A Brief Analysis of John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism Essay

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 believes that this set of morals should be determined by their consequences, and proposes utilitarianism as a solution. Mill makes several assumptions here that many readers consider objectionable. He believes that a moral code can be simplified to a single basic principle, that morals should be based on experience, and that consequences, not intentions, determine the morality of an action. An objection to any of these statements would undermine Mill's fundamental assumptions.
Mill's second chapter elaborates on utilitarianism: “[. . .] actions are right so far as they promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness, is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure.” Mill asserts that utilitarianism is not simply referring to primitive forms of pleasure, but places weight on “[. . .] pleasures of the intellect, of the feelings and imagination [. . .].” In this way, actions should not only seek the greatest quantity ...


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...at go against an individual's rights threaten the security of the rights themselves, and therefore the security of the rights of society. This is a bit of a slippery slope. Mill concludes by stating that justice is, as outlined, only a manifestation of utilitarianism. If this were true, it would imply that a greater concern of utility could ultimately override these rights.
Despite several of the fallacies mentioned here, Mill's arguments for utilitarianism are quite strong. In just five short chapters, Mill has developed an argument for utilitarianism that has held up to rigorous scrutiny for a number of years. However, time after time, he has failed to provide a reason for accepting utilitarianism over other philosophies. It is therefore up to the reader to choose their level of acceptance of Mill's utilitarianism.


Works Cited

Utilitarianism, by John Stuart Mill

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