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John Stuart Mill Utilitarianism - Essay Example

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John Stuart Mill Utilitarianism

He argues that the principle of utility should be seen as a tool for promoting general happiness. Most of our actions, according to him, should be judged according to this principle. In his illustration of the utility theory, Mill thinks that we should appeal to the principle of utility only when we face a moral dilemma between two secondary principles. The basic assumption of the utilitarian theory, as advocated by Mill, is that "we should each act so as to promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people." These important ethical views of Mill can be applied in almost all fields of our lives. That is, a utilitarian advocate may judge any act or behavior according to the amount of happiness or sadness it will produce for the greatest number of people. While this seems a claim that would be approved by all people, the question that emerges here is: "who are the persons to whom the actions should promote happiness?" According to the utilitarian theory, in order for any action to be right and ethical, it should promote happiness to the maximum number of people involved (Cain). ...
Utilitarianism, as a form of the consequentialist theory, can be defined as a moral theory according to which an act is right if it conforms to the notion of usefulness or utility of the group. That is, an act conforms to the notion of utility if its performance will result in the maximum pleasure for the maximum number of people. So, the value of the consequences of an act, according to utilitarianism, is determined entirely by the welfare of everyone concerned in the action. On the other hand, a non-consequentialist theory judges the rightness or wrongness of an action based on properties intrinsic to the action, not on its consequences. Relevant to the non-consequentialist theory is the categorical imperative approach, advocated by the eighteenth century German philosopher Immanuel Kant. According to the categorical imperative theory, an action is moral only if the rule that governs it can be generalized to all human beings on earth. That is, the will should be influenced only by universal considerations, and not by subjective considerations, identified by the one involved in action. Therefore, ethical egoism and utilitarianism are two classical contradictory philosophical theories that attempt to explain the behavior of individuals, families, and governments. According to utilitarianism, an act is ethically right if it conforms to the notion of utility, and an act conforms to the notion of utility if its performance will result in the maximum happiness for everyone concerned (Mill). That is, utilitarianism maintains that the ethical standards of each action is to be determined according to the favorable or unfavorable consequences of that action. In Mill's words, utilitarianism refers to "the creed which accepts ...Show more


John Stuart Mill Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873) was one of the most influential liberal thinkers of the 19th century. He was an advocate of utilitarianism, which states that "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness" ("The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy")…
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