His principle explained that a good action is on that brought pleasure while one that caused pain was evil. Bentham goes ahead to differentiate virtue and pleasure and their relation to utilitarianism. He explains that a virtuous person is on who stands for moral values and safeguards the happiness of those around him, qualities that are closely related to utilitarianism as they bring about pleasure (Driver 1). They also argue that the purpose of an action is independent from the morality of the action. These arguments give us the perception that Utilitarianism is different from other moral aspects.
One could argue that often times what brings happiness for one person can hurt another person. However, Mill’s idea focuses on the maximum happiness of the world at large and not just that of a specific person. Mill’s utilitarianism does not include happiness of a person that results in a general decrease of the happiness of society as a whole. Therefore an action can be labeled as right if it promotes general happiness of a society and wrong if it reverses the happiness of a society. What brings about happiness is pleasure and what reverses happiness is pain.
Mill’s critics would likely say that Utilitarianism as a whole can function to create selfish people because all are striving towards a life of more pleasure than pain, but Mill shuts this down with the idea of happiness being impartial. Basically, a person must choose an action that yields the most happiness or pleasure, whether that pleasure is for them or not. Mill would recognize that, “Among the qualitatively superior ends are the moral ends, and it is in this that people acquire the sense that they have moral intuitions superior to mere self-interest” (Wilson). By this, it is meant that although people are supposed to take action that will produce the greatest pleasure, the do not do so in a purely selfish manner. Mill goes on to argue that the happiness of individuals is interconnected; therefore one cannot be selfish in such a way.
Mill explains happiness as pleasure lacking pain and that pleasure can differ in levels of quality and quantity. Many people misinterpret utilitarianism by interpreting utility in confliction with pleasure but in reality, utility is described as pleasure itself lacking pain. Another label for utility is the Greatest Happiness Principle. This opinion embraces that "actions are right in proportion as they tend to 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.” Meaning that, deeds are perceived to be good after they lead to a larger happiness and bad after it cuts down happiness.
In his book he states, “The Greatest Happiness Principle holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to 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). Although this passage is pretty straightforward I will explain it in simpler terms in order to better understand it. Basically, what Mill is proposing is that according to a Utilitarian, actions are unjustifiably right if they produce happiness, or pleasure, and have an absence of pain. This is a key point into looking at the connection of utilitarianism and the liberty principle.
As stated, Mill believes that an action is right if it promotes happiness and an action is wrong if it promotes pain. Second, the principle of utility does not focus on an individual’s happiness but it focuses on the overall happiness. As stated, “first laws of social arrangement should place the happiness or the interest of every individual as nearly as possible in harmony with the interest of the whole” (Utilitarianism, 17). The principle takes into consideration the happiness of others and does not allow you to only think of yourself, this incorporates the idea of equal treatment to the principle. Another element to the utility principle is consequentialism, which is defined, as what makes an... ... middle of paper ... ...le of utility, helping the family would promote the most happiness because it’s a greater number compared to only one person.
Mill begins his essay on Utilitarianism by explaining his Greatest Happiness Principle, stating actions are right in that they promote happiness and actions are wrong if they take happiness away (Mill, “What Utilitarianism Is,” para 2). Following from this idea, happiness is pleasure, and unhappiness is pain and the privation of pleasure (Mill, “What Utilitarianism Is,” para 2). In defending the equivalence between happiness and pleasure from his critics, Mill makes the claim that there is “the superiority of mental over bodily pleasures chiefly in the greater permanency, safety, uncostliness, etc., of the former” (Mill, “What Utilitarianism Is,” para 4). He claims that pleasures can differ both in quality and qua... ... middle of paper ... ...hard to maintain his hedonist view, that pleasure is the only happiness. His insertion of quality into the evaluation of value seems to be introducing a criterion of evaluation other than pleasure.
John Stuart Mill’s theory of Utilitarianism is a moral consequentialist view that maintains actions are good if they lead to happiness and bad if they lead to suffering. The same rationale can be applied to obstruction—whatever prevents suffering is morally good, and whatever prevents happiness is morally bad. It should be noted Mill characterizes happiness as “pleasure and the absence of pain” (104). He also puts forth that intellectual pleasures—such as the satisfaction that comes with finishing a paper, or having a successful long-term friendship—are better than the animalistic pleasures taken in eating or sex. Proponents of this moral theory believe the most moral action is one that maximizes total happiness for the greatest amount of people.
Following this idea, he explains that happiness holds the absence of pain and the reverse of that, there holds the "privation of pleasure" (Mill 96). John Mill says that this is exactly what happiness and pleasure consist of. What is considered controversial on this particular theory is the simplicty of the definind words. The greatest happiness principle concerns happiness and pleasure, to the simple or closed minded this sounds degrading to humans or anyone who believes in it. John Mill argues for this principle and against the simple minded people that would judge the Epicureans for practicing
When talking about pleasure there needs to be a distinction between the quality and the quantity. While having many different kinds of pleasures can be considered a good thing, one is more likely to favor quality over quantity. With this distinction in mind, one is more able to quantify their pleasures as higher or lesser pleasures by ascertaining the quality of them. This facilitates the ability to achieve the fundamental moral value that is happiness. In his book Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill offers a defining of utility as pleasure or the absence of pain in addition to the Utility Principle, where “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness” (Mill 7).