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Mills utilitarianism - Essay Example

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One thing which we should have learned by now during our philosophical journey is that we have to have a theory of human behavior which should be able to address the diversity of human environments and thus cannot be very simple and rigid. Utilitarianism is a step in that direction.
Utilitarianism The founder of Utilitarianism was Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). His theory begins with proposition that nature has placed human beings under two masters: pleasure and pain. Anything that seems good must either be directly pleasurable, or thought to be a means to pleasure or to the avoidance of pain. Conversely, anything that seems bad must either be directly painful, or thought to be a means to pain or to the deprivation of pleasure. From this Bentham argued that the words right and wrong can only be meaningful if they are used in accordance with the Utilitarian principle, so that whatever increases the net surplus of pleasure over pain is right and whatever decreases it is wrong. Moreover, the net pain and pleasure to be considered is not restricted to personal level but should be the sum of the pleasure of all involved by acting or getting effected by a particular action. Therefore from utilitarianism we cannot gauge the utility of action by putting it on the personal criteria of pleasure and pain but it has to be more wholesome resultantly more complex but practicable.
Basic Objections to Utilitarianism Most difficult part in the implementation of Bentham's utilitarianism is that to take an action, one has to take into account the expanse of the effects of the actions i.e. how far the consequences going to travel. This factor leads to three basic objections to utilitarianism:-
1. Utilitarianism is too demanding as it is more inclined towards collective good than individual good.
2. Utilitarianism is a heartless doctrine as it does not concentrate/focus on the intention but on the consequences thus making the entire concept of virtuous intent redundant.
3. The Principle of Utility is impractical because one has to think the consequences for which the time and information might not be available at a particular moment.
Mill's Modification to Utilitarianism These basic objections though seem valid were addressed by John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). The salient points of his modification to utilitarianism were:-
1. Introduction of Higher and Lower Pleasure Mill is of the opinion that pleasure has to be distributed into categories of higher and lower pleasure. At times we may confront a situation that we find a number of actions which might lead to "pleasure". In such circumstances we would be at a loss to decide the course of action. It will be only the conception of higher and lower pleasure which will give us the ability to take correct actions at correct time. In doing so we should also consider that the most suitably equipped person to judge the distinction between the higher and lower pleasure is the one who has experienced both.
2. Introduction of Rules in Moral Decision Making Mill considers that rules can be the force behind the decision. These rules are in fact the outcome of utilitarianism and they are established by taking into consideration principles of utility i.e. rules which had been giving and will give "pleasure" to the ...Show more
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Summary

Human nature had always been abstract therefore not easy to comprehend. Over a period of time philosophers have tried to simplify the issue so as to understand the basis on which human beings had been behaving or should behave. However, time and again they had experienced that the issue confronting them is not simple for which a single answer can be found…
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