Ethics - Utilitarianism

652 Words3 Pages
Part A - Explain J.S. Mill's version of Utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill was an English philosopher and economist. He lived from 1806 to 1873 and wrote one of his most famous essays – Utilitarianism in 1861. Mill was raised by his father, James Mill, to be a strict utilitarian. Jeremy Bentham also aided in Mill’s upbringing and Mill was deeply influenced by his writings. Mills childhood was rigid and intellectual. At the age of twenty one he began to question some of his beliefs and then suffered a nervous breakdown. Mill later struggled with the concepts of utilitarianism because it was too unemotional and failed to capture or understand the ‘higher’ pleasure of happiness without pain. Bentham’s theory failed to acknowledge the complexities like emotion. However, Mill did not reject Bentham’s ideas of pleasure fulfillment; he created a more complex version of utilitarianism, yet one that still embraces the most basic premises of Bentham and of his father, James Mill. 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." Mill defines happiness as pleasure and the absence of pain. He argues that pleasure can differ in quality and quantity, and that pleasures that are rooted in one's higher faculties should be weighted more heavily than baser pleasures. Furthermore, Mill argues that people's achievement of goals and ends, such as virtuous living, should be counted as part of their happiness. Mill argues that utilitarianism coincides with "natural" sentiments that originate from humans' social nature. Therefore, if society were to embrace utilitarianism as an ethic, people would naturally internalize these standards as morally binding. Mill argues that happiness is the sole basis of morality, and that people never desire
Open Document