Mill directly? It increases the sense that you know what Mill actually said. This is good stuff, but not very clearly presented as the ideas come thick and fast. Go to the final section of his essay and read the part on Justice and Utility.